Handicapping Picks for 12/26/2011

Race #9 - Rating = 2

#9 Associate - Fair odds 2/1
#5 Racing Aptitude - Fair odds 5/2
#4 Rothko - Fair odds 5/2

Exacta: 4,5,9 over ALL

Associate has improved steadily since entering the care of Richard Dutrow following an eighth-place effort on July 24. In his first start for Dutrow on September 23, Associate won by 10 ¾ lengths and earned a career best 110 Equibase Speed Figure. Then in his second start for the trainer (on November 11) he won by eight lengths to earn a new career best 117 figure. With the number one jockey in North America (in earnings) Ramon Dominguez having ridden Associate to those last two wins and coming to Santa Anita to ride him today, Associate appears to be the one to beat in the Malibu as his pattern of improving speed figures suggests another career best effort.

Rothko has earned back-to-back 109 Equibase Speed Figures in two dominant victories by more than six lengths each. Although those wins came at Monmouth and at Churchill Downs, Rothko is familiar with the Santa Anita surface, having finished second in his career debut in February. As such, Rothko has a big shot to earn his first stakes win in the Malibu with a repeat of, or improvement upon, either of his last two efforts.

Racing Aptitude won a stakes on the turf and around two turns last December as a two-year-old but was a disappointment in his first four races as a sophomore this year. However, that all changed shortly after moving to the barn of Bob Baffert in October, when Racing Aptitude was tried in a long sprint (seven and one-half furlongs) similar to the seven furlong distance of the Malibu, coming through with an easy four and one-half length victory in the Yo Eleven Stakes. Having earned a career best 107 figure in that race and with improving to do in his third race back from a six month layoff, Racing Aptitude is yet another with a big shot to win this race.

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You can get my selections and analysis for the entire Santa Anita card at www.equibase.com, www.trackmaster.com as well as at the Xpressbet, Twinspires, Keeneland Select and TVG handicapping stores.