Jeff Siegel's Prime Picks for Saturday, Feb. 14

As this is written, there has been no formal cancellation of turf racing, but I’m going to assume that the races will be off the turf. On paper, the three main contenders in the 1st race would appear to be #2 Benezit, #4 Only Be Cause, and #8 Eddie the Hat. Benezit is a route-to-sprint class dropper and continues to train like he’s got more ability than shown. If he runs back to his promising debut – a troubled fifth place effort with a strong figure – he certainly can act with these. Only Be Cause likewise is shortening up from a two-turn try and dropping to a realistic level for Baffert, but he’s always been a bit too one paced for our liking and probably offers little value at 3-1 on the morning. Eddie the Hat is the likely choice and could easily dominate this field from gate to wire in a field without any other known speed. He lands a good outside draw, has a healthy work pattern for Gary Stute and switches to Tyler Baze. If you’re inclined to play this race, consider an exacta box with Benezit and Eddie the Hat. The 2nd race is a high priced claiming dash for 3-year-olds and #2 Omega Minister, exiting a fast, highly-rated allowance affair, is realistically dropped to what might be his winning level. He should be the speed of the speed and a repeat of his nice maiden score two runs back makes him a solid contender. However, he may have to deal with #7 Uncle Jeep breathing down his neck the entire way, and that gelding earned a career top number when graduating over the aforementioned Eddie the Hat (see above). If these two manage to hook up early, the beneficiary should be #3 Coastal Souvenir, who improved considerably off a layoff in his first race as a 3-year-old when beating a starter’s allowance field in game style. He’ll need to make another forward move today but 3-year-olds will do that this time of the year and he’s certainly worth using in the exotics. The 3rd race is a bottom rung maiden claimer for older horses and would seem to be a good spot for #1 Six Pack Man. However, he just failed as the 7/5 favorite in a similar affair and today is stuck on the rail going seven furlongs. I’d like to try to beat him, perhaps with #3 Captain Charisma, who exits the same race and adds blinkers. But, who cares, he offers little value at 3-1 on the morning line. Pass. The 4th race is a very strong non-winners of three allowance race and the deserving morning line favorite at 2-1 is #5 Aggie Engineer. A winner of two of three lifetime starts (his only defeat came in his comeback effort at Hollywood Park in December behind the freakish Rail Trip), Aggie Engineer earned a giant number beating a first level allowance field last month and has the perfect pace-stalking style to enjoy this extended sprint distance. Despite a competitive lineup that includes the comebacking #1 Malt Magic (strong works for Mitchell and good back speed figures) and #6 Medzendeekron (exiting a sharp race but being wheeled back in six days by Abrams), Aggie Engineer would seem an ideal candidate to be a rolling exotic single. The 5th race was originally carded as a downhill turf sprint for maiden fillies and we'll be surprised if it stays on the lawn. It’s inscrutable on any surface. I would be tempted to put #10 Black Magic Mama on top, but she just failed at 4/5 (couldn’t hit the board in a six horse field), so she’s hardly one to trust. Use as many as you can afford to use in the rolling exotics. The 6th race, a bottom of the barrel sprint for older fillies and mares, is another spread race. I could see any one of four winning it, including #2 Hard Woman, #3 Blushing Bear Cat; #6 Suva, and #8 Mrs. Rocha, with the latter most likely to leave as the favorite. Hard Woman drops two levels to the bottom and is reunited with Rosario, who has won with her in the past. Blushing Bear Cat figures to make a late run and gets an extra furlong to work with today. Suva is a multi-stakes winning mare who continues to train like she still has some life. And isn't she worth $9,000 as a broodmare? Mrs. Rocha lands a comfortable outside post and has won at this extended sprint distance in the past. She drops to her lowest level ever today. The 7th race is a very good allowance sprint for fillies and mares and the three we’ll be using in our exotics are #5 Gloriously, #6 Rosangela; and #8 Carmel Coffee. Gloriously has impressed the private clockers while getting fit for her California debut and this Woodbine shipper won her debut, so you know she can fire fresh. She’s a solid fit on numbers and looks to have caught a very favorable pace scenario for her front running style. Rosangela is another dangerous layoff runner who won the first start of her racing career, so she, too, can be expected to fire a big shot off the bench. The works say ready, and the back numbers say “fit.” Carmel Coffee has been a beaten choice in four of her last five starts, but she’s never finished off the board in seven career outings and has to figure somewhere in the exacta or trifecta. The 8th race boils down to the sharp and speedy #2 Let’spickupthepace, the closing #3 Forgive Your Sins and the class dropping #7 Bowie At Saratoga. Let’spickupthepace is pretty much a need the lead type but catches a field without an intense amount of early speed, so he’ll be tough right back after outrunning a moderate $20,000 band last month. Forgive Your Sins finished second behind ‘Pace last month while finding his best stride late and gets an extra half furlong to work with today. Bowie At Saratoga is re-equipped with blinkers and likely will find himself in a stalking position (he’s run well as a stalker in the past). The Mitchell gelding is 7/5 on the morning line and is the one to beat, but we’ll use all three in the rolling exotics. Trainer Bobby Frankel could have split up his two fillies, #3 Country Star and #10 Visit by running one in today’s 8th race, the Santa Maria ‘Cap, and one tomorrow in the La Canada Stakes, but has chosen to run them both today. He must have his reasons. Maybe it’s because Country Star just got blown away by Life is Sweet and he doesn’t want any part of that filly tomorrow. And maybe Visit is more comfortable at today’s mile and one sixteenth distance than the nine furlongs she’d have to run in Sunday’s event. They both have good chances in the Santa Maria, but they’d better bring their “A” game because #1 Leah’s Secret is back for more following her facile victory in the Sunshine Millions Distaff last month. A tough, durable and thoroughly professional race mare, Leah’s Secret deserves top billing, but if Visit can reproduce her grass form over the Pro-Ride surface (and she’s training spectacularly well), she’ll make a run for it. The 10th race is another maiden claimer (actually a split of the 3rd race) and #4 Mystification seems ready to finally graduate. He’s turning back to a sprint, has worked nicely since his last race and figures strongly on speed figures. His main challenger is #10 Comical Alibi, a route-to-sprint, turf-to-Pro Ride, maiden-to-maiden claimer play from a cozy outside post. Potts should have him in the garden spot outside, waiting to pounce.