Jeff Siegel's Santa Anita Analysis (Fri., March 30, 2012

The Friday opener is a downhill turf sprint for $40,000 claiming fillies and mares and serves as an illustration as to how trainer Mike Mitchell so successfully plays the claiming game.

#2 Talktoomuch just won at a level higher and her connections are taking advantage of her age (8 years old) to try to win as many of these lucrative purses as they can while daring anybody to claim her. Not that they would be upset if anybody did. She has her issues, for sure, but she’s thoroughly genuine (11 career wins) and is a small field of six she’ll be a relatively short price to find a way to score again. The one to fear most is #6 Missdealornodeal, a close fourth to Talktoomuch last time out and now in the Hollendorfer stable. She looks like the controlling speed and if not pressured early could be tough to run down late.

The second race has only five starters and may boil down to #2 Really Elegant and #5 Tripped the Light. The former is a need-the-lead type making her first start in about three months for low profile connections but she’s realistically spotted while returning to the main track and reportedly has trained nicely for her return. The latter was re-claimed by Hess while retaining Rosario and could be the most dangerous of the closers.

The third race – the beginning of the Pick- 6 – is another Hillside turf sprint for entry level allowance fillies and mares and may require a spread. We’ll use only two and hope to survive and advance. #6 Bench Glory has a good stalking style and seems best suited going short. She earned a career top speed figure when a close third under identical conditions about a month ago and has looked solid in the morning since. #7 Deity, second in her U.S. debut in the same race that Bench Glory exits, should be on or near the lead throughout while switching to Rosario. Yes, she could “Euro-bounce,” but we’re thinking she might go in the right direction.

The fourth race has only six starters and is a bottom rung claiming sprint for fillies and mares. #5 Folk Dancer won a similar affair last month and then was a somewhat flat fourth when wheeled back less than two weeks later. Now she has three weeks of rest and that may be enough to get her back on track. The Cerin-trained mare likes to win races and should be comfortably positioned pressing a moderate pace. #6 Storm Magic is a Bay Area invader and we’re always intrigued by the Tapeta-to-conventional dirt angle. She’s also a route-to-sprint play with competitive numbers so she’s a “must use” in all of our rolling exotics.

We’re going to latch on to #1 Clearance Clarence in the fifth race as a single and straight play for a number of reasons. First and foremost is the barn switch to Jeff Mullins (29% with a flat bet profit with this angle). The second is the switch to Rosario, who has come out to work him in the morning. The third is the good inside post going a mile on turf. The fourth is the class drop from starter’s allowance to restricted (nw-2) $25,000 claiming. The fifth is the gelding’s touch of back class (fourth in the Norfolk Stakes as a two-year-old). The sixth is that despite what appears to be his dull recent form, nobody else looks any better on paper, anyway.

Maiden claimers sprint seven furlongs in the sixth race and we’re expecting it to be won by either #3 Smart Hombre or #8 Kumite. The Marty Jones-trained Smart Hombre adds blinkers for the first time after a pair of close in-the-money finishes at this level earlier this meeting and with continued improvement he looks ready to finally break through and graduate. The pace should be soft, so Berrios might have this gelding on the front end. Kumite closed strongly to miss by a head in his debut going five furlongs while benefitting from the race shape (fast early, slow late) so it’s possible he might have been made to look better than he really is. But he also has a right to improve considerably in his second start based on a particularly sharp recent workout that caught the eye of ace private clocker Andy Harrington, so we’ll toss him in.

Today’s feature is another turf sprint – the third such race this afternoon – and is a tough and competitive conditioned allowance sprint that offers several contenders. However, with the late scratch of Chosen Miracle, we’re going to take a stand and single #8 Red Defense. Back sprinting where he may be most comfortable, the Gaines-trained gelding is reunited with Rosario and should draft into a nice pace stalking position from his outside post in a field without much zip. A recent 58 and change drill (second fastest of 70) should have him right on edge.

The nightcap is a maiden special weight sprint for state bred fillies and mares and looks fairly wide open. #2 Mel’s Rules is a fast working first timer shipping in from Phoenix where she was burning up the Turf Paradise track in the morning for solid conditioner Valorie Lund. She’s bred for much speed (Tribal Rule) and we’re guessing she wouldn’t be here unless her connections though she belonged. #3 Royal Weekend earned a competitive figure when runner up in her debut against $40,000 maiden claimers and sports a bullet 46 flat half mile drill since. She appears to be headed in the right direction. #4 Excessively Trick, second in her last pair against similar opposition, should at least hit the board again and is worth using in the exotics.