Jeff Siegel's Prime Picks for Saturday, Feb. 21

Here’s a typical Santa Anita Saturday program – competitive fields with a very tough and challenging Pick-6 sequence. In the 1st race, both #2 Deacon Cat and #6 Prized Play were scratched from an off-the-turf maiden race a couple of weeks ago and show up today in a similar two-turn affair for older maidens - on the main track (it’s either this race or wait two more weeks for the next maiden turf event, which is no guarantee to fill). Deacon’s Cat exits two small fields and could only finish fourth of six last time out, but his numbers are rising and he’s got a right to continue his improving pattern for trainer Richard Mandella in what will be only third career start. Prized Play would appear to much more comfortable on turf – his narrow runner up effort on the lawn last time out resulted in a 21 point improvement on the Beyer scale – but he’s come back to work in 1:00 flat over the Pro-Ride since that race, so maybe he’s just getting better. He should enjoy a soft pace prompting trip under Rosario. The 2nd race is a downhill turf affair with (at least) three main contenders. #4 Pat the Cool Cat was in a tad steep last time out but ran well when second in a photo vs. $40,000 company two runs back and should be prominent throughout. #7 Jen’s New Chapter is another class dropper and was lapped on ‘Cat in their common race Jan. 7. She’s been first or second in seven of 10 career start, so you’ve got to use her somewhere in your exotics. #11 Grecian is a route-to-sprint class dropper for Baffert and after a brief freshening of six weeks could feel a bit rejuvenated. There are others were long shot angles but we’d use these three and any others you’d care to toss in. The 3rd race for non-winners of two $25,000 claiming boils down to a pair of