Jeff Siegel's Santa Anita Analysis (Sat., March 8, 2014)

A superb 11-race Big ‘Cap program offers high quality of racing and a number of potentially lucrative wagering situations.

The opener is a moderate straight maiden abbreviated sprint for sophomore fillies and #1 Faith Hope Love gets a good opportunity to make amends for her failure as the favorite in a similar affair last month. Bejarano stays aboard for Dollase and should have this speedy Chapel Royal filly on the front end throughout. Stranger danger comes in the form of #6 Satirical, a first timer from the Mandella barn with a solid series of workouts. We’ll use both in our rolling exotics.

#5 Excessive Kid got his feet wet –literally – in his sprint debut over a sealed, sloppy surface last month and after falling far back during the early stages the son of Lemon Drop Kid took hold into the lane and finished with good energy before galloping out with interest. He seems sure to improve a ton while stretching and switching to turf for Gaines; we’re expecting a huge effort in a fairly strong field for the level. #1 Snuggley Bear will show plenty of speed from his rail post and if he can shake loose early he might take this group a long way. He’s hit the board in six of seven career starts but up until this point has shown he’s not up to beating a good maiden type. But so far it’s taken a pretty good maiden to beat him.

The third race, a restricted (nw-2) claiming sprint for 4-year-olds, looks like an ideal spot for #6 Tribal Smoke. The Mullins-trained gelding removes blinkers – love that angle – and switches to hot riding Baze, so we’re expecting the son of Tribal Rule to step forward with his best effort to date. There’s some value here at his morning line odds of 7/2 if you can get it.

A good group of maiden 3-year-olds meet in the fourth race and #5 Ferocious should be tough to deny. Beaten in the final strides in a strong debut in January, the son of Tale of the Cat has trained extremely well since for Ellis, who is superb with second time starters. We’re expecting a major forward move. You should also consider the first timer #8 Sing With Bing. Spawr gets Rosario to ride so we’re assuming this colt is a live item, and the works are rather nice for a trainer who rarely asks his young stock for speed in the a.m. Both should be included in rolling exotic play.

The San Felipe Stakes, a critical Derby prep for West Coast-based 3-year-olds, occupies the fifth race and marks the return of the best two-year-old we saw all of last year, #8 Schoolofhardrocks. A large, strapping son of Rock Hard Ten, the Hofmans-trained colt was visually awesome in his maiden win at Del Mar in late August but then had to be stopped on. A recent allowance race failed to fill, so he reappears in a most difficult spot but still might be up to the task based on a series of recent sensational workouts. He’s 8-1 on the morning and this might be the last time you can that kind of price on him. #4 California Chrome is the proven commodity over this main track and though beating Calbreds in his last pair the Sherman-trained colt should have no difficulty acting with open company. He’s got good tactical speed and an excellent late kick and that’s a tough combo to beat.

The Pick-6 begins with the sixth race, a superb edition of the China Doll Stakes for 3-year-old fillies over a mile on turf. There is some serious talent in the lineup. #7 Nashoba’s Gold won at first asking over this course like a future star; the future might be today for the daughter of Smart Strike in the Gaines barn. She continues to impress in the morning and though shortening to a mile she appears to have the necessary turn of foot to act at this distance. #8 Diversy Harbor was likewise a highly impressive debut maiden winner; she won down the hill with a furious late kick while giving every indication that she’ll be even better over a distance of ground. #11 On the Backstreets also is stretching out for the first time; the Miller-trained filly won the Sweet Life Stakes down the hill recently with complete authority and her pedigree says she should be able to project her form around two turns. We’ll use all three in our rolling exotics while preferring Nashoba’s Gold slightly on top.

The San Carlos Stakes is carded as the seventh race; we’re looking at #6 Wild Dude and #10 Shakin It Up as the major contenders in a powerful edition of this seven furlong affair. Shakin It Up will be trying older horses for the first time but in his present form he could be up to the task. The only minor concern is that his recent work tab is not typical of a Baffert-trained stakes runner; however, his win in the opening day Malibu Stakes at this distance was outstanding and good enough to beat this field if repeated. Wild Dude was a big figure winner of the Palos Verdes last month and his style suggest that today’s extra furlong shouldn’t be an issue.

The eighth race, the Kilroe Mile, is a high quality race worthy of its Grade-1 status and brings back the very impressive winner of last month’s Arcadia Stakes over this course and distance, #6 Winning Prize. Drysdale has been looking for another top horse for quite some time and may have found him in this Argentine import. The son of Pure Prize was absolutely brilliant in the Arcadia and has looked every bit as good since in morning drills. #5 Za Approval, runner-up to Wise Dan in the Breeders’ Cup Mile here last November, makes his first start since for Clement and obviously will be in the thick of things with anywhere near his best race. #9 Silentio, winner of the Citation ‘Cap at Hollywood Park in November (beating Winning Prize), is drawn a little farther out than we’d prefer but if he Bejarano can negotiate a good trip this lightly-raced five year old will be dangerous when the real running begins.

The Santa Anita Handicap will be staged as the ninth race with post time around 4:15 p.m. (and, don’t forget, Daylight Savings kicks in tonight). #1 Will Take Charge lost nothing in defeat when second in the Donn last month and that effort should have him set up beautifully for this one. He missed by a nose in the Breeders’ Cup Classic to #2 Mucho Macho Man but we’re expecting the Lukas-trained colt to extract his revenge today. Mucho Macho Man has won his last three so he’s never been better and figures to inherit an ideal pace stalking position. #7 Game On Dude certainly is capable of bouncing back, especially if he inherits the roll as the controlling speed. The veteran gelding was a little too keen in the San Antonio Stakes last month and faded out of the picture, but has trained like his old self since that race and this softer pace scenario promises to be much more to his liking.

The 10th race is an excellent conditioned allowance sprint with several contenders. We’ll try to get by using just three. #3 Oliver’s Tale rates a very slight edge; the lightly-raced five-year-old has been away since November but he’s capable of firing fresh and the recent works indicate he’s dead fit. #2 Chief Lion gains Rosario and has steadily rising speed figures with further room to improve, while #4 Got Even is always vulnerable under pressure in the final furlong but may be the quickest of the lot and will take them as far as he can.

The finale is a strong entry-level allowance turf miler and appears to be an ideal spot for #11 Abbey Vale. The Irish-bred gelding makes his U.S. debut for Mitchell (powerful stats with this maneuver) and has been quite impressive in the morning while preparing for his first start since September at The Curragh. His form overseas was good, not great, but he’s certainly trained like a different type over here and lands Bejarano, who had his choice among a number of other entrants in the field. #5 Jules Journey, third in a state-bred stakes in January, fits very well at this level and should be rolling in the final furlong under Talamo. #12 Presenceofagenius is very fast on speed figures and with only three prior starts has plenty of room for further development. Blanc will try to secure a spot in mid-pack from his extreme outside post position.