Jeff Siegel's Santa Anita Analysis (Sat., April 5, 2014)

First post on Santa Anita Derby day is Noon and there’s a spectacular 11 race program that includes five stakes races for horseplayers to attack.

The opener is a seven furlong maiden event that marks the return of the very promising #6 Yard Line, listed at 3-1 on the morning line but likely to go lower. The Harty-trained colt was an excellent second in his debut last December behind subsequent stakes winner Chitu and has trained smartly for his comeback. He’ll be equipped with blinkers today while retaining Bejarano and if the son of Discreet Cat returns as well as he left he’ll be hard to beat.

The second race is a competitive first-level allowance event at a flat mile. #4 I Run for Fun, a strong second in his first race off a year layoff, moves up from a $25,000 claimer in a sign of confidence and continues to train well, so a strong forward move is expected. He’s lightly raced with rising speed figures, so we’ll put him on top and hope to get close to his morning line odds of 4-1. #2 Mythical Storm won at first asking in clever fashion down the hill; today he switches to the main track and stretches out while tackling considerably tougher foes, so the task won’t be easy. We’ll use him, though, because the son of Fusaichi Pegasus might be a nice colt. #8 Volkonsky likes to run second and third more than he likes to win but he’s fairly consistent and should at least get a piece of it.

The Echo Eddie Stakes, a six and one-half furlong sprint for state-bred 3-year-olds, is carded as the third race. #2 Whine for Wine broke his maiden recently and was very impressive, overcoming trouble to win with a solid speed figure. He lacked room at various points of that race, so the margin of victory (a neck) doesn’t paint at true picture. Interestingly, Bejarano chooses to ride this gelding instead of Hollendorfer’s other entrant, the sharp recent allowance winner Pray Hard. We like Whine for Wine on top but in our rolling exotics we’ll also use #3 Well Measured (good stalking style for this extended sprint trip) and #6 Oh Daddy Oh (probably the controlling speed but a tad suspect at this trip).

A good group of maidens sprint down the hill in the fourth race; we’ll go three deep in what looks like a fairly wide open affair. #12 Green Tag showed a bit of promise in his recent U.S. debut, finishing a solid third over this course and distance, and with a solid work tab since that race there’s every expectation that the D’Amato-trained gelding will produce a forward move. #2 Act is plenty quick and is bred to improve on turf, so we’ll give him a chance to improve in his first try on grass. #5 Footstepsinbronze flunked his dirt test so he’s back on grass and a repeat of his promising maiden effort earlier this meeting should at least land him in the frame.

The Santa Anita Oaks is carded as the fifth race and should showcase #3 Ria Antonia. A well-beaten fourth behind Untapable in her sophomore debut in New Orleans in February, she has trained like her old self since being transferred to the Baffert barn and we’re expecting the daughter of Rockport Harbor to run like she did last fall over this main track in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (nosed out but awarded win the via disqualification). She removes blinkers, gets Smith, and should outclass her rivals as a straight play and rolling exotic single.

The Pick-6 begins with the sixth race, the Evening Jewel Stakes for state-bred 3-year-old fillies at six and one-half furlongs. #6 Rovenna and #5 Harlington’s Rose finished one-two in a fast allowance race earlier this meeting (‘Rose subsequently franked the form with a runaway score in a similar spot in her next outing) and the two meet again as the expected first and second betting favorites. Rovenna has trained sharply in the interim for Machowsky so we’ll give her the edge once again, though Harlington’s Rose was very impressive in her recent score and will make a run for it. Both are worth using in rolling exotic play.

Another rematch is in store in the seventh race, the Providencia Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at nine furlongs on turf. #8 Diversy Harbor and #4 Nashoba’s Gold finished one-two in the China Doll Stakes over a mile last month and neither should be inconvenienced by the extra furlong of today’s race. From what we’ve seen ‘Harbor has a quicker turn of foot but ‘Gold is relentless and really won’t have to improve much to turn the tables. We’ll use both in our exotics.

This appears to be one of the stronger Santa Anita Derby fields in recent years, with the exceptional #5 California Chrome strictly the one to beat. He’s been untouchable in his last three starts, winning easily with powerful speed figures and doing so from a stalking position as well as on the lead. Genuine, versatile and consistent, the Sherman-trained colt looks every bit the 6/5 that he’s listed on the morning line. However, the son of Lucky Pulpit had better bring his “A” game. #3 Hopportunity won the Rebel in Arkansas last month with a legitimate number and before that showed a liking for this main track with a highly impressive maiden win in fast time. The longer they go the more dangerous he becomes. Our stand has to be against #6 Candy Boy, only because we really don’t want to use the first three favorites. However, Candy Boy has credentials and if that’s the one you like we won’t try to talk you off him.

The ninth race, a starter’s allowance affair over a mile on turf, looks fairly wide open; best advice is to use as many as you can afford to. At 8-1 on the morning line, #2 Advisory offers considerable price value. Stretching out for the first time for Mullins, the lightly-raced City Zip gelding has trained like he’ll flourish around two turns and from where he’s drawn he could try gate-to-wire tactics, the presence of #9 Brave Act notwithstanding. #3 Gallant Charm seems to lack a winning punch (he’s 1-for-16) but can finish and if the race shape favors the closers he could make some serious noise in the final furlong.

#1 Toledo Eddie has looked especially sharp in winning his last pair and the veteran gelding looks primed for another huge run in the 10th race, a first-level allowance sprint. The Dollase-trained gelding must overcome the rail, but if he can secure room when he launches his bid the son of Ministers Wild Cat should be along in time. #6 Seeking the Sherif also has won his last pair in impressive fashion with rising speed figures and with another forward move today the Ellis-trained gelding will be a strong pace factor throughout. We’ll use both in our rolling exotics.

The nightcap is a wide open downhill slalom event for mid-grade claiming fillies and mares and a spread is recommended. We’ll go three deep and hope that’s sufficient. #10 Joeandbetty’sbaby loves this turf course, drops below her claim level and is reunited with Bejarano, who has won on her in the past. She’s a deep closing sprinter and will need luck to secure a clear path when rallying but if she can get through she’ll be right there. #2 Indygo F M A flunked her main track test last time out but returns to turf and should return to good form. She’s another with proven winning form over this turf course. #8 Flashy Dame, freshened since December, has worked like she’s ready to fire for Eurton and lands Talamo. There’s some long shot value here at 12-1 on the morning line.