Jeff Siegel's Santa Anita Analysis (Fri., Feb. 14, 2014)

The Valentine’s Day program offers a number of excellent rolling exotic opportunities; it’s a much better than average weekday card well worth attacking.

In the opener, #5 Joelito makes his first start since being transferred to the Hollendorfer barn and has trained like he’s fit and ready for his 4-year-old debut off a seven month layoff. He’s won half of his four career turf starts, including a hot maiden mile event over the Santa Anita turf course last year and the son of Rock Hard Ten has the proper style for the Hillside course. He’s a “must use,” but this is a tough event. #1 He’s a Dance Star loves the local lawn and retains Bejarano after a sharp runner-up try over this course and distance last month. #2 Ankenny Hill, a respectable fourth in a recent overnight stakes with a career top speed figure, tries a slightly softer gang today and switches to Stevens, so further improvement is likely. We’ll probably end up including all three somewhere on rolling exotic tickets.

The second race, a middle distance main track state-bred entry-level allowance event, finds recent maiden winner #5 Magic Mark stepping up in class, and on numbers he should be a strong fit. The lightly-raced Benchmark gelding has good tactical speed, retains Talamo, and sports a healthy work tab in recent weeks for Ellis. We’re expecting another forward move. #7 Noble Kent, is being raised two levels in class but earned a career top number when beating $16,000 foes last month and should be competitive right back. We’ll use both in rolling exotic play.

The third race begins the Pick-6; we’ll go three deep and hope to survive and advance. #1 Seeking Asylum, second off the claim for Hollendorfer, retains Bejarano and seems sure to improve, though the rail post is no bargain. The Lucky Pulpit gelding is a fit on numbers and has the proper style for seven furlongs; he’s also worked nicely of late and seems to be a progressive sort. #3 Head South finished second in the same race Seeking Asylum was third in recently and is another capable of a forward move with added experience. He ran well at this distance two runs back and should be part of the pace throughout. #5 Code of Pleasure showed little in his only outing last fall but could be a much better type this time around for Hofmans; his recent workouts are promising and this barn does well with layoff runners. Toss him in at 12-1 on the morning line.

A decent group of straight maiden 3-year-old fillies sprint six furlongs in the fourth race. #3 Gouyen seems like the best of the known element – she finished second in her debut after leading the way into the lane – and it’s entirely possible she’ll be able to carry her speed a bit farther today over conventional dirt following a nearly two month respite. Talamo stays aboard and he’s been out to breeze her in the morning as well. However, #4 Western Kitty acts like a decent sort of California-bred filly and may be the one to beat. The daughter of Western Fame has done everything asked in the morning for Puype and Smith has been out to work her a number of times. She’s probably not as quick as Gouyen but should be running on strongly late. We’ll use both in our rolling exotics.

The fifth race is a tough and contentious allowance optional claimer over a mile on turf; however we’re going to take a stand. #7 Outside Nashville, freshened since just missing in the Sir Beaufort Stakes opening day, has been kept on edge with a series of solid works in the interim for Hollendorfer and looks quite capable of producing the last run. He makes a pivotal switch to Bejarano, who was aboard in a strong recent workout. The son of Broken Vow is a straight play and rolling exotic single.

We’ll double the sixth race, a starter optional claimer for 3-year-old fillies over a mile on the main track. Feel free to include a few more if you can afford to. #5 In Dad’s Honor stretches out for the first time and has the pedigree to handle the extra ground; the daughter of Scat Daddy has improving speed figures, retains Espinoza, and hails from a barn that does very well with stretch-out runners. We like her on top but will also include on a backup ticket #9 One More Wild Ride, a run-off front-runner who might stick better after taking off the blinkers that she wore in her most recent start.

A marathon turf event – rare around these parts – is today’s featured seventh race for entry-level allowance runners. #2 Black Spirit makes his second start since being imported from England and looks quite intriguing; the Greenman-trained gelding seems much better than his fifth-of-five U.S. debut indicates and he’s a first-time Lasix user stretching out to 12 furlongs and switching to Smith. His Racing Post ratings from last year indicates he’s more than good enough to beat this type of field with anything close to his best European outings. #1 Boyett is the likely pacesetter and with steadily rising speed figures the Glatt-trained gelding could take them a long way if not respected. #3 Mambo Man, claimed in his last pair and making his first start for Canani, certainly can run this far and should improve considerably following a disappointing run with trouble two weeks ago.

The finale is a maiden claiming sprint for 3-year-old fillies that probably requires a bit of a spread. #1 Controller has been a bit sluggish in her three sprints so far but adds blinkers today and makes a monumental switch to Bejarano, so we’re expecting considerable improvement. The rail post is no help but in an open fray we’ll be sure to use her. #3 Ninnavee was showing brief speed and fading readily when last seen last summer; she’s training like a better type this time around for Truman and gets Talamo, so we’ll include her at 6-1 on the morning line. #10 Fashionably Rich has rising speed figures for Palma and enough early speed to be dangerous; with another forward move she could be the one to fear most. We’ll use all three equally in our rolling exotics.