One of the biggest stories leading into the New Year is the racing surface change at Santa Anita Park. An 83-day meet running through mid-April 2011 and highlighted by the Santa Anita Derby on April 3 commences this afternoon in Arcadia, California. The winter/spring meet is much anticipated as the return to all-natural dirt will be welcomed by handicappers and horsemen alike.
After the track owner failed to negotiate an agreement with the Oak Tree Racing Association for the fall meet, the track has been idle since April for the first time since 1968. “We’ve been idle for a long time and people are very anxious to come back to Santa Anita and we’re anxious to have them back. Additionally, many of our best customers are looking forward to racing on a dirt surface again, as are our horsemen,” said Santa Anita President George Haines. The other good news here is that the Breeders' Cup will be sure to return in the near future (2012?). My 2009 experience at the Great Race Place was second to none; the weather, the people and the backdrop were all truly spectacular.
Sunday’s opening day card includes two Grade 1 races, the $250,000 La Brea Stakes and the $250,000 Malibu Stakes as well as the Grade 2 Sir Beaufort Stakes. These three graded stakes races make up a Pick 3 starting at Race 6. So if you’re poo-pooing the players’ boycott, let’s take a stab at the graded stakes Pick 3 and we’ll feature the horses that will make up my Pick 3 play.
I know you were expecting an exacta or trifecta box, as it is Boxing Day, but we'll wrap up the year with my favorite wager. This most likely will my last wager of 2010, as we will focus the remainder of the week on Syracuse’s football bowl game and the World Junior Hockey Tournament being held in our hometown, Buffalo. Of course, make sure you check the scratches and the weather report (looking good this morning) before making your play.
Race 6 – La Brea Stakes, 7-furlong sprint for 3-year old fillies.
3 – Switch (Sadler, Rosario) – This filly has come out of two very good races in losing to the great Zenyatta in the Lady’s Secret and finishing second to Dubai Majesty in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. On class alone she has to be on my ticket.
7 – Malibu Pier (Gaines, Gomez) – This Malibu Moon filly should be rounding into form as she comes in third off the layoff (one of my favorite angles). Trainer Carla Gaines is 32% coming off a win and I like the cutback in distance here for the Pier. My top choice.
9 – Always a Princess (Baffert, Bejarano) – Hard to count out this combination and take note that Bejarano jumped off Malibu Pier to ride this filly. Her sire Leroidesanimaux was a terrific sprinter and Rafael is one of the best riders around.
Last horse tossed: Champagne d’Oro.
Race 7 – Sir Beaufort Stakes ($150,000), 1 mile (Turf) for 3-year olds.
4 – Sebastian Flyte (Cecil, Leparoux) – Julien Leparoux ships in to ride this 3-year old colt for Triple B Farms and gets a five pound weight break from the favorite. JuLep is shipping in for a reason and if you look at his last two races, he was right there in both, losing by a neck in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby and by 3/4 length in the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby. That’s enough for me not to leave him off my ticket.
5 – Sidney’s Candy (Sadler, Rosario). The class of the race, Sidney’s Candy owned by the Craig Family Trust is as close to a single as I could find in this sequence. His speed figures are well above any of the others in this field, though he has never won at the mile distance. He shows a couple decent workouts and should be rested coming out of the Breeders’ Cup Mile, finishing sixth behind the likes of Goldikova and Gio Ponti. The pick.
Race 8 – Malibu Stakes, 7 furlongs sprint for 3-year olds.
2 – Alcindor (Baffert, Bejarano). A late blooming 3-year old Unbridled’s Song colt (no relation to Kareem), that has two impressive wins in his only two races. He has the right connections, we’ll see if he’s for real, and he should be at a decent price based on the quality of the field.
3 – Thiskyhasnolimit (Asmussen, Gomez). Another horse with stellar connections and is cutting back in distance. Finished second to likely 3-year old champion Lookin at Lucky in the Indiana Derby and the 7-furlong distance might be the answer on Sunday.
5 – Noble’s Promise (McPeek, Leparoux). A horse for a moment looked like he was going to win the Kentucky Derby last May, ran a monster race on the Breeders’ Cup undercard winning the ungraded Jimmy V Stakes going away. Can handle the dirt and I won’t risk getting beat by him, so he’s on my ticket as part of a deep third leg (which I believe is the toughest in the sequence).
9 – Twirling Candy (Sadler, Rosario). Wouldn’t it be something if John Sadler swept this Pick 3? Don’t count him out with the horses he has going. This one suffered his first career loss trying older horses in the Grade 1 Goodwood, so I expect improvement in returning back against 3-year olds. This will be his first career start on dirt, but too much talent not to include him against these foes.
11 – Smiling Tiger (Bonde, Baze). Comes out of a super competitive Breeders’ Cup Sprint where he hit the board in third. He’s raced his last four against older horses, so he’s a seasoned 3-year old. The only question in my mind is better at a shorter distance. Too good to pass on.
Last horse tossed: Caracortado (he's going to beat me, isn't he?)
The Play: $1 Pick 3: 3,7,9/4,5/2,3,5,9,11 (Cost: $30)
Update (11:43PST - Sebastian Flyte scratched and we're off the Turf...will add Champagne D'Oro in the first leg and Caracortado in the Malibu and cut down the ticket to 4x1x6 to $24.Good luck and let’s cash some tickets…