Jeff Siegel's Santa Anita Analysis (Sat., Sept. 29, 2012)

A truly great card for the first Saturday of the Santa Anita Autumn season; the 11-race program is loaded with quality, good sized fields, and many lucrative wagering opportunities including a Pick-6 carryover of $55, 260.

We always love the blinkers off angle and Buckleberry Grey is the perfect candidate to take full advantage of the equipment change in today’s opener. The Hofmans-trained colt was part of a suicidal speed duel in the Oak Tree Juvenile Turf Stakes at Del Mar earlier this month yet remained a strong factor until deep stretch before understandably weakening. Back with maidens today and switching to the main track, the son of Unbridled’s Song should relax much better sans the hood. However, the one to beat may very well be the second time starter Title Contender. Third in a better-than-par maiden sprint in his debut, he’s very likely to step forward for Baffert, whose second time starting maidens almost always improve.

The second race, a bottom rung maiden claimer, is a mess; use as many as you can afford to in rolling exotic play. Hard to say if Rothstein can run, but after being wiped out at the start in his debut, he was never asked to show anything; today we’ll find out if he has anything to give. Danger Lurking, third in both starts, adds blinkers today so he could move forward for Ellis, and not much improvement will actually be needed in this soft affair. Awkward Mondays drops from straight maidens to the bottom level; on that angle alone we’ll include him, too

The third race brings back Press Baron, who took full advantage of a perfect trip to beat a $50,000 claiming field at Del Mar recently but did so with authority. He ran okay over this course last winter in allowance company and might be a better type now. We like him on top but we’ll double the race in our rolling exotics while also including Dreamcatcher, who returns to his preferred turf surface while switching to Gomez.

The two fillies we’ll be using in the fourth race both have the same pattern – they’re second time starters coming off promising debut efforts. Madame Cactus ran the better of the pair and earned the faster figure, so she deserves top billing. The Eurton-trained daughter of Cactus Ridge rallied wide and closed with courage to be an excellent runner-up in a hot race at Del Mar and retains Talamo. Fiftyshadesofhay was given a run in her debut and you know what second time Baffert maidens usually do. She’s drawn nicely outside, retains Bejarano, and figures to show her best stuff today.

The fifth race is a restricted $25,000 claiming turf affair and looks completely wide open; we’ll try to survive going three deep but you may find the need to use a few more. God of War, claimed in his last pair and now in the Sadler barn, looked super graduating against an outclassed maiden claiming field two races back but failed to duplicate that effort vs. tougher winners; we’ll assume he’ll return to good form today for a barn that hits with 33% first off the claim while producing a flat-bet profit. Mr. Make Believe drops into a claimer for the first time and seems sure to improve for Mandella while retaining Gomez. The Rock Hard Ten gelding is a fit on numbers and can turn it on late when he gets the patient ride he requires. Muchos Besos, third off the layoff for Puype and with improving speed figures, is another likely to go better in this league.

It’s tempting to single Executiveprivilege in the sixth race; she’s undefeated and continues to excel in the morning. The two turn trip should be well within her range and, hey, it’s Baffert and Bejarano. But don’t underestimate Beholder; she lost the Del Mar Debutante by a whisker after a rough start while continuing her rapid rise up the class ladder. She has done everything right in the morning since that race, retains Gomez, and once again looks like the controlling speed. Given the discrepancy in odds, we’ll prefer Beholder on top but, of course, we’ll use both in our rolling exotics.

Know More won the Best Pal Stakes in his debut, but two fillies were behind him so it was tough to gauge just how strong that race was. His subsequent runner-up effort in the Del Mar Futurity was actually more impressive and verified the promise he showed in his debut. In today’s Frontrunner Stakes, the son of Lion Heart should step forward again. Capo Bastone was so impressive in his maiden win but a tad below form when a traffic-plagued fourth in the Futurity behind Know More. He certainly deserves another chance. Power Broker is improving with racing and has numbers that make him a fit despite his maiden status. Toss in the Baffert-Bejarano factor and you simply have to use him.

In the Zenyatta Stakes, carded as the eighth race, we like Amani. She tackled the boys in the Pacific Classic and wound up sixth but she earned her reputation on dirt in Chile and today gets back on what probably is her favorite surface. With the switch to Bejarano, she most likely will offer the best value in the field. Include Me Out won the Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch at Del Mar and earned a career top Beyer (99) figure; still, we’re of the opinion that she prefers dirt and can do even better with the return to Santa Anita, where she was so dominant last winter. Love and Pride picks up 10 lbs. off her Personal Ensign upset score at Saratoga; she’s clearly the controlling speed and we doubt Pletcher would have shipped her west unless she was on top of her game.

Not sure what got into Let’s Go Cheyenne in that overnight turf stakes at Del Mar last month but the dyed-in-the-wool front runner simply demolished her rivals while dominating every step of the way and winning with something left. The Rodeo Drive Stakes, which goes as the ninth race, presents a tougher assignment but she’ll be on the front end again and if they don’t respect her she’ll keep on going again. Marketing Mix is drawn farther out than we’d prefer - that’s’ a tough dogleg to negotiate from the 11-hole – but there’s no doubt the Midwest shipper is good enough to win and in fact will be hard to beat with anything close to her best race. Let’s use both in our rolling exotics.

Game on Dude will be everybody’s short-priced rolling exotic single in the tenth race, the Awesome Again Stakes, and deservedly so. He looked tremendous in his most recent drill last Sunday, disposing of his workmate with ease and drawing clear through the lane with power and energy to indicate he’s spot on as usual. From the rail and with Bejarano taking over, the Baffert-trained gelding catches an ideal scenario and should draft into a perfect pace prompting position. And yes, he’s a perfect 4-for-4 over the Santa Anita main track.

Sophomore fillies sprint down the hill in the finale, a restricted stakes that came up fairly strong. Madoffwiththemoney might seem a tad overmatched on paper but she’s worth including at a price. Possibly the speed of the speed and with a good effort at Del Mar in her only outing on lawn, the Miyadi-trained filly is thoroughly genuine and consistent and will take them as far as she can. Byrama, clearly most effective as a late-running sprinter, lost little when second to the very quick Reneesgotzip at Del Mar over the poly track and today returns to a course she’s proven she can handle. Bejarano always has gotten the most run out of her and is back aboard today. Wild Truffles is back sprinting and this is really what she wants to do. The Powell-trained filly continues to look sharp in the a.m. and offers value at 15-1 on the morning line.