The Californian

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Dr. DorrThis 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Prince of ArabiaHe’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.

The Sham Stakes (Grade III)

This week, continuing coverage of the Derby Trail moves to Santa Anita for the Sham Stakes. 8f — so a bit on the shorter side for these preps — and, of course, on the dirt for 3YO. It’s another 10-4-2-1 points race in the quest for Kentucky Derby points.

On paper, this isn’t the most interesting race. Calculator is the only entrant with Kentucky Derby points so far, and is by far the fastest of this group. He returns to the races off a 3-month layoff following a solid second to American Pharoah in the Frontrunner. I really like him before he was scratched in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile due to foot problems. He’s still a maiden — something that would cause some concern normally, but he’s faced top fields, including running 4th in the key maiden race from this summer, which I rate roughly comparable to a G3:

Screenshot 2015-01-09 18.00.19



Outside of the usual background risk (“no-show,” “racing luck”, etc), there’s are two main risk to a Calculator win today. The first is the layoff — something that his trainer doesn’t excel at — and the general risk of a top 2YO returning and being expected to match previous performances, especially given the injury.

That said, the race, at least on paper, seems to lack a logical contender to challenge Calculator. This doesn’t mean that one of the other horses won’t improve — it’s likely that one of them will. But simply that its very hard to isolate which particular one might be the upstart threat.  Unblunted likely will receive some support — he was impressive here at 7f in October, and if you throw out the artificial surface try, has some solid reason to improve on the return to Santa Anita. Rockinakitten debuts for the D. O’Neil barn. I’ve been pretty bearish on horses coming out of Calder/Gulfstream Park West, so I’ll rely on that in avoiding him today.

Even with the risks, I still see Calculator as a heavy favorite and a fair wager all the way down to 4/5, for those who are willing to play low-favorites (and you should.) Perhaps the public is freaked out by his maiden status and gives a decent price, but I doubt it.

If Calculator wins, he’ll move into a tie for 2nd place in Kentucky Derby points with 14. He’ll no longer be a maiden, and we’ll be anticipating his rematches against the top West Coast contenders in the coming weeks. If he is upset, however, we’ll certainly be talking about a new contender — remember that nobody else in the field has earned any points yet. At the very least, one of these other horses will come away with 4-points — not enough to qualify, but the very beginnings of a campaign that might squeeze you into the gate in Louisville.

Good luck at Santa Anita!


Santa Anita Day 2: Early Double

It’s day 2 of the Santa Anita meet. Feels like a double Saturday, with this great long weekend of racing. Two lower-level races to start the day:

Race 1:  12.5K Claiming for Non-Winners of 2. 6.5f. 

Conditioned claimers aren’t the norm in SoCal, so you routinely see horses move among the various class levels for maiden winners. Usually maiden claiming winners with try the starter allowance ($40K) condition, with state-bred and allowance maidens trying their respective first-level allowances, although some trainers alway try a maiden winner in a first-level allowance. Sometimes you’ll see maiden winners go to straight claiming — particularly 3YO claiming with has a solid foothold in SoCal. There’s also a higher claiming price for the same condition ($25K in a N2L); droppers are common.Shippers tend to have a different profile, and some opportunities can sometimes be found there. But the least speedy of the horses on the grounds tend to end up here, a level that tends to be even easier than the open $8K claiming (which isn’t that easy).

Given all of the above, Magna Warrior (#5, 5-2) catches my eye. Been racing competitively in harder, broke maiden claimer at the 50K level, and has the requisite speed. I do have some concern with the layoff. The other main contender is Maholo Arturo (#8, 3-1), who might get disproportionate action on the first-time gelding angle, which just started appearing in the form yesterday. Good thing that we have double probables, which help to determine whether a bet is worth the risk.

Race 2: 30K Maiden Claiming, 2YO, 6f

Holy Ascension (#11, 7-2) seems to be rounding into winning maiden form, and dirt sprints are, so far, the main profitable expertise of trainer Simon Callaghan.

Screenshot 2014-12-27 08.22.04

She’s the fastest in this field on dirt, and I’m banking on a solid effort today against this mostly lackluster field. Powerful Girl (#8, 6-1) earned a second look; her trainer is 0 for 40 recently with 2YO, although we are just a few days short of January 1st. I trust those stats much more through the summer and initial stretchouts. Absent a very live Ju Ju Bella (#9, 4-1), I expect the race to come down to these two and recommend betting the doubles accordingly.

Good luck to start the day at Santa Anita!

Image: Salina Canizales, Copyright 2014.


Santa Anita, “The Late Double”, 8:50 PM ET June 13

Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, CA

Race 7, Optional Claiming First-level Allowance, 1 mile, turf, 3 yr. old, Purse:  $58K

Race 8, Maiden Claiming, 6.5F, 3 yr. old and up, Fillies and Mares, Purse: $23K

It’s the Friday Night Late Double from Santa Anita Park!  I’ll take a look a both races with an eye toward a value-oriented double ticket.

Race 7:

A group of six three-year old turf colts go for the first level allowance condition.  The favorite is Quotient (#3, 6/5) returning to allowance company after decent showings in two turf stakes.  His most recent was in the G2 American Turf, where he finished a respectable 3rd.  I’ll Wrap It Up (#4, 7/2) rates very well for the O’Neil barn.  This horse seems primed for a big effort, with the added distance and third start off the layoff.  The very capable Elvis Trujillo is aboard.  An improvement is needed, but likely. If he improves, he’s equal with Quotient.  Texas Ryano (#5, 3/1) returns for Carla Gaines.  Favored at this condition in February, he’d likely need to improve significantly to win. The remaining horses seem a bit overmatched by these three, and especially the top 2.


  • Quotient — Fair odds = 7/5
  • I’ll Wrap It Up  — Fair odds = 5/2
  • Texas Ryano — Fair odds = 6/1

Race 8:

Seven maiden fillies go for a slightly longer than usual sprint.  This tends to favor pressers, but usually the best horse wins at this level.  The key, of course, is finding the best horse among a crowd of usual pretenders. L X Sunrise (#4, 8/5) ran lights out last time after a bad start.  You have to wonder, however, if that took something out of her.  A repeat of that effort is unlikely, but she still may be fast enough to win.  Queen Mad (#6, 5-1) rates well.  She’s slowly been rounding into form and is fast enough on her best day to win here. Quinonez gets the mount again. I expect her to be a decent price.  Coconut Cream Pie (#2, 9/5) returns to the dirt after a long failed turf campaign. Given her four seconds and combined with her preference for turf, I don’t expect a winning effort from her here.  Editor’s Cut (#5, 3/1) is likely too slow on the dirt. The rest are all big longshots.


  • Queen Mad — Fair odds = 2/1
  • LX Sunrise — Fair odds = 5/2
  • Coconut Cream Pie — Fair Odds = 8/1
  • Editor’s Cut — Fair Odds = 6/1

Playing the Double:

It’s tough to predict the double probables, so I’ll be live tweeting about it during the 7th race tonight.  I likely will play Quotient and I’ll Wrap it Up in combinations to Queen Mad.  I’ll likely dutch the bets some, but not too much — I want to live well if I’ll Wrap It Up and Queen Made come in.

See you tonight at 8:50 p.m. ET on twitter @alldayracing for coverage of the Late Double from Santa Anita.