Jeff Siegel's Santa Anita Analysis (Sat., April 7, 2012

A terrific Santa Anita Derby day program – don’t forget, first post is Noon – begins with a first level allowance race at a mile that seems to be an ideal spot for #3 Liberal Arts. Stretching out again after an even effort in a hot recent sprint, the O’Neill-trained gelding should draft into an ideal pace prompting trip and then exert his superiority in the final furlong. A repeat of his race before last – a third place finish with a big figure – would be good enough to win.

The second race brings back #3 Solar Rocket, a runaway winner by more than 12 lengths in his comeback a couple of weeks ago. He’s now in the Glatt barn following a $12,500 claim from Baffert, and he’ll win again with anything close to his last effort. However, that may be a big “if.” Clearly, he’s the fastest horse in the race with plenty of back class, but it must be noted that the lightly-raced gelding pulled up very quickly past the wire while being carefully handled by Garcia, who, perhaps significantly, doesn’t ride him back. Too many question marks, so let’s pass.

The third race should boil down to #2 Relentless Heat and #6 Mint Humor; either one can win. The former is a route-to-sprint play for Eurton and looks like the best of the closers, while the latter appears to be the controlling speed once again, and he continues to look sharp in the morning following a pair of gut-wrenching defeats earlier this meeting.

The fourth race is a maiden sprint for 3-year-olds and doesn’t appear to be unusually strong or deep. #3 Treacherous has had five chances but did earn his best figure when second in a similar event last month and may be coming around now for Mandella. He gets a break in the weights with the shift to bug boy Flores and exits a very fast, highly-rated affair. We doubt he can beat a really good maiden but we doubt there’s one in here. #8 Designer is a first timer from the Baffert barn and probably deserves a look, although he may be a race away.

The fifth race is a fairly strong maiden miler for 3-year-olds on turf and the main players are #4 Currahee and #6 Montego Bay. We’ll be surprised if the winner isn’t one of these two. Currahee showed promise in both of his starts and stretches out to a distance he’s bred to handle. He’s likely to be on or near the lead throughout and with the switch to Bejarano looks double tough. Our preference, though, is #6 Montego Bay, who was given a run in his debut and then encountered a terrible trip when breaking slowly and racing very wide throughout in a nine furlong turf affair in his most recent start. The Drysdale-trained colt continues to impress in the morning and with any kind of good trip today should be along in time.

The Santa Anita Derby is carded as the sixth race on the 11-race program and launches the Pick-6 sequence. #1 Creative Cause was coming out of skin yesterday when schooling and appears ready to run the race of his life. He’ll enjoy a ground-saving trip inside and if he minds his manners while racing without blinkers for the first time the son of Giant’s Causeway will take some beating. Make no mistake; he’s a very, very good colt. So too is #4 I’ll Have Another, a thoroughly convincing winner in his comeback of the Lewis Stakes in early February. He’s been kept on edge since by O’Neill with a series of very impressive workouts and we suspect the son of Flower Alley will produce another huge effort. #6 Paynter could very well be the best 3-year-old colt in Baffert’s barn but this is a monumental undertaking for a colt with just a maiden sprint win to his credit. This is not a case of an owner or trainer taking a shot at the moon; Paynter has trained like a potential superstar in recent weeks. This may be the last time you’ll ever see him listed at 12-1 on any morning line.

The seventh race is a split of the first race; if you’re playing any type of rolling exotic you probably should consider a spread. The two we’ll embrace are #6 Patriot’s Voyage and #6 Fiddlers Afleet. The former came off a long layoff and broke his maiden in a stylish manner and we suspect he’ll move forward considerably for Baffert with that effort underneath him. The latter exits the Santa Anita Handicap and is back where he belongs today; the Eurton-trained horse has finished first or second in 11 of 21 starts and should be prominent throughout while being reunited with Bejarano.

The Providencia Stakes goes as the eighth race and brings together a really good group of 3-year old fillies at nine furlongs on turf. #1 Lady of Shamrock seeks her third grass stakes win of the meeting and will be favored to do so; she packs a powerful stretch kick and should be right at home at this longer distance. She becomes one of our singles following the morning scratch of the other filly we liked in the race, #7 Indigo River.

The Potrero Grande Stakes is an exceptional sprint that matches #1 Sway Away and #2 Amazombie, both of whom just chased The Factor home in the San Carlos Stakes earlier this meeting. Sway Away is stuck on the rail but is a terrific late running sprinter when he’s on his game and he should have plenty of heat up front to aid his closing kick. Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Amazombie may have been a tad short in the San Carlos when he weakened late to finish third but he won’t be short today. We’re expecting the Spawr-trained gelding to be along in time.

The American Beauty Stakes for older fillies and mares at a mile on turf goes as the 10th race and marks the U.S. debut of #4 Belle Grande for top trainer Simon Callaghan. A good handicap winner over the tight left-handed Chester course last September, the English invader has trained like she’s fit and ready for a barn that excels with this type of runner. She gets Lasix and Rosario and appears to hold a class edge. We’ll also toss in #8 Gem of Soul, an sharp winner in her U.S. debut for Avila but facing a considerably tougher bunch today.

The nightcap is a $30,000 maiden claimer for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs and has at least two main contenders, maybe more. #1 Midnight Con is stuck on the fence but he’s finished second in four of his last five starts and is a strong fit on numbers, so you have to use him. #10 Tale Be Told is slower in the speed figure department but has the style for this trip and probably has some improving to do for Puype. Hopefully, these are the only two we’ll need; feel free to spread if you can afford to.