The hype comes to a head in the middle of Saturday’s 11-race card when three-year-olds take their final step to the Kentucky Derby in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (Grade I) run over 1 1/8-miles as race six to accommodate national TV coverage on NBC from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Pacific.
It’s difficult to get past division leader and 6-to-5 morning line favorite Creative Cause, who shoots for his fifth win from eight starts on his way to another shot at glory underneath the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs. After running third in Louisville in what’s turned out to be an extremely productive Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Grade I) to conclude his two-year-old season, the son of Giant’s Causeway stretched out in his second start off the layoff to post the lone triple-digit Beyer (102) in the field when winning the San Felipe Stakes (Grade II) on March 10.
The logical second choice at 5-to-2 as the only other runner in the field with a graded stakes win this year is I’ll Have Another, who returns two months after lighting up the tote as the longest shot in the field at 43-to-1 in the Robert B. Lewis (Grade II). While there was no pressure for Mario Gutierrez aboard the son of Flower Alley last time, it’s tough to trust the inexperienced jock with the weight of expectation on the big stage.
Liaison ended 2011 neck and neck with Creative Cause as the top three-year-old hope after winning the Cash Call Futurity (Grade I) on Dec. 17, but the Bob Baffert-trained runner has seen his fortunes turn in a pair of disappointing Grade II efforts to start 2012. Blinkers off in the San Felipe produced a fourth-place finish for the son of Indian Charlie and Rafael Bejarano is back aboard the 8-to-1 shot after getting dumped through the stretch in the Lewis.
While it might seem improbable for 12-to-1 long shot Paynter to go from defeating three runners at 5 ½-furlongs to winning a Grade I over a distance of ground, his upside might make him Baffert’s best hope to win the Santa Anita Derby for the third time in four years. Paynter has trained sharply over six and seven furlongs since breaking his maiden on Feb. 18 and his sire Awesome Again followed his maiden win at Hollywood Park in his second career start with a score in the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine.
The graded stakes under card, which actually happens after the main event, includes a pair of $150,000 stakes, with three-year-old fillies in the Providencia (Grade III) at 1 1/8-miles on turf to start the late Pick-4 followed by the Potrero Grande (Grade II) for sprinters at 6 ½-furlongs on the main track.
We’re off to the races!
Pick 4 -
Leg 1 – Race 8 (1,3,4,5) – A short field of six in a pace less renewal of the Providencia and No. 3 Killer Graces could inherit the lead in her first try on turf. She’ll need to dig deep to hold off No. 1 Lady of Shamrock, who step up after a pair of impressive wins from off the pace in ungraded stakes.
No. 4 Byrama and No. 5 Charm the Maker are also logical threats with top riders named.
Leg 2 – Race 9 (1,2,5) – Another short field in the Potrero Grande with seven entered, but really only five with a shot as the pair breaking from the outside is way out of their league.
The two breaking from the inside, No. 1 Sway Away and No. 2 Amazombie, will deservedly take most of the betting action, but No. 5 Roman Threat could be another Baffert that makes the leap from maiden win to graded stakes glory after posting a 106 Beyer in his debut on Mar. 11.
Leg 3 – Race 10 (2,4,6,7,8,9) – No. 4 Belle Royale is imposing making her U.S. debut with Rosario off three straight clear wins in Great Britain, but with this race being the best chance for a price we spread with No. 2 Calle Vista, No. 6 Sweetly Peppered, No. 7 Briecat, No. 8 Gem of Soul and No. 9 Go Forth North.
Leg 4 – Race 11 (1,4,5,8) – Not sure why this bottom-level maiden claimer wasn’t used to make tomorrow’s card have nine races, but we’ll hope to close a long day by cashing with No. 1 Midnight Con, No. 4 Bespoke Suit, No. 5 Swiss Game or No. 8 Galitzianer.
Recap – (1,3,4,5) w (1,2,5) w (2,4,6,7,8,9) w (1,4,5,8) – Total cost of ticket = $144
Yesterday’s Result – (-$135)
Total for current Santa Anita winter/spring meet – (-$2,379)
Total from 12/26/10-12/18/11 – (+$3,512.05)
Pick 5 –
Leg 1 – Race 1 (1,2,3,4) – Four deep in the opener with No. 1 Corner Office, No. 2 He’s Very Rare, No. 3 Liberal Arts and No. 4 Valley Cat.
Leg 2 – Race 2 (2,4) – Along with Best Bet No. 4 Hasty Trend, use No. 2 Quietly Mine, whose consistency from off the pace could be rewarded today back in for $16,000 with Rosario.
Leg 3 – Race 3 (2,6) – No. 2 Relentless Heat and No. 6 Mint Humor are stand outs in this starter allowance.
Leg 4 – Race 4 (2,3,7,8) – The long-awaited debut of No. 2 French Storm comes on the same day his stable mate Creative Cause goes in the Derby, and while trainer Mike Harrington has admitted there have been hiccups getting the $250,000 son of A.P. Indy to the races, we’ll use him along with most likely winner No. 3 Treacherous, No. 7 Regulus, and No. 8 Designer.
Leg 5 – Race 5 (3,4,5,6) – The four logical runners to close the sequence with No. 3 Aqua Revelation, No. 4 Currahee, No. 5 Qatar’s Pearl and No. 6 Montego Bay.
Recap – (1,2,3,4) w (2,4) w (2,6) w (2,3,7,8) w (3,4,5,6) – Total cost of ticket = $128
Yesterday’s Result – (-$108)
Total for current Santa Anita winter/spring meet – (-$2,547.65)
Total from 7/20/10-12/18/11 (+$1,513.90)
Best Bet of the Day (ROI based off $2 WPS bet)
Race 2 – #4 Hasty Trend (6/1 ML) – After a long break this guy is rounding into peak form and can win right back from off the pace with lots of early speed in front of him. Alonso Quinonez is back after being aboard for this six-year-old’s last two wins spanning nearly two years.
Yesterday’s Result – Got all the money with He’s a Dance Star (+$12.80)
Total for current Santa Anita winter/spring meet – (-$118)
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For more Santa Anita action check out Jarrod Horak’s Pick 6 Blog.