Jeff Siegel's Santa Anita Analysis (Thu., Oct. 4, 2012)

The Thursday opener is a modest maiden claimer for older fillies and mares; none of the contenders are even remotely trustworthy. If you’re inclined to play, consider #4 Lady Shazzam, a fit on numbers for Sadler and returning to the bottom maiden claiming ranks, and #6 Yodelin’ Angel, in the money in four of her last five and a solid runner-up at Pleasanton in her only prior start over conventional dirt

The second race is a strong maiden allowance mile affair for juvenile fillies. #4 Wednesday missed by a neck in a promising debut at Del Mar and goes for a trainer whose second time starters almost always improve considerably. She galloped out far in front after the wire in that abbreviated sprint and since she’s bred to stay a middle distance the stretch out in trip can be considered another major positive. She gets top billing in our book, however, Baffert has two legitimate contenders with Ondine (the morning line choice at 9/5) and #6 Vixen (a promising third at this trip in her debut). Assuming Bejarano had his choice, Ondine must be considered the better of the two; she finished steadily in her sprint debut while giving every indication that she’ll improve a bunch over a route of ground.

In a typical grass grab bag that kicks off the Pick-6 in the third race, let’s embrace the inside three runners and hope to advance. #1 Scorpion Time drops a level in his first start following a Mulhall claim while switching to Talamo; this will be his third start off a layoff and he looks very much like controlling speed of the field. He’ll be our top pick. #2 Big Son of a Gun exits a series of highly competitive starter allowance events, remains well above his claim level for Cerin and will be doing his best work late. #3 Slammer Time has been winless for two years but his comeback effort at Del Mar (a closing third with a solid figure) and the switch to Bejarano make him a “must use” in the exotics.

The fourth race is a humdinger of a sprint for juvenile fillies. #2 Beholder and #4 Mechaya were second and third respectively in the Del Mar Debutante, though the former was four lengths clear in that race and thus will likely be a very short price choice today. However, the latter could close the gap with a repeat of her highly-rated maiden score; two recent blistering drills over the Santa Anita main track give indication that she’s ready to rebound for Sadler. This will be the first on dirt for both fillies so it wouldn’t be surprising to see either one win. You can pass the race or simply use both in your rolling exotics.

The fifth race is a maiden special weight two-turn turf event that looks below average in quality; the proven element doesn’t excite so let’s focus on a second time starter with some potential. #9 Mojave Desert was taken back and allowed to lag to the head of the lane in his debut and then responded to finish quite willingly, winding up fifth, beaten two lengths. He galloped out in front and strikes us as a colt with plenty of improvement in him. Gryder rides him back for Troeger and with a healthy work pattern since his mid-August debut, the son of Unusual Heat has a chance to step forward and upset this field at what should be a nice price. Logical contenders include #3 Sumerian, an okay fifth over a route of ground at Del Mar; #7 Raya Roja, a closing second in the same race Mojave Desert exits; and #10 Exultant, the expected controlling speed.

The sixth race is a tough entry level optional claimer and a legitimate case can be made for a number of these. #2 Vadertore is solid in the speed figure department and has the proper style for this extended sprint trip; the Glatt-trained gelding should draft into a nice pace prompting position inside. #6 Unstopper Topper returns to his claim level for Spawr and is a route-to-sprint play; he won going short over this dirt track earlier this year. #8 Floating Feather seeks his third straight win; the O’Neill-trained gelding should have every chance as a pace prompter and he showed a liking for this dirt surface earlier this season.

Today’s seventh race feature is a downhill turf sprint for mid-grade claiming fillies and mares. #3 West Ruler has been out-footed vs. tougher recently but we’re expecting her to wake up today due to a considerable drop in class and the return to a course she’s always liked. She’s also back with Bejarano, who has won with her in the past. If she doesn’t win, anybody can, so let’s hope the Sadler-trained mare regains her best form as a straight play and/or rolling exotic single.

The finale is an uninspiring low level claiming router and we can find nothing trustworthy; we’ll go three deep and hold our breath. #1 Deputiformer has that dangerous blinkers off angle going for him and he did run well at this level under Talamo two races back at Del Mar. He’s also a one-paced grinder who usually winds up in the frame while appearing to lack a true winning spirit. Still, in this league, we’ll consider him a contender and use the Keen-trained gelding in rolling exotic play. #2 Cook Inlet drops a notch off a Mikus claim; he’s seeking his third straight score and has won over this track in the past so there’s no reason to consider him as anything but a major player. Our top pick, though, is #9 Royal Encounter. He drops to his lowest level ever for Mitchell while retaining Garcia; a repeat of his restricted $12,500 claiming score two races back at Del Mar makes him a fit and unlike some of the others he at least looks reasonably healthy.