01/14/2010 12:00AM

Santa Anita roundup

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NOTEWORTHY PERFORMANCES

St Trinians does not simply win races, she blows them up. Trained by Mike Mitchell, the 5-year-old mare earns the "Performance of the Week" award for her demolition of the $72,000 Paseana Handicap on Jan. 9. Making her third start in the U.S. and second start following a layoff, St Trinians crushed the Paseana by 3 3/4 lengths, earning a 101 Beyer Figure that is the highest two-turn figure of the 13-day-old meet. Imported from England, St Trinians is now 6 of 10, and no worse than second choice (behind Life Is Sweet) in the Grade 2 Santa Maria Handicap on Feb. 13.

"Jackpot of the Week" honors to go Gambling Pokerface, $28.60 winner of a $50,000 claimer for 3-year-old filly sprinters Jan. 6. The week's highest-paying winner, Gambling Pokerface was flattered by a severe track bias that favored closers. Her recent form was not bad. She had finished a troubled second in her most recent start in a $25,000 claimer at Hollywood Park. Helen Shelley trains, and Eulices Gomez rode.

The "Chalk of the Week" award goes to Exile, $3.80 winner of a $25,000 maiden claimer on Jan. 10, but it was a bad week for odds-on favorites. Five lost - Nicole H, runner-up on Jan. 10; Furthest Land, last on Jan. 9; A Royal Tizzy, fourth on Jan. 8; Tamerin, third on Jan. 8; and Chicago Gal, runner-up on Jan. 7.

The "Most Likely Repeater" award goes to the streaking filly A Jealous Woman, who ripped gate to wire in a first-level turf allowance Jan. 10. Bill Spawr trains the 3-for-4 filly, whose 1:34.52 mile was the fastest of the meet. It was her first route, and third straight victory. A Jealous Woman, sired by Muqtarib, is fast, she can stay, and can win a N2X next out. Her rivals may include fillies scheduled to run Jan. 14 in race 5, an N2X at a mile on turf.

DIVISIONAL RANKINGS

Santa Anita Derby

1. Lookin At Lucky, 2. Blind Luck, 3. Conveyance, 4. Tiz Chrome, 5. Take Control, 6. Make Music for Me, 7. American Lion, 8. Caracortado, 9. Kettle River, 10. Lucky Rave

The pecking order is stable, as spots 1-8 are unchanged. Lookin At Lucky added blinkers for a sharp half-mile workout Jan. 9. Kettle River moves onto the list (No. 9) after a modest allowance victory Jan. 6. Lucky Rave (No. 10) also moves on. Third in the Grade 3 Generous on turf, he returns Saturday against 2-for-2 Conveyance in the Grade 3 San Rafael at Santa Anita, or against Our Minesweeper and Connemara in the California Derby at Golden Gate.

Santa Anita Handicap

1. Gio Ponti, 2. Misremembered, 3. Richard's Kid, 4. Neko Bay, 5. Mast Track, 6. Papa Clem, 7. Rendezvous, 8. High Court Drama, 9. Quindici Man, 10. Gallant Son

Neko Bay jumps to No. 4 after winning the Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap (94 Beyer) on Jan. 9. A 7-year-old with just 13 starts, Neko Bay is lightly raced for a reason, according to trainer John Shirreffs.

"He's not a big, strong horse," Shirreffs said after the San Pasqual.

Shirreffs added: "It's always difficult to get them strong enough to be campaigned, and that's been his thing. He hasn't been really strong enough to go into a real strict, hard campaign."

Perhaps things have changed this year. The San Pasqual was the first time Neko Bay has strung together four starts without a layoff. An argument can be made that Neko Bay should be ranked higher. The connections of Gio Ponti and Richard's Kid have stated the Dubai World Cup is a main goal. The horses ranked 6-10 all are scheduled to race this weekend, including four in the Grade 2 San Fernando Stakes for 4-year-olds.

WHO'S HOT

Jockeys

Victor Espinoza climbed to the top of the jockey standings by winning 7 races from only 18 mounts. Espinoza entered the week with 14 wins from 51 mounts. His 27 percent win rate leads the standings, and his mounts are producing a significant flat-bet profit ($2.96 for each $2 win bet). Will he stay on top? It could be tough. Five of the seven winners last week ridden by Espinoza were maidens who will find things a whole lot tougher next out against winners.

Joel Rosario and Garrett Gomez last week each won 7 races from 25 mounts, while Rafael Bejarano won just 4 of 29. The top four riders, based on wins, were Espinoza (14), Rosario (13), Bejarano (13), and Gomez (10).

