Jeff Siegel's Santa Anita Analysis (Thu., Feb. 13, 2014)

The Thursday program begins with a bottom-rung middle distance claimer that presents little in the way of wagering value. #6 Anaaba Premium hasn’t won a race since September of ’12 (at Pomona) but he seems in good form following a solid runner-up try against a slightly tougher band last month. In a race without much pace, #7 Liberty Cap should be within range and ready to pounce. These are the two we’ll use in our rolling exotics but we’re not planning to get too heavily involved.

The second race marks the return of Zenyatta’s half-sister Eblouissante. The daughter of Bernardini threw a fit in the gate and then did no running when last seen in the Shuvee Handicap at Saratoga last July; she’s trained like she’s fit and ready for Shirreffs and her debut maiden score underlines her ability to fire fresh. Smith rides her for the first time. We’re curious to see how #4 Macha performs in her first try over conventional dirt; the Hollendorfer-trained filly exits a series of fairly tough events and retains Bejarano.

The third kicks off the Pick-6; we’ll double the race using #1 Quiet Force and #8 Copper Bay. Quiet Force shows up for a tag for the first time; the colt’s ownership has been culling some of its local stock recently, hence the for sale sign. However, the son of Dynaformer has numbers that are better than par for the level and, one-paced as he might be, should be able to produce the last run. Copper Bay has won over this course in the past, retains Smith, and while he’s always lacked a solid closing kick the Mitchell-trained gelding should be forwardly placed in a field without much early speed.

#5 Funny Gal seems well-spotted in the fourth race, an extended claiming sprint for distaffers. The Puype-trained filly moves up from $10,000 to $16,000 but she’s going from open company to restricted (nw-3) so the apparent class hike is a mirage. This is her best distance and we’re expecting Baze to have her rolling in the final furlong. #1 Clearly Confused looked fairly decent beating a $12,500 non-winners of two group last month and though facing a bit tougher today she’s a fit on figures and clearly likes this track. We’ll use both in our rolling exotics.

How much should weight be a factor in your handicapping? That’s the question you’ll have to tackle when trying to evaluate the chances of #6 Creditcardroulette in the fifth race, a downhill turf sprint for $25,000 claiming fillies and mares. The daughter of Northern Afleet just won under identical conditions last month but today picks up a whopping 12 pounds, so if you’re a weight person you may have a hard time backing her to repeat. She has trained well since her win, though, so perhaps she’ll be able to deal with the added impost. #8 Anita Marie looked good beating a lesser field on the main track last month and has won on turf in the past, so the switch in surface might not be a problem. However, she’s a first-off-the-claim from Hollendorfer to Knapp (winless at the meeting). Small ticket players can consider using only these two but if you can afford to spread the race by all means do so.

#1 Red N Black Attack crushed a maiden claiming field with a huge figure sprinting last month and is raised to starter’s allowance company while stretching out to a mile in today’s sixth race. The son of Big Brown should have no issue with the added distance and from the rail the O’Neill-trained colt should be on or near the lead throughout. We like him on top but will also use the Bay Area shipper #6 Three Strike Rule, a maiden winner up north in fairly decent fashion and making his first start over conventional dirt. At 6-1 on the morning line he’s worth using as a saver, at least.

Baffert holds the key to the seventh race, an excellent first-level allowance miler for Derby-aged colts. #1 Bayern was outstanding breaking his maiden at first asking with a powerful figure and in doing so gave every indication that he’ll enjoy a middle distance, at least. He was a little keen in the race, though, so Baffert chooses to take the blinkers off. We’re expecting that Stevens will put him on the lead from his rail post. Stablemate #5 Tap It Rich has all kinds of ability but has been a mental case since breaking his maiden in his debut; the blinkers go on today and the son of Tapit has behaved himself in the morning of late so perhaps he’ll run straight and true. These two were tough to separate when they worked stride-for-stride Feb. 6 (both were clocked in 1:11 flat for six furlongs out of the gate) and they’re tough to separate again; to be safe we’ll use both in our rolling exotics but have extra tickets with Bayern on top.

The nightcap seems like a proper spot for #7 Closet E to graduate; the O’Neill-trained colt, claimed for $50,000 in November, drops to the $30,000 ranks today while backing up in trip and returning to dirt. A half mile bullet workout over this track since his last start should have him on edge, and Nakatani stays aboard. In a below par race for the level, he’s a default rolling exotic single.