04/26/2014 11:08AM

Free's preview: California Gold Rush runs at new home


A pick 6 carryover of $61,540 (races 6-11) is offered on the first California Gold Rush at Santa Anita. Five stakes for statebred runners are on tap as Santa Anita hosts the event that was held for 13 years at now-defunct Hollywood Park.

A minor rainstorm rolled through Friday night, probably not enough to influence the condition of the turf course on which five races will be run. As for the main track, rain always rolls off a sealed track. This handicapper expects the main track to play fair. Up-to-the-minute updates regarding track condition will be available later at DRF Live.

Clarification from April 24 handicapping notebook: The infield (free admission) and parking (free through gate 6) is available on weekends.

Fran’s Valentine ramifications

Unusual Hottie improved, adding blinkers last out, finishing second in an open stakes. If she runs as well in race 4, the $100,000 Fran’s Valentine for statebreds, she should defeat program favorite Halo Dolly. This handicapper would not be surprised if Unusual Hottie starts favored in her bid to win the stake for a second straight year.

Unusual Hottie’s performance Saturday will reflect on Moone’s My Name, one of the favorites in Sunday’s Grade 3 Wilshire. Moone’s My Name defeated Unusual Hottie by a length last out. If Unusual Hottie wins the Fran’s Valentine, it would boost the stock of Moone’s My Name.

Unusual Way finished a disappointing second last out at 1-2, but she may have been in season. She trained very well since. If her pace rival Journey On scratches as expected and if Unusual Way breaks cleanly this time, she could set the pace in the mile turf race.

Tiznow speed

Storm Fighter is the horse to catch in the $125,000 Tiznow Stakes at one mile, race 5. The distance could prove to be a challenge for the Bruce Headley trainee. In winning a one-mile allowance three weeks ago, Storm Fighter went the opening half-mile in 45.77 seconds and the second half-mile in 49.90. The track was so speed biased that he won anyway by three-quarters of a length.

“I knew we were a little bit short [going in],” assistant trainer Karen Headley said. “We used that as a nice workout. He can go further, and he’s also maturing. I think a mile might be too short.”

Storm Fighter makes his third start following a layoff, but to win the Tiznow, he will need a second half-mile faster than last time. His rivals include this handicapper’s tepid choice, Rousing Sermon, and comebacker Soi Phet. Rousing Sermon is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, who is 1 for 28 at Santa Anita the past three weeks.

Formulator fact

Fiddling around with Formulator and stumbled across two revealing trainer facts related to race 7, the $125,000 Spring Fever Stakes for fillies and mares at six furlongs.

Marks Mine, 3-1 on the program, is trained by Steve Specht, among the top horsemen in Northern California. Specht is having a tough go shipping to Southern California. Since the California Cup Matron victory by Lady Railrider Oct. 3, 2009, Specht is 0-for-27 in Southern California.

The statistic needs interpretation. Only five of the 27 Specht shippers started at less than 4-1 odds, and all 27 ran in stakes. It is not easy shipping in for a stakes. No kidding.

Our Pure Creation is trained by Jeff Bonde. When his sprinters get sharp, they stay sharp. Bonde is 12 for 38 (32 percent) with sprinters that won last out, producing a $3.79 return on investment for each $2 win bet. Our Pure Creation won last out. Her program odds of 3-1 might be a gift.

Melair pedigree

The brilliant Melair won all five starts, though she never raced beyond a mile and never tried two turns. That makes Rovenna an appropriate favorite for the $250,000 Melair Stakes, race 9 at 1 1/16 miles. Based on pedigree, Rovenna faces a challenge.

The sharpest filly in the field, 2-1 favorite Rovenna, enters off two successive sprint wins. But she backed up in two previous routes. Her dam, Amadamprez, lost her only route by more than 18 lengths and produced a sprint family.

The three previous winners out of Amadamprez seem distance-challenged. Summit Wind never tried a route. Champions Gate was unplaced both routes. Lucky Cotton, however, did win a route when able to set a slow pace.

With trepidation, Rovenna is this handicapper’s top choice. Perhaps she will get stamina from her sire, Norvsky. But if she takes after her dam, the two-turn distance of the Melair might be a long way, indeed.

Spot play

Race 2 -- The favorite is K Thirty Eight, who last out squandered a 1 1/2-length lead in the stretch. This maiden sprint is ripe for a first-timer with good works. CHATTERING GAMBLER (No. 8, 12-1) has worked well for trainer Ray Bell and gets in light with a five-pound apprentice.

Race 7 -- OUR PURE CREATION (No. 6, 3-1) is fast, sharp, drawn near the outside and trained by a man whose sharp sprinters maintain form. Looks like a pick 6 single.