Santa Anita Opening Weekend Reflections

It was a great holiday weekend of racing at Santa Anita. Here are some reflections on the weekend:

  • Shared Belief is a much better horse than we saw on Friday in the Malibu. Yes, he won, but visually, he was comparatively pedestrian and, more importantly, his Beyer was only 99. That said, his entry in this race always felt like an unconventional attempt to add another G1 to his resume. He was able to win on class alone against some good sprinters. I’ll happily bet him strongly going forward, especially if the public begins to think he’s either lost a step or struggles on conventional dirt.



  • There was a lot of justified buzz about Taris coming into the La Brea and the public sent her off at legitimate 3/5. She looked great coming for home, but slowed badly to finish a tiring second to Sam’s Sister in the La Brea. A bad post, a step slow at the start — and an ankle injury revealed after the race — made things even worse. The talented filly will be out for at least the first half of 2015, it may be a while (or ever) if we see her on track again.



  • Distinctiv Passion was sharp in winning the Midnight Lute Stakes. His prior race was terrific and suggested improvement and top form. He’ll be a fun horse to follow through the meet. Secret Circle continued his year-long decline, finishing a disappointing 4th and capping off a disappointing start to the meet for Bob Baffert.

  • Bolo is a rising 3YO horse to watch. He toyed with a field of 2YO turf horses in winning the Eddie Logan Stakes.

  • Alert Bay showed great versatility and stamina in winning the Mathis Brothers Mile. Always fun to root for horses like this, especially when they win at 9-1.

  • Good betting opportunities all weekend long and an ample number of high price winners triggering solid exotic payoffs. On Friday, only 2 favorites won. On Saturday, 4 favorites won, including 3 of 4 in a low-paying late P5. The early P5, however, on Saturday, with 4 of 5 non-favorites, including a 12-1 winner, paid over $11K. On Sunday, 3 favorites won. The late Pick 4 was littered with longshots and paid over $16K.
  • No Jet Lag was absolutely terrible after the suspicious drop in class from trainer Simon Callaghan. The former G2 winner was claimed for $40K, but the claim was voided for unsoundness after the race. It’s always possible that the injury occurred during the race, but the huge drop in class — combined with Callaghan’s poor numbers at this angle — suggest that he was likely unsound before the race. I’d like to see the CHRB take some actions against multiple offenders who fit this pattern. As of now, I’m glad that claims are voided and wish that all jurisdictions had this rule.

Image: Modified from Rennett Stowe, Copyright 2009.