Let’s take a look at the Grade II Californian, a 9-furlong affair from Santa Anita. It’s the final leg of the early P5 — making it extra-important to multi-race bettors. Although 3YO’s could enter, it’s a field full of veterans — all horses are 5YO and above. I’m going to go through the field in post position order and, as usual, add some betting analysis at the end.
- Soi Phet: He is a 10-year old that has been on the California scene for a long time. He’s made 56 starts in his career, gathering 13 wins during that time. His last win came at Los Al last September in a minor stake for state-breds where he went off at 7/2. He’s 1 for 5 at the 9-furlong distance. In his last race on March 23, he finished a good second to Prince of Arabia, who is in here today. It’s hard to bet against a hard-trier like Soi Phet, especially when he fits on speed. One to watch, but likely outclassed at the Grade II open compan level.
- Full of Luck: Hollendorfer brought this horse from Chile, where he was 8 for 14. He tried the turf, where despite being the favorite in the GIII San Francisco, he finished a disappointing 11th. He’ll now make his dirt debut, despite all that Chilean turf success. On paper, he seems overmatched, and unless he’s been hiding dirt form, he will be outclassed here today.
- Curlin Road: He had a nice pair of good odds wins last year — 5 to 1 in a N2X and 10-1 in the Cougar II — as he improved to a new level. He still is only 4 for 26 in his career. He ran well in the Grade I Pacific Classic, with a career-best speed figure, but then went on the shelf until the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap. In that race, he was overmatched and gave way (also the track was wet.) He returns to the Grade II level and, if you believe he’s healthy, could offer some value because of that last bad speed figure.
- Dr. Dorr: This horse has been running very well in preparation for this race. He sprinted lights out — beating Ten Blessings — and then led start to finish in the Santana Mile. He’s 4 for 6 at Santa Anita but faces two tests today. First, he’s never gone 9 furlongs (8 is the most last time out). Second, it’s only his second start at the graded level — the first was a 4th (out of 7) in the 2nd start of his career. He’s attractive, but those are two huge factors, especially if you’re taking 8/5 or less.
- The Lieutenant: Seems slightly overmatched at this class level and he’s only 1 for 6 at Santa Anita. His last win was an N2X at Los Al; since then, he’s been in three straight stakes. 2 of those were poor performances in Graded affairs. He lost to Dr. Dorr by 4 last time out and I’m not sure the additional ground is going to be a benefit. Seems to want a bit easier than the Grade II competition he’ll find today.
- Prince of Arabia: He’s only 3 for 20 in his career. He won last time out at 35-1 in a N2X. He was making his first start on dirt since September 2016 and responded very well. He ran fast enough to win today. He’s run well in some turf graded stakes, but who knows if that form can carry over to dirt now. It’s generally tough to bet on a longshot winner moving up in class.
Analysis: This is a fairly wide-open race. Dr. Dorr is the best on paper, but he has to pass the class and distance tests. I’d have trouble singling him in the Pick 5. I’d back him up with Curlin Road, moving back to a decent class level — he could run up the track, but he very well could be there at the end. I’d also add Soi Phet to deeper tickets.