12/31/2016 10:34AM

Santa Anita analysis for Monday, Jan. 2, 2017


BEST BET: Ashley's Charms (1st race)

First Race
1. Ashley's Charms 2. My Pi Romancer 3. Radish

A solid third-place debut sets up ASHLEY'S CHARMS for a maiden win in her second start. A sibling to millionaire graded winner Ashleyluvssugar, ASHLEY'S CHARMS saved ground in her debut, finished well and galloped out with run past the wire. It was a promising effort over a distance of ground first out; improvement is likely. MY PI ROMANCER finished in front of the top choice last out, while also benefitting from a ground-saving trip. A two-time runner-up, 'ROMANCER will be among the deserving favorites. RADISH goes long for the first time. In the money four of five sprints vs. decent Cal-bred maidens, RADISH could be the one to catch. TABLE FOR THREE adds blinkers and stretches out following an even-paced debut. Her dam won four times on turf.

Second Race
1. Big Bad Jon 2. Wild Mischief 3. Smarty Party Papa

BIG BAD JON shortens to a sprint and returns to his preferred surface after setting a fast pace and fading in a maiden-20 route at Los Alamitos. The gelding's best races have been over the Santa Anita surface; he has speed and the outside post for a front-running/pace-pressing trip. WILD MISCHIEF rallied from last to finish a "closing" third last out in a similar maiden-20 sprint at Del Mar. He has run well over this track, adds blinkers and will be passing tired horses in the lane. SMARTY PARTY PAPA, a 6-year-old maiden second-time starter, split the field in his debut vs. special-weight rivals. He meets an easier bunch for the second start of his career. WOODSTOCK MEMORY finished in front of the top choice last out, and probably benefits from the distance cutback to a sprint.

Third Race
1. Dream Police 2. Oh Marvelous Me 3. Que Chistoso

Unraced since April, DREAM POLICE returns in a $25k claiming (N2L) route with a history of firing fresh. He meets modest rivals. His maiden win in 2015 followed a long layoff; he has speed for a pressing trip. Puzzling race, the comebacker may have found a good spot. OH MARVELOUS ME split the field in his Southern California debut, on turf, in a race that produced at least two next-out winners. He returns to the main track for his second try on this circuit, and should be forwardly placed in a race that might not unfold at a particularly fast pace. QUE CHISTOSO made the lead too soon last out, and tired to third. It was a decent, improved effort by a gelding that won a maiden race on this track last spring. He is scheduled to be ridden by 10-pound apprentice Edgar Velasco, who has been riding in Texas.

Fourth Race
1. Bona Fide Image 2. Let Me Flatter You 3. Starr of Quality

With three sprints under her belt, an improving pattern and a pedigree okay for the two-turn distance, BONA FIDE IMAGE is ready to stretch out and win this maiden-30 at one mile. Each start has been better than the one before, she showed improved speed last out while finishing third. The filly to catch could be second-time starter LET ME FLATTER YOU. She dueled on a fast pace before tiring to fifth in her debut two months ago. That was a sprint; she is quick enough to make the lead stretching to a mile for her second start. STARR OF QUALITY, in the money her last three starts on dirt including a runner-up effort last out in her first main-track route, will start as one of the logical favorites. She will be grinding away from the middle of the pack. GIO'S LADY finished third as the favorite last out, in a similar maiden-30 route. She will find a field she can beat one of these days.

Fifth Race
1. Tribal Fighter 2. Tiz a Billy 3. Banze No Oeste

TRIBAL FIGHTER produced the two best efforts of his eight-start career on this downhill turf course during fall. He finished an okay third last out in a route, and now shortens back to a sprint while figuring for an up-front/pressing trip despite breaking from the rail. His two previous N1X turf sprints, he missed by only a nose. TIZ A BILLY went too fast on the lead last time racing one mile, and surrendered in the lane. A 3yo facing older, he shortens to a sprint, ran super both starts on this downhill course early in his career, and figures for a pressing trip first start in nearly three months. Also-eligible BANZE NO OESTE won this condition on this course in September; he entered for the optional $40k claim tag and will roll late. UNUSUAL FLEET is a four-time winner that won a $25k claiming race on this downhill course when last seen two months ago. An honest gelding, he is another that will roll late.

Sixth Race
1. Big Champion 2. And Then Some 3. Curly Road

First time at the bottom level ($12.5k claiming, N2L), BIG CHAMPION is the one to beat. He set the pace and tired to fifth last out at a level higher; a drop in class and return to the surface on which he earned the best figure of his career suggests he is a worthy favorite. AND THEN SOME was claimed for $8k from a decent runner-up finish last out at Los Alamitos. Although he runs for a higher tag than he was claimed for last out, this field is not any tougher. The horse that beat him by a half-length last out is a three-time winner; this field is restricted to horses that have not won two. CURLY ROAD goes route to sprint, with figures that put him in the hunt. TRUE RANGER finished an okay second last out in his first try at the N2L level. That was after breaking slowly from an inside post. 'RANGER is an obvious contender, and might be ranked too low by this handicapper.

Seventh Race
1. Pray Hard 2. Well Measured 3. Matriculate

PRAY HARD and WELL MEASURED are tough to separate in a competitive Cal-bred N1X/optional $20k claiming sprint. PRAY HARD is a seven-time winner dropping from open $40k at Golden Gate and returning to traditional footing. He has won 6 of 18 on dirt. WELL MEASURED is seemingly compromised by the inside post in this six and one-half furlong dash, but he has enough speed to establish position and is a 4-for-11 pro. Furthermore, he broke from the rail twice in his career, and won both times. MATRICULATE came up short around two turns again, finishing third vs. similar. He probably is best around one turn, and will be running late. He is trained by Bill Spawr, who also entered lightly raced comebacker BOY HOWDY. The latter went off form at Del Mar. He won his career debut, so he does fire fresh, but could be using this sprint as a prep.

Eighth Race
1. Royal Albert Hall 2. Ward 'n Jerry 3. Curlin Rules

A deep field of N2X allowance runners go a mile and one eighth on turf; a case can be made for several. ROYAL ALBERT HALL was in tough in a G2 last out, uncharacteristically setting the pace with the addition of blinkers. He tired and finished last. He drops in class, removes blinkers and is reunited with the only jockey he has won for in the U.S. WARD 'N JERRY gave a pair of sharp pick-six players the only winning ticket ($135k) on closing day of the fall meet at Santa Anita. The N1X win by WARD 'N JERRY was his third straight; his Beyer Figures have improved each start. Now 3-for-8, no telling how good he might get. Sharp horse certainly knows how to win. CURLIN RULES has a chance to steal it. He looks like the speed of the field; he finished a creditable third under similar N2X conditions two starts back. PATRIOTS RULE is a multiple stakes winner against Cal-breds, making his first start in two months.

Ninth Race
1. Door's Open 2. Pat the Bear 3. Tribal Again

DOOR'S OPEN was a $32-40k claiming sprinter before he was sidelined last winter. Now he returns from the layoff while entered for $8k. It is hardly an optimistic placement, but he certainly is the best horse if he shows up. This is not a particularly creative selection. PAT THE BEAR returns from a three and one-half month layoff, with a history of running fresh and a 3-for-7 record over this track. He was claimed last out for $6,250 but did not pass inspection after the race and the claim was voided. TRIBAL AGAIN goes route to sprint and will be rolling from behind. This race is tough, largely due to the perceived vulnerability of the top choice.