Jeff Siegel's Prime Picks for Sunday, Jan. 4

Another challenging card to close out the week. In the 2nd race, #1 Threat was as visually impressive as you’ll ever see a maiden claimer when she demolished a soft field in fast time in late November. The speed figure was strong, but the filly she beat, Tiz Salsa, wound up a modest second in yesterday’s nightcap, an effort that really didn’t flatter trainer Rafael Becerra’s filly. We still think she’s the one to beat, but comebacking #3 Flashover has been tearing up the track in the morning for trainer Barry Abrams and should represent a strong late threat, while #4 A Sassy Fusaichi has an improving pattern and figures in the frame as well. I love the pattern that #1 Mr. Elroy has in the 3rd race. The Mike Mitchell-trained gelding had a nice sprint tightener across town in an extremely fast race for the level, lands the good rail, and retains Bejarano for his first try around two turns. There’s no reason he won’t project his sprint form over a route of ground and this barn is superb with the sprint-to-route maneuver. Trainer Leonard Powell may have made a decent claim when he took the improving #3 Troubletimesthree out of a M25,000 affair last month at Hollywood Park. The son of Decarchy rallied from far back over a track not kind to deep closers and registered a sharp number in graduating in just his fourth career start. With another forward move today, he’ll be dangerous. In the 4th race, #8 Red Arrow had a solid effort in his debut when 3rd, finishing steadily without really blasting home. We would expect he’ll improve second time for top trainer John Sadler, but they don’t always do. #4 Mt. Orient is the proven horse-for-course play and should be prominent throughout. He’s a solid fit at the level and perhaps the one to beat. #7 Master Daniel looked like a star in the making when he broke his maiden up north in blazing time last year, but was thrust into the El Camino Real Derby when seriously lacking in seasoning and hasn’t been the same since. Trainer Paddy Gallagher has #1 One Shot in sharp form and although the 5th race is a tougher than normal bottom-level claimer, the Argentine import could win right back following an $8,000 tally at Hollywood Park. He lands the rail and should be close up throughout in a race without an undue amount of early speed. Trainer Bobby Frankel, who saddled Jibboom to victory in the Monrovia Handicap yesterday, goes for a weekend sweep when he sends over #8 Valbenny in the San Gorgonio ‘Cap in the 7th race. It would appear Valbenny is rounding back into top form following a fast closing fourth in the Las Palmas ‘Cap during the Oak Tree meeting, and a steady work pattern since should have her on edge for another forward move. She was among the better 3-year-old turf fillies in North America a couple of years ago but didn’t seem to have that same spark after leaving the Paddy Gallagher barn following a sale at auction. This is a field she simply should out class. The 8th race is a strong second level allowance event with two major contenders - #2 Nikki’sgoldensteed and #6 Cherokee Artist. The former exits the the On Trust ‘Cap at Hollywood Park and ran well to be a close fourth in just his second start off a layoff. In a softer spot today while stretching out to a preferred distance while adding blinkers and Mike Smith, the Bob Hess-trained colt has much in his favor. Cherokee Artist demolished a first level allowance group at Oak Tree while showing the ability that carried him to a runner up performance in the Ohio Derby last year. He’s strictly the one to beat. The 9th race should boil down to three entrants - #4 Wicked Delight; #7 Solo Piano; and #8 Mosaic. Wicked Delight hasn’t been out since May and it’s possible she’s a race away, but she’ll be tough if cranked up. Solo Piano, also returning from a vacation, flashed ability at Del Mar and continues to work like a much better filly than just your ordinary maiden for Bobby Frankel. Mosaic ran well in New York for good trainer Mark Casse and figures right there in her California debut with only slight improvement.