Jeff Siegel's Santa Anita Analysis (Thu., Jan. 30, 2013)

The Thursday eight-race program begins with a six-runner claimer over a mile on turf. #3 Mega Heat returns to his favorite surface and we’re expecting him to return to winning form. He’s been sparingly raced of late and certainly has his issues but there’s no panicky drop so we’re assuming he’s okay. #6 Anythingscookin is a need-the-lead type and if he can get that kind of trip without undue pressure he could take this field a long way.

#3 Sweet Bliss broke in the air and was off slowly, fell far back, and then closed with courage in a much-better-than-looked debut for Shirreffs earlier this month. She’s always been highly-regarded and continues to impress in the morning, so with this stretch-out in trip the daughter of Street Cry should be able to show her true form. We like her as a straight play and rolling exotic single in the second race.

The Pick-6 sequence begins with the third race and we’ll go two-deep and hope that’s enough. #1 Seeking the Sherif isn’t fast on numbers but we’re going to assume that he’s much better than the figures give him credit for (if he’s not, he’s in trouble). The lightly-raced gelding was a nice winner in a low-level restricted claimer in his comeback last month and today is raised considerably in class by new trainer Ellis in a show of confidence. The son of Officer should flash high speed from the rail following a strong recent gate work. #4 Hadfunlastnight returns to the claiming ranks; the last time he ran for a tag he won. The concern is his record over the Santa Anita dirt surface (0-for-6) but at this level he must be considered a contender. We’re going to take a stand against the “logical” #6 Explain, away since being claimed by West in November, though certainly capable of winning at this level. You may want to include him on a backup ticket; we’re just not crazy about the pattern.

The fourth race is a nine-furlong bottom-rung maiden claimer; we’ll use #2 Senor Pegasus and #8 Indygo Andy without any great conviction. Indygo Andy should appreciate the longer trip and seems to be an improving sort; he’ll be running on late. Senor Pegasus stretches out for the first time and is bred to run this far; he might find himself on the front end and perhaps get brave if left along during the early stages.

Older maiden fillies and mares meet over a mile on grass in the fifth race. #7 Van Dien Avenue actually finished first once before (at Del Mar) but had the purse taken away so she’s officially still a maiden. A repeat of her last race, a closing third down the hill, should have her set up nicely for this affair. We’ll also include #4 Hot and Pleasing, a 10-race maiden and not really one to trust, but a first-time blinker user with past speed figures that place her in the hunt.

We expected #1 Day of Fury to win his debut earlier this month; he did anything but. However, the son of Street Sense continues to impress in the morning and we’re fairly certain his sixth place debut performance isn’t a true indication of his true talents. Taken back at the start and resenting the tactics in his first outing, the Baffert-trained colt tried to bolt into the clubhouse turn and never got involved; in today sixth race we’re going to assume that Smith will permit the colt to show his natural speed from his inside post position. That’s all we’re asking.

The featured seventh race, a downhill claiming turf sprint restricted to 4-year-olds, looks fairly wide open and may require a spread in rolling exotic play. #4 Botch is back sprinting and actually has the perfect stalking style for this layout; he’s being moved way up in class by Belvoir following a win via disqualification and we take the aggressive placement as a sign of confidence. #5 Magic Channel returns off a layoff for new trainer Hollendorfer; the works are just so-so but this barn is dangerous with layoff runners and with Bejarano aboard the gelding has to be included. #9 Craving Carats arrives from Tampa Bay with numbers that aren’t quite up to par for this level, but he’s trained well since arriving and the Miller barn has been hot of late, so we’ll use him as well.

The nightcap, a restricted (non-winners of two) $12,500 claimer, has a few contenders, including the big class dropper #5 Know More. Use him if you like, but we’re going to try beat him; the Kitchingman-trained gelding hasn’t shown any real interest of late and we’re dubious of his current form and condition. #3 Crusher won on opening day and has been working well since; he looks like a cheap sort but is lightly-raced and in good hands, so we’ll consider him a major player. #7 Very Unusual is just 1-for-23 and certainly not one to trust, but if he can clear early without pressure he could get brave in just his second outing since joining the Drysdale barn. #9 Londinium is the preferred top pick; the Bandini gelding returns to conventional dirt (he’s a perfect one-for-one at Santa Anita) and should draft into an ideal pace prompting position.