01/11/2013 1:48PM

Steve Klein: Affinity for Santa Anita turf could be deciding factor in San Gabriel

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Benoit & Associates
Slim Shadey has won three of his six races on the Santa Anita turf.

Spotting the leading contenders in the Grade 2 San Gabriel, a $150,000, 1 1/8-mile turf race on Sunday at Santa Anita, seems relatively straightforward. Choosing the right one is a bit more complicated.

Slim Shadey likes the turf course at Santa Anita. He has won three of six races on it, and finished second once. That’s much better than his record at other venues, with just one win from 18 races everywhere else.

He won the Grade 2 John Henry Turf Championship at Santa Anita three starts ago, then finished eighth, only 5 1/2 lengths behind the winner in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf. He regressed a bit while finishing fourth last time in the Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup. The return to Santa Anita should make him tough in this spot.

Jeranimo finished within 4 3/4 lengths of the winner (and won twice) vs. graded stakes opponents in his last eight races. He’s also a fan of the turf at Santa Anita, with two wins, a second, and two third-place finishes from eight starts.

His last win was earned four races ago in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood, but he also deserves respect for finishing sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Mle, only 4 1/2 lengths behind winner Wise Dan and just three lengths behind runner-up Animal Kingdom.

The knock against that pair is that they were both underwhelming last time. As mentioned earlier, Slim Shadey, who was a tiring fourth going 1 1/2 miles in the Hollywood Turf Cup, can rebound in his return to Santa Anita. Cutting back to 1 1/8 miles should also help. Jeranimo disappointed while finishing fourth when better things were expected at 3-1 odds in the Grade 2 Citation at Hollywood. His 51-day gap between races is another factor to consider.

One interesting alternative to them is Chosen Miracle, a sprint specialist who stretched out to 1 1/16 miles and held on to edge a $100,000 optional claiming field. He likes the grass at Santa Anita with a win, and two seconds from four races. He’s a threat to take them all the way, but regression from his 95 Beyer would not be a surprise with more ground to cover against this classier field.

I’ll give the call to Slim Shadey for the reasons mentioned earlier, and also because his tactical speed fits this turf course. Jeranimo, a closer in each of his last six races, might be hindered by his running style.

I’ll bet Slim Shadey to win, and I’ll key him on top in the exacta over Jeranimo, Chosen Miracle, and Juniper Pass, who could be set for a good try at overlaid odds.

The San Gabriel is race 8.

The third race at Santa Anita is the 1 1/16 mile, $75,000 Paseana.

Candrea is a 4-year-old filly who showed talent when she finished a close second in the Grade 1 Oak Leaf as a 2-year-old in her third career start. Unfortunately, her form tailed off significantly after that performance. She improved late last year when she won an allowance race in her return from a break of more than two months. She stepped up to battle Grade 1 rivals in the La Brea, and ran a nice race as a 41-1 longshot. She rallied from fifth into contention in midstretch, lacked a clear path until it was too late to do her much good, then finished well when clear. She broke sharply and briefly showed speed before she was allowed to settle in the rear-half of the pack in that seven-furlong race.

Candrea should be able to get much better early position while stretching out to 1 1/16 miles. Continued improvement in the third race of her form cycle would give her a good chance to win.

Charm the Maker is the primary threat. She finished a half-length behind Candrea in the Oak Leaf, then was a close second in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet two races later. Her form last year was less impressive, but she still ran well while finishing third in the Grade 3 Autumn Miss and fourth in the Grade 2 Bayakoa.

The concern is that she is a closer on a surface that has favored horses with tactical speed in two-turn races.

Candrea’s stablemate Distracting has enough early speed to benefit if that’s the right running style, but she is still hard to gauge as she stretches out from six furlongs to 1 1/16 miles in her fourth start. She’ll race without blinkers for the first time in her return from a vacation of nearly three months.

Snow Fall perked up last time in her return from a 12-week rest. Continued progress would give her a chance to participate in the exotics at overlaid odds.

I’ll bet Candrea to win, and I’ll key her over Charm the Maker, Distracting, and Snow Fall in the exacta.