03/19/2013 1:55PM

Santa Anita: Great Warrior looks to buck trend of disappointing favorites

Shigeki Kikkawa
Great Warrior finished last in his 2013 debut but may be favored in Thursday’s one-mile, $40,000 optional claimer.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Southern California bettors are having a hard time picking winners of first-level allowance routes, specifically older horses on the main track.

Favorites are 0 for 3 at Santa Anita and 0 for 7 in Southern California the past six months in N1X routes for older horses at standard distances. The only winning favorite in that span was at Betfair Hollywood Park on Nov.  30, when the odds-on Dreamcatcher won at 1 1/4 miles.

It might be statistical gibberish, or it might be a practical warning to bettors trying to find the winner of the seventh race Thursday at Santa Anita. Eight older horses race a mile on the main track in a first-level, $40,000 optional claimer.

The feature is tricky. Two key contenders drop from subpar races and are entered for the claim tag – Great Warrior and Joy Boy. American Blend stretches out from two good sprints but might be best around one turn. Floating Feather and Call Me Kelly add speed. Outsiders include Mr T Bird, Half Strike and Seven Bridges.

Great Warrior would be a deserving favorite despite a last-place comeback. Making his first start in six months, Great Warrior pressed and faded but earned a respectable 89 Beyer Speed Figure while missing by more than six lengths against tougher than he meets Thursday.

Great Warrior drops from N2X to N1X/optional claiming. Based on speed figures, he is logical. It typically requires a Beyer of 89 or higher to win a first-level route in Southern California. Great Warrior matched or exceeded that figure in five of his last seven starts.

The trainer of Great Warrior, John Sadler, is positioned for a big start to the week. Sadler has “live” starters in six of the eight races Thursday.

American Blend stretches out from two sprints – a seventh-place comeback followed by a runner-up finish. Carla Gaines trains American Blend, whose pedigree is route. He is by Quiet American and out of long-distance Blending Element. Her four foals who won stakes include three who won route stakes – Tiz a Blend, Holladay Road, and Excessive Blend.

But the knock on American Blend is his unbalanced running style, which could be more effective in sprints. American Blend is a deep closer.

Late-running sprinters do not always reproduce form around two turns. On the other hand, American Blend has started only five times, and Thursday marks his third start back from a layoff. The jury is out.

Joy Boy returns from a 10-month layoff as a first-time gelding with a conspicuous running style. Joy Boy is pure speed. Brian Koriner trains the 4-for-14 gelding, who won the first allowance condition one year ago at Santa Anita. He runs Thursday for the $40,000 tag.