01/16/2016 3:34PM

Free: How I'd play Santa Anita on Sunday, Jan. 17


ARCADIA, Calif. – Are you betting football Sunday, playing the races at Santa Anita, or both?

Both home favorites Sunday – the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos – should win. And yes, I might be willing to take Carolina minus 2.5 points against the Seattle Seahawks, and Denver minus 7.5 points against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But I would rather wager on a pair of longshot Thoroughbreds at Santa Anita in races where margin of victory does not matter. Just get there.

Race 5

MIGHTY MOUSSE is the 9-5 program favorite in this sprint for older California-bred maidens. The colt’s workouts suggest he is ready to fire for Bob Baffert. Over the past five years, Baffert is 6 for 14 (43 percent) with special weight sprint comebackers that go favored first start in six months or more. That is a tough stat to bet against.

NARDO is co-second choice at 3-1, returning from a layoff as a first-time gelding for trainer Mike Puype. Over the past three years, Puype is 0 for 20 with special weight sprint comebackers off six months or more. That is an easy stat to bet against.

The longshot worth backing is VODKA TEXTED YOU, listed at 10-1. His comeback two weeks ago in a maiden-40 was inconclusive. He broke slowly from the rail, raced next to last, and finished fourth.

Since then, he worked a sharp half-mile from the gate in 47.20 seconds, moves from the rail to the outside post, shortens to 5 1/2 furlongs, and adds blinkers while getting an optimistic class hike to Cal-bred special weight.

Vodka Texted You is worth a win bet at 8-1 or higher and a saver exacta with program favorite Mighty Mousse.

Race 7

The $75,000 Astra Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/2 miles on turf is filled with uncertainty. Some are layoff horses running over a turf course still listed as “good” late in the week. The distance may or may not suit several.

GAGA A is the program favorite at 5-2 in her first start since July. NANCY FROM NAIROBI has a current condition edge and is likely to be bet down from her 4-1 morning line.

HAVANNA BELLE is the longshot worth backing. She made the Daily Racing Form Horses to Watch list after an eighth-place finish Dec. 30.

The Horses to Watch comment: “Blocked most of the stretch, this N2X turf filly finished willingly against the grain in a race dominated by speed. Her good form is hidden; she fits in a similar turf mile.”

Havanna Belle faces hurdles Sunday. She stretches to 1 1/2 miles, which is a reach. Her closing style might not suit the course profile, and the N2X-eligible filly is racing above her conditions.

But the recent form of Havanna Belle is possibly better than shown.

Though no bargain at 6-1 in the program, her odds could drift up. The minimum odds requirement to wager on the trouble-prone filly is 8-1.

So there you go – a wagering plan for playoff Sunday. Carolina and Denver minus the points, Vodka Texted You (race 5) and Havanna Belle (race 7) at overlay prices.