Handicapping Picks for 01/14/2012

Race #8 - Rating = 1
#8 Tapitsfly - Fair odds 5/2
#7 First Strike - Fair odds 3/1
#1 Prayer for Relief - Fair odds 3/1

Tapizar returns to the track of his biggest success, having won the Sham Stakes one year ago at Santa Anita and earning a 103 Equibase Speed Figure in the process. Following a fifth-place effort in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes Tapizar was rested for eight months, returning in October with a decisive win with a career best 113 figure. Off just that one race Tapizar was entered in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and wasn’t really disgraced a bit when finishing third in a very highly rated race won by Eclipse Award Nominee Caleb’s Posse. Rested since then and facing decidedly easier foes as well as being back in against his age group, Tapizar has a big chance to get out on an easy early lead the way he likes it and never look back to win the San Fernando Stakes.

First Strike is going for his fourth straight win on an improving pattern of Equibase Speed Figures that cannot be ignored. He got the first of those wins in August with a mediocre 88 figure, then improved nicely on November 4 to 91 He then took a big leap forward when winning the Zia Park Derby last month at the distance of the San Fernando, earning a career best 104 figure in the process. Making his third start following two and one-half months off as well as his second route (a mile or more) start following a sprint, First Strike could show additional improvement to post the upset in this race.

Prayer for Relief may have had a hard spring and summer campaign that led to his poor ninth place effort in the Clark Handicap when last seen at the end of November. Prior to that he ran about once per month starting in May, wining four consecutive races including the West Virginia Derby with a career best 113 figure, before finishing third in the Oklahoma Derby prior to the Clark. Now facing his own age group once again and with a set of excellent workouts at Santa Anita, Prayer for Relief could bounce back to competitive form and would be a strong factor in the San Fernando if he does.

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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.