Trainers

John Sadler is not about to give up training colts, but make no mistake - his fillies are making the headlines. Two weeks after Evita Argentina won the Grade 1 La Brea, Sadler's lightly raced 3-year-old filly Crisp jumped from maiden to Grade 3 and scored a sharp win in the 1 1/16-mile Santa Ysabel on Jan. 10. Her winning figure (80 Beyer) came back soft, but the El Corredor filly has improved with each subsequent start. Sadler won two races last week and remains on the heels of Bob Baffert, who entered the week with nine wins. Sadler had seven. Marty Jones won two races; he entered the week having won with four of his last six starters.

HANDICAPPING ANGLES

When Doug O'Neill claims a horse from Richard Mandella, it is worth a bet next out. O'Neill recently has had above-average success claiming from Mandella, and Jan. 10 maiden-claiming winner Exile will try to follow suit. Exile was the fifth horse O'Neill has claimed from Mandella over the past two years, and three of the four who have started since won first off the claim.

Quoted, a $40,000 O'Neill-from-Mandella claim, paid $11 winning a maiden special weight first off the claim Dec. 9. Peace Chant, claimed for $62,500, paid $30.60 winning the $100,000 Phoenix Gold Cup his next start Feb. 14, 2009. Orientation Hall, claimed for $12,500 in late 2008, won a $25,000 restricted claimer at $15.80 less than two weeks later. As for Exile, his dreadful 66 Beyer assures generous odds in his next start.

Moon Han is one of those low-profile trainers whom bettors can catch at a fat price in the right spot. Han's specialty is turf sprints. When maiden El Mirage King switched to a turf sprint Jan. 9, handicappers using Daily Racing Form Formulator would have been aware of Han's amazing turf-sprint record the past five years - 6 wins from his last 36 starts, and a $6.52 return for each $2 win. Those statistics need upward revision after El Mirage King won the turf sprint at $13.40.

BETTING DEPARTMENT

The pick-six carryover has all but disappeared this winter. The first three weeks (13 racing days), the pick six carried over only twice - Jan. 1 and Jan. 8. By comparison, there were six carryovers the first three weeks (14 racing days) last winter. The low number of pick six carryovers cannot be attributed to fewer longshots. The win rate of favorites is holding steady at 33 percent.

There was grumbling Jan. 7 after the late pick four returned $1,277 for $1, roughly half the mythical $1 win parlay. The mid-price winners were $24.80, a $9.40 second favorite, $10.20 second favorite, and $15.20 on a contender in a wide-open finale. Did someone hammer the winning sequence multiple times to create the low pick four payoff? No, as it turns out. More than 60 percent of the winning tickets were won through three major outlets - the Lewiston, Maine, hub (which includes YouBet), TVG, and Los Alamitos.

HORSES TO WATCH

Spot the Diplomat

Trainer: Cirilo Sierra

Last race: Jan. 9, 5th

Finish: 3rd by 3 1/4

This former stakes horse deserved better. Racing for a $25,000 tag at seven furlongs, the veteran was buried inside and behind horses from the quarter pole to deep stretch and was never set down late. He won twice for this trainer since being claimed for $10,000 last summer; Sierra can take advantage of his sharp form and drop him next out.

Striking Dancer

Trainer: Ken McPeek

Last race: Jan. 8, 7th

Finish: 7th by 2 3/4

It is impossible to say where this good Kentucky shipper would have finished, but it is easy to say she did not have a chance. Blocked along the rail from the top of the lane to wire, she was trying to run over horses but a clean path did not materialize. The whole debacle has to be chalked up as inconclusive; she must be used in the next filly-mare turf allowance, non-winners of three other than.

Power Blitz

Trainer: Neil Drysdale

Last race: Jan. 6, 7th

Finish: 5th by 5

A consistent gelding favored in a first-level allowance at 1 1/2 miles on turf, he broke from post 11 and stayed in the proverbial parking lot the entire trip. Three, four, and five wide at every turn, he loomed a threat into the lane before losing his punch. He lost more ground than the margin of defeat, and can make short work of this condition next time at 1 1/8 miles or more.

Fenice

Trainer: Jeff Mullins

Last race: Jan. 6, 4th

Finish: 1st by head

The closers' bias propelled this 7-year-old gelding to his sixth career victory while racing for trainer Victor Garcia. Claimed for $20,000 by Mullins, the Pro-Ride specialist (3 starts, 2 wins, 1 third), is sure to continue his sharp form for his new connections.