The 76th running of the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap (Grade 1) marks the first time previous winners square off in the storied race contested at the classic distance of 1 ¼-miles on the main track.
A second Big ‘Cap win for 6-to-5 morning line favorite Game On Dude, who won in controversial fashion two years ago, or last year’s run away winner and today’s 5-to-2 second choice Ron the Greek, would make them the fourth horse to score multiple times in the signature event at The Great Race Place.
The contrasting styles for the millionaire performers adds to the intrigue, with Game On Dude on the engine early and Ron the Greek winding up for a late run.
In the age of horses being retired to stud early or not staying sound into their later years, it’s a special treat to watch a pair of six-year-old warriors making their 24th start and coming off career-best performances to begin their 2013 campaigns.
Game On Dude matched his top Beyer Speed Figure when registering a 116 in his 6 ½-length romp against just three other rivals in the San Antonio Stakes (G2) a month ago that gave him six wins from seven tries over Santa Anita’s main track. The lone defeat over this strip for the son of Awesome Again came in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) when he failed to get to his comfortable position on the front end and finished seventh beaten 15 lengths.
Improving on his previous top by seven points, Ron the Greek earned a 115 Beyer while scoring by over 11 lengths in the Sunshine Millions Classic over a sloppy main track at Gulfstream Park on January 19. The son of Full Mandate finished as the runner-up when using the same race as a prep ahead of last year’s Big ‘Cap and returned to finish fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic ahead of Game On Dude.
Four-year-olds listed as co-third choices at 6-to-1 can upset their elders, with Game On Dude’s stable mate in the Bob Baffert barn, Guilt Trip, looking to build on a stylish Strub Stakes (G2) triumph from a month ago and Called to Serve landing the services of comeback kid Gary Stevens on his return to Southern California after a pair of clear wins against lesser stakes competition on the East Coast.
A pair of additional Grade 1 events are on the under card with the $300,000 Frank Kilroe Mile on turf and the $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes at a mile on the main track.
The Las Virgenes falls outside both the Pick-5 and late Pick-4 and appears to be a match race with three-year-old fillies Beholder, the 6-to-5 morning line favorite, and Fiftyshadesofhay, the 5-to-2 second choice.
We’re off to the races!
Late Pick 4 -
Leg 1 – Race 8 (2,3,6,7,8,9) – No. 8 Zackn’mat’s return effort was solid when he made up tons of ground late after being way too far back early. A repeat of the improvement he showed from his debut to his second career start gives him the potential for a monster effort and he broke his maiden the only other time he sprinted seven furlongs over Santa Anita’s main track. Add to that a runner-up finish when sandwiched between two of today’s Grade 1 performers in Fed Biz and Called to Serve.
Spread leaving off morning line favorite No. 5 Rousing Sermon and using No. 2 Boompa, No. 3 Guidopanzini, No. 6 Sir Bond, No. 7 Patriot’s Voyage and No. 9 American Blend.
Leg 2 – Race 9 (1,2,3,7,8) – No. 2 Fed Biz picks no easy spot to make his turf debut, but he could be clearing speed in the Kilroe and looked good in a turf work last week.
The top three finishers from the Arcadia (G2) a month ago are tough right back with No. 3 Suggestive Boy, No. 7 Wilkinson and No. 1 Silentio.
No. 8 Mr. Commons begins his five-year-old season by making his 12th straight start in a graded stakes and missed by just a neck when running second in last year’s Kilroe.
Leg 3 – Race 10 (1,4,9,10) – Use the quartet discussed above with No. 1 Ron the Greek, No. 4 Called to Serve, No. 9 Game On Dude and No. 10 Guilt Trip.
Leg 4 – Race 11 (6,8,10,12) – A stacked group of maiden allowance three-year-olds close the festivities and the debuting No. 6 Bad Behavior is likely to get lots of attention with her dam the great Behaving Badly, a multiple Grade 1 winner that earned just under $750,000.
The experienced runners haven’t shown much so we’ll spread with additional first-time starters No. 8 Wine Stock, No. 10 Airfoil and No. 12 Summer Exclusive.
Recap – (2,3,6,7,8,9) w (1,2,3,7,8) w (1,4,9,10) w (6,8,10,12) – Total cost of ticket = $240
Yesterday’s Result – (-$26)
Total for current Santa Anita meet – (+$81.10)
Total from 12/26/10 – 12/16/12 – (-$2,090.45)
Pick 5 –
Leg 1 – Race 1 (8) – No. 8 Storm Fighter stretches out and should find things favorable on the front end at a short price. As long as his last effort behind impressive winner Saticoy wasn’t a product of taking to the wet fast track, he should prove too tough for his fellow Cal-bred maiden allowance foes.
Leg 2 – Race 2 (3,5,6,9) – Kevin Kriger and Neil Drysdale can light up the tote with a maiden winner for the third time in recent weeks sending 20-to-1 shot No. 3 Now Hope for his turf debut.
No. 5 Kyriaki never looked comfortable over a wet fast main track in her debut, No. 6 Wednesday can lead a long way after getting run down by a next out winner in her last and No. 9 Foxy Boss ran a winning race in her last at 49-to-1 and is the 5-to-2 favorite today off that runner-up effort.
Leg 3 – Race 3 (2,4,8,9) – No. 2 Prized by Buck gets a massive trainer upgrade off the claim and is the top pick in a race where he should be forwardly placed again and can save ground on the short run to the clubhouse turn breaking from the inside.
There is other speed in here to hook him early which could set things up for the race to fall apart late and No. 4 Visigodo, No. 8 Agents Bruce or No. 9 Jay’s Firetruck can pick up the pieces.
Leg 4 – Race 4 (3,8,9,10) – In what could be a tricky race for three-year-old maiden allowance fillies we’ll use the foursome of No. 3 Jetbird, No. 8 J K’s Mischief, No. 9 Mystery Me and No. 10 Super Defence.
Leg 5 – Race 5 (ALL) – Stakes action for the day kicks off with three-year-olds rolling the 6 ½-furlongs down the hillside turf course in the $75,000 Baffle Stakes where any of the eight runners can win.
Recap – (8) w (3,5,6,9) w (2,4,8,9) w (3,8,9,10) w (ALL) – Total cost of ticket = $256
Yesterday’s Result – (-$216)
Total for current Santa Anita meet – (+$1,526.90)
Total from 7/20/11 – 12/16/12 – (+$13,891.70)
Best Bet of the Day – Can now be found in the Pros Picks section at www.santaanita.com.
Make sure to follow me on Twitter @mdoche for last minute changes caused by scratches and much more!
Check out my blogs for America’s Best Racing on www.followhorseracing.com!
Listen to my weekly HD Los Angeles sports podcast!
To view my horse racing channel on YouTube click here!
For more Santa Anita action check out Jarrod Horak’s Pick 6 Blog.