03/04/2010 1:00AM

Jeranimo should outrun his odds in Big Cap


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Many believe it is best to trust a first impression. But I'm going with my fourth impression in Saturday's $1 million Santa Anita Handicap.

In handicapping the race Thursday morning, I changed my mind repeatedly regarding who I liked best. Initially, I favored St Trinians, a filly unbeaten in four starts since coming to the United States. Next, I gave serious thought to picking Loup Breton, intrigued by the turf-to-synthetic angle, a move with which trainer Julio Canani wins often. Then I nearly settled on Tiger's Rock, a marathon specialist invading from Aqueduct who is bred to excel on a synthetic track.

In the end, my initial leanings were surpassed by another, Strub winner Jeranimo, my ultimate choice.

He is a horse likely to slip through the wagering cracks, despite coming off the biggest win of his career in the Strub, a performance that earned him a 104 Beyer Speed Figure, the top last-race figure in the race.

The reasons for him to likely offer value are plentiful. For starters, the jockey who rode him to victory in the Strub, Martin Garcia, is jumping ship, riding Misremembered instead.

Secondly, Jeranimo isn't a household name, nor is his trainer, Mike Pender, who conditions mostly claimers.

And lastly, Jeranimo doesn't have the flashy work tab that leaps out of the past performances. In fact, he doesn't have a work tab at all this year.

Not since Dec. 21 has he recorded a published workout, and in California, where an emphasis is placed on fast works and closely tracked by private clockers, such an absence will leave many scratching their heads.

Not me. Pender's style of giving the horse gallops and two-minute licks in place of fast breezes has clearly worked as evidenced by his rapidly improving form this year.

As for Garcia getting off Jeranimo to ride Misremembered, I don't view that as a negative signal. Misremembered is a good horse, and he is trained by Bob Baffert, for whom Garcia has quickly become a go-to rider.

Besides, Jeranimo loses nothing with Rafael Bejarano, one of the top riders in the country.

Jeranimo is the value play of the Big Cap at expected odds of about 8-1.

Sham: The Program looks good

The Program is the bet to win the Sham Stakes earlier on the Santa Anita card, though he won't be the fat price of Jeranimo, not with Baffert training him.

Even so, he may go off a tick or two higher on the odds board than he should, due to his last-race Beyer dipping to a 78 for a narrow win in an allowance Feb. 3. This marked a 9-point Beyer drop following a third to Sham competitor Kettle River in a faster allowance Jan. 6.

The way the Feb. 3 allowance unfolded, it would have been impossible for The Program to run a fast time and get a lofty Beyer. The pace was a crawl, and the race turned into a quarter-mile sprint home with his uncoupled stablemate Indian Firewater.

Take away his modest 78 Beyer and there was a lot to like about The Program's race. He settled kindly, finished powerfully, and was gutsy in victory.

With tactical speed and being well drawn in post 2, he looks ready for another winning effort at odds of around 7-2.

Ladyzarbridge brings strong pedigree

Ladyzarbridge is an attractive wager on pedigree in the Sarah Lane's Oates Stakes going a mile on the turf at Fair Grounds.

The race marks her first start on grass, the surface on which she is bred to be at her best, and yet her pedigree may go somewhat unnoticed because it is a race for horses foaled in Louisiana.

With a good percentage of simulcast horseplayers from across the country unfamiliar with the Louisiana breeding program, my guess is that Ladyzarbridge will go off at an overlaid price, staying near her 6-1 morning-line price.

There are two primary things to like about her pedigree. First, she is by Zarbyev, a son of Nureyev who has long been one of Louisiana's top grass sires. And secondly, she is out of the Baldski mare Ballsbridge.

As a broodmare sire, Baldski had a turf sire production index of 3.08 last year, according to BRIS statistics. Twenty-two runners out of Baldski mares raced on grass in North America last year, and eight won at least one race on the surface, a high percentage.

Expect Ladyzarbridge to move up first time on turf.