01/23/2016 10:27AM

Free: Taking aim at Santa Anita's big pick six carryover


ARCADIA, Calif. – The pick six pool will mushroom to $1.5 million or higher Saturday at Santa Anita, thanks to a two-day carryover of $307,070.

The fields are big; each race Saturday has nine or more entrants, including the Grade 2 Santa Monica Stakes for filly-and-mare sprinters. The sequence, races 4-9, begins and ends with maiden special weights for 3-year-olds – a turf route and a dirt sprint for California-breds.

Those are sandwiched around a $25,000 claiming sprint, a turf-sprint optional-claiming race for California-breds, an entry-level allowance dirt route, and the Santa Monica. It is time for a closer look.

Race 4

From another post, UNDENIABLE U (11) might be a slam dunk. However, he starts from the far outside in this one-mile turf race for 3-year-old maidens (rails at 10 feet).

Undeniable U ran well in both turf starts. He set the pace and missed by a nose two back; in his most recent start, he was rated at the rear, rallied wide, and finished well for second. The horse who beat him, Path of David, returned to win a stakes.

Undeniable U, the 5-2 favorite, is trained by Bob Baffert, whose win rate with turf-route favorites over the past five years is 41 percent (15 for 37).

TRISTAN’S TRILOGY (3) returns to his preferred footing, turf. A four-start maiden listed at 8-1, his two best races were on turf. He takes off blinkers, which suggests the possibility of a revised strategy. He set or pressed the pace and tired in both of his previous turf starts. With blinkers off, an off-the-pace strategy could be an option.

UNINVITED (7) is the second Baffert entrant, adding blinkers and quick enough to set the pace if directed. Two of the three turf routes here with the rails at 10 feet were won by the pacesetter.  Uninvited outworked Undeniable U on Jan. 17, according to National Turf clocker Andy Harrington, but the work was on dirt, so its relevance is marginal.

John Sadler starts two contenders. One is the front-runner SILENT MOVIES (2). The other is AGRONOMY (8), exiting a productive race (three winners) and stretching out for the first time.

The bottom line: Undeniable U is the horse to beat despite his outside post, while Tristan’s Trilogy looms an interesting upset candidate. After that, it’s a deep spread.

Race 5

The dropper PRIME ISSUE (6) inherits 5-2 favoritism in this $25,000 claiming race at seven furlongs following the scratch of early favorite A Colt Following. Prime Issue was compromised by hot fractions in both comeback starts against allowance company. It will not get much easier Saturday.

That is because JUANSAGAIN (10) is quick, fresh, and making his first start since he was reclaimed by Richard Baltas. The last time Juansagain ran for Baltas, he won by six lengths and earned an 88 Beyer Speed Figure. Juansagain is the 3-1 co-second choice.

Speed has been good at seven furlongs – 5 of 11 races have been won by the pacesetter, 3 by pressers, 3 by closers. If the front-runners engage, the race could set up for the off-the-pace rally of AIRFOIL (12). He drilled $20,000 claiming sprinters last out and will make his first start for Jack Carava on Saturday.

The bottom line: Juansagain and Prime Issue are solid, except for their similar running styles. The race sets up for Airfoil. A budget-conscious pick-six bettor might try to get past this leg using only those three.

Race 6

IT IS LIVING WATER (9) is a tempting single. He is an in-form gelding, first off the claim by Peter Miller, with an ideal style. The last 12 turf-sprint winners were within three lengths of the lead after the first quarter-mile.

On the boggy Santa Anita hill (still labeled “good” on Friday despite no rain in two weeks), front-runners and pressers hold the edge. That is the style employed by It Is Living Water.

Miller is 7 for 14 first off the claim over the past three months; It Is Living Water is the 5-2 favorite in this California-bred allowance/optional-claiming sprint. Over the past week, favorites are 4 for 4 in turf sprints.

Looking for a bomber? BENBA (12) returns to turf, shortens in distance, and moves up in class off a loss against lesser. Conflicting signals are reasons he is 12-1 and possibly headed higher. His speed figures on turf put him in the hunt. He is a crazy price play.

The bottom line: It Is Living Water appears to be one of the most probable winners on the card, even though he’s wheeling back in just 16 days. If he misfires, Benba has a shot at a price.

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Race 7

Another “single” candidate is WOLF MAN ROCKET (8) in this first-level allowance at one mile. He finished eighth as the favorite in his comeback, but replay review (Santa Anita, Dec. 27, race 7) shows what happened. He broke slowly from the rail, got buried in traffic, blocked throughout, shuffled, and never had a clean run.

The race was 6 1/2 furlongs; Wolf Man Rocket’s best races are at two turns, such as the Saturday route. Since his comeback, Wolf Man Rocket posted two black-letter works, including a Jan. 16 team drill with Dortmund.

Wolf Man Rocket has speed for a forwardly placed trip, which is crucial – 17 of the 21 dirt-mile winners at this meet were within two lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile. Wolf Man Rocket will be forwardly placed. He is the 5-2 favorite.

LOGAN’S MOON (5) stretches out following a comeback in which he finished in front of Wolf Man Rocket. It remains unclear, however, if Logan’s Moon wants to run long or if he is a closing sprinter. Listed at 8-1, he posted an impressive five-furlong workout Jan. 15. AVANTI BELLO (1) is in form, and J SERINO (7) has run races that fit.

The bottom line: Wolf Man Rocket appears to be another probable winner. Otherwise, a pick-six bettor must consider going at least four deep.

Race 8

LIVING THE LIFE (7) is a synthetic specialist, a two-time Grade 2 winner who remains unproven on dirt. Turf/synthetic runners often react adversely when dirt is kicked in their face, which is what happened to Living The Life. But on Saturday, she benefits from an unrecorded equipment change in the Grade 2 Santa Monica.

Following a fifth-place finish last June in a dirt stakes, jockey Mike Smith suggested to trainer Gary Mandella that Living The Life be equipped with a clear plastic shield over her face to protect her from dirt. Mandella tried it one month later in a Grade 2 sprint at Los Alamitos.

Wearing the shield, Living The Life ran one of the best races of her life, finishing a decisive second while more than three lengths in front of Sunday Rules. Smith was right. With no dirt kicked into her face, Living The Life ran super.

Mandella took the shield off for her next two starts because they were on synthetic and turf. She won a Grade 2 at Presque Isle Downs and finished a better-than-it-looked sixth in a Grade 2 on turf at Del Mar.

On Saturday on dirt, Living The Life will wear the shield again. Smith was already committed to Sunday Rules, who did not enter due to a setback, so jockey Flavien Prat takes over. Living The Life has worked well, and if the shield does its job again, the mare can upset the Santa Monica at 6-1.

Otherwise, the race is impossible. BEN’S DUCHESS (2) is the 5-2 favorite despite a dull fourth in the La Brea. Trainer John Sadler suspects she was too close to the lead and prefers to lay back and make a run. The problem is that the pace scenario of the Santa Monica is murky. Her closing style could be rendered ineffective.

PRIZE EXHIBIT (1) tries dirt for the first time while buried on the fence. TARA’S TANGO (5) wants to run long; ROOM FOR ME (6) was a multiple stakes winner in New York but a claiming filly the last time she ran in California; FINEST CITY (9) is a longshot candidate on the front end.

The bottom line: Living The Life is a good gamble, but she has run her best races on synthetic. Nine entered the Santa Monica, which is problematic for the pick six due to the cost-prohibitive nature of selecting “all.”

Race 9

The runner-up comeback by 5-2 favorite TRUE BRILLIANCE (12) was dull. He pressed a slow pace, loomed in midstretch, and then lost his punch to finish a bad second. He was sidelined with an injury in May and did not improve during the time off. Maybe he will improve Saturday in his second start back. The other possibility is that True Brilliance is a bust.

RELIABLE SOURCE (9) ran well in his debut. He hopped and was away last, rallied through traffic, and finished willingly for third. He gets a jockey upgrade to the meet’s leading rider, Santiago Gonzalez, and is likely to improve the second time out.

LYMEBIRD (8) is a first-time gelding whose debut two back was solid; first-time starter SUDDEN SAM (7) needs a start, according to his connections. First-time starter TRIBAL FIGHTER (10) has worked well, according to National Turf.

The bottom line: Reliable Source is far from a sure thing but for reasons listed above must be considered the horse to beat at 4-1. Otherwise, it’s a spread race.

First post Saturday is 12:30 p.m. Pacific. Post time for race 4, the first leg of the pick six, is listed at 2:01.