Jeff Siegel's Santa Anita Analysis (Sat., Jan. 4, 2014)

The Saturday Santa Anita program includes a guaranteed $150,000 Pick-6 pool for races five through nine.

The opener, a middle distance bottom-rung claimer, should boil down to #2 Afflication and #7 Graeme Crackerjack and these are the two we’ll be using in our rolling exotics. Afflication won by more than 12 lengths over this track two races back and a repeat of that effort today should be good enough to beat this field. The Yakteen-trained gelding has good tactical speed and Garcia should have him on or near the lead throughout. Graeme Crackerjack was in tough last time but returns to his winning level and is reunited with Bejarano.

#4 Crushed Rivals has just three rivals in the second race, the Santa Ynez Stakes for three year old fillies. The Baffert-trained filly earned a powerful number when graduating in a very productive heat last month and has trained in sharp style since. She looks every bit the odds-on favorite that she is on the morning line.

The third race, the Midnight Lute Stakes for older sprinters, is highly competitive and may require a spread. We’ll try to survive using just two. #5 Cyclometer shortens to six furlongs and should be more effective at this trip. The Headley-trained gelding lands the cozy outside post and should draft into an ideal pace prompting position. Bay area invader #1 Moonlight Bay is fast on numbers though he’s been primarily a synthetic specialist. If he leaves running from the rail he should be a strong factor throughout.

The fourth race begins the Pick-6. #2 Avare drops into a claimer while seeking his proper level and this former stakes winner looks tough in this turf miler restricted to 4-year-olds. He’s run well for Arias in the past and has a prior win over this course. We like the O’Neill-trained gelding on top but will also give strong consideration to #8 Yankee Rebel, a sprinter stretch-out play with figures that fit but with an “iffy” route pedigree. If he can handle the distance he can be dangerous.

#5 Bayern is a hot shot first time starter in the Baffert barn and should be all the rage in the fifth race, a seven furlong maiden sprint for 3-year-olds. A strong, powerful colt that has been burning up the track in the morning, the son of Offlee Wild looks plenty fit so we’ll make him a straight play and rolling exotic single.

Maiden 3-year-old fillies sprint down the hill in the sixth race and features another well regarded debut runner, #9 Sweet Bliss. A daughter of Street Cry out of a half-sister to Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic winner Life is Sweet, she has done everything asked in the morning for a barn that excels with first time starters. She’s drawn comfortably outside and looks capable of blasting home in the final furlong.

The seventh race is a strong entry-level allowance affair that looks made to order for #4 Cat Burglar. A talented son of Unbridled’s Song, the Baffert-trained colt graduated over a route of ground during the autumn season and earned a big figure in doing so. He’s stretching out again and looks capable of repeating that performance today. We like him as a straight play and rolling exotic single.

With the late scratch of major contender Dubai You X Y Z, the featured San Gabriel Stakes should be #9 Jeranimo’s for the asking. Now eight but still going strong, the veteran son of Congaree loves this turf course and nine furlongs appears to be his favorite trip. He was awesome winning this race last year and is actually catching an easier group this time around.

The finale is a seven furlong maiden claimer with two major players. #8 Seeking Asylum drops in for a tag for the first time and should love this extended sprint trip; he continues to work like he’s got plenty of ability and should have every chance to show it today. #1 Mahalo Arturo chased straight maidens in his debut and is another that likely will show big improvement in this much softer affair.