Jeff Siegel's Santa Anita Analysis (Sat., Jan. 11, 2014)

An excellent Saturday program begins with a high priced maiden claiming sprint for 3-year-olds. #6 Matt the Hammer has been impressive in the morning for Miller (excellent with first-timers) and looks cranked up and ready to win right now. He seems like a logical gate-to-wire winner under P. Val and offers value at anywhere near his morning line of 5/2.

#1 Golden Itiz appears well-spotted to regain his winning form in the second race, a high-priced middle distance main track affair. Dropping below his claim level while being reunited with Smith, the veteran son of Tiznow need only run back to his race before last to beat this group. #6 Planet Sunshine, in for a tag for the first time and training well for Sherman, would seem a likely exacta partner.

The third race, an abbreviated sprint for mid-grade claiming fillies and mares, finds #5 Anita Marie returning to her winning level while gaining back Bejarano, who won on her at this level two races ago. She likes to settle early and make a late run and given that type of trip the Hollendorfer-trained filly should be along in time as a straight play and rolling exotic single.

The Pick-6 begins with the fourth race and we’ll go two-deep. #3 High On Final, third in both of his starts against straight maiden company, surfaces for $20,000 today and the class drop is a bit suspicious for a lightly-raced gelding. If he has another good one left, the Gaines-trained four-year-old will be hard to deny. However, we’re intrigued by #8 Old Pueblo, a second-time starter from Powell’s barn. A closing third in his debut, the son of Marino Marini seems sure to improve with experience and has trained nicely since he ran. Steiner stays aboard and should have him doing his best work in the stretch.

The Sham Stakes for 3-year-olds is the first major Derby prep in the West in 2014 and has drawn a very strong field. #6 Midnight Hawk obliterated maidens in his debut last month at Hollywood Park and has trained brilliantly since. There’s every expectation that he’ll route at least as well as he sprints, so we’ll make this son of Midnight Lute the one to beat. #5 Top Fortitude also won at first asking across town and did it with a major speed figure. He, too, has been impressive in the morning since that victory and could be any kind. We’ll give ‘Hawk a very slight edge but will use both in our rolling exotics.

The sixth race is a bottom-rung claiming sprint that seems fairly competitive and may require a spread. #1 Peacenick, away since August, has trained steadily for Spawr and looks fit and ready. He’ll have to overcome the rail but on pure numbers he’s more than fast enough to win. #4 Bertran Hill comes off a nice score over Cushion Track at Hollywood Park; however, his local record (winless in five starts) makes one wonder if he’s nearly as good on this side of town. We’ll still use him on a ticket or two. #10 Street Car has been claimed in two out of his last three starts and the old gelding has 10 career wins to his credit. If he’s feeling good, he’ll make a run for it.

We’re going to take a stand and single #10 Danderek in the seventh race, a high priced claiming turf miler. If it’s not him, it could be anyone, so we’ll stick with the Hollendorfer-trained class dropper. The son of Fantastic Light finished a solid third in a tough starter’s allowance event last month and has proven winning form over the Santa Anita lawn. Bejarano knows him well and stays aboard.

The San Pasqual Handicap goes as the eighth race and each of the seven scheduled starters have some kind of chance. #2 Blueskiesnrainbow and #6 Rousing Sermon meet again; they finished one-three in the Native Diver Stakes last month at Hollywood Park and both have good prior form over the Santa Anita main track. We’ll use both while slightly preferring ‘Sermon but we suggest you consider spreading the race if you can afford to.

The finale is a challenging downhill turf sprint for maiden 3-year-olds. Debuting #9 Footstepsinbronze has trained like a good thing for Callaghan and lands Bejarano. He’s bred for turf on both sides of his pedigree and looks extremely live at 4-1 on the morning line. #2 Home Run Kitten got his feet wet in a maiden turf sprint last month when finishing with interest to be third and has come back to train smartly for Hofmans since that outing. We’re expecting a significant forward move today.