01/13/2011 6:11PM

There's value in San Fernando exacta


ARCADIA, Calif. – The handicapping notebook is full again, with stuff like this:

◗ Sure was glad to be standing trackside at Santa Anita when Sidney’s Candy worked five furlongs last weekend. After watching Sidney’s Candy glide home in 58 seconds, it seems downright futile to bet against him in the Grade 2 San Fernando Stakes on Saturday.

◗ Nevertheless, the San Fernando exacta could offer value if one of two outsiders gets up for second. Thiskyhasnolimit may have been compromised by a wet track last out, and Make Music for Me gets no respect despite in-the-money finishes three times in graded stakes. It’s a partial wheel – Sidney’s Candy over Thiskyhasnolimit and Make Music for Me.

◗ Although it is true Bob Baffert and Rafael Bejarano were a combined 8 for 16 into Thursday, does slow-pace specialist Tweebster have a snowball’s chance to hit the board Saturday chasing legitimate fractions in the San Fernando?

◗ As for Baffert, is his hot streak a condition-book mirage? Baffert’s meet-leading 13 wins include eight wins in maiden races and two other races that had just three starters. But don’t knock Baffert too hard. His filly Plum Pretty has been working like she just might be good enough to knock off Zazu on Saturday in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez.

◗ Is the Kentucky Oaks winner running Friday at Delta Downs? Flash Mash, who got glowing reviews last fall after two big wins, is training crisply for her comeback in the $200,000 My Trusty Cat. Flash Mash, by Smarty Jones, is trained by Mike Stidham and will be ridden by Anna Napravnik. Flash Mash might be a good one. Stay tuned.

◗ Both stakes this weekend for West Coast 3-year-olds are tough to handicap: the Grade 3 Sham at Santa Anita, even with five entrants, and the $100,000 California Derby at Golden Gate Fields with 12. The lone stakes winner at Golden Gate is Positive Response. He can’t possibly get another easy trip setting a slow pace, can he?

◗ Tapizar is the horse to beat in the Sham. He has a score to settle with Anthony’s Cross, who beat him Nov. 4, when Tapizar had missed training after he grabbed a quarter in his previous start. In his second start back, Tapizar crushed his opponents by more than 10 lengths with an 89 Beyer. Anything close to that wins the Sham. Steve Asmussen trains.

◗ Asmussen and Tom Proctor are “new” stables this winter at Santa Anita, where dirt is back in the mix. So it’s kind of weird that Asmussen and Proctor have combined for eight wins in California the last two months − seven wins on grass.

◗ Speaking of turf, the Santa Anita rails will be set at zero Saturday, the first time this meet. The first two weeks when the rails were at 15 or 24 feet, speed dominated at one mile – all 11 winners were within 2 1/2 lengths after the first half-mile. The profile could change with the rail setting lowered and the configuration of the course widened.

◗ More than 80 percent of the 4,596 players in Santa Anita’s online contest ShowVivor got knocked out during the first six days of the contest, which began Jan. 1. Geez, how tough is it to find one horse a day to hit the board? Don’t ask the 411 players that chose Evening Jewel Jan. 2 in race 2. She finished fifth, the biggest ShowVivor wipeout of the meet.

◗ Frank Stronach is scheduled to hit town sometime in the next week or two. No word yet when his string of horses will arrive to campaign over the new Santa Anita dirt track.

◗ Talk about a negative key race. In running a bad third at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 8, Morning Line became the fifth horse from the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile to lose his next start at low odds. He followed Dakota Phone, Vineyard Haven, Thiskyhasnolimit, and Mad Flatter.

◗ An old handicapping adage is that Breeders’ Cup runners are bet-againsts first start back. A few more pop up this weekend: BC Sprint winner Big Drama on Saturday at Gulfstream Park, BC Ladies’ Classic runner-up Blind Luck on Sunday at Santa Anita, and BC Turf runner-up Champ Pegasus on Monday at Santa Anita.

◗ Craig Dollase remains the top California trainer for West Point Thoroughbreds, but the stable recently transferred a handful of horses to John Sadler. The first Sadler-West Point starter is Camp Victory in race 7 Saturday. Sadler now trains highly regarded 3-year-old Runflatout, whose long-awaited debut will be late January or early February.

◗ Speaking of Dollase and West Point, their flagship 8-year-old gelding Awesome Gem returned this week to the Dollase barn and will jog for another week before he resumes galloping. Tentative plans call for a prep race late in the Santa Anita meet, after which Awesome Gem may try to win the Hollywood Gold Cup for a second straight year.

◗ Other veterans are going international. The 7-year-old Ferneley finished off the board in all three of his starts since summer 2009, and 5-year-old Crowded House finished off the board in both his starts since summer. Nonetheless, both have been working regularly at Santa Anita and are scheduled to ship to Dubai. Do they run claiming races in Dubai?

◗ A simple wagering angle this winter at Santa Anita is to back-wheel jockey Victor Espinoza in the exacta. The betting system is 10 for 48. Espinoza has two wins.

◗ Looks like that big winter purse increase – funded by a takeout hike in exotic wagers – has not done a darn thing to boost the local horse population. The latest word is that Bill Mott, who considered sending a string west, has changed his mind and will stay put for now.

◗ There is big news regarding Saturday paddock seminars at Santa Anita. For years, the handicapping seminars were hosted by Today’s Racing Digest. This season, the Digest relinquished its spot, and the weekly seminars are now sponsored by Daily Racing Form . The seminar begins Saturday at 11:15. This week’s host is DRF ’s Steve Andersen; his guest is Santa Anita’s Kurt Hoover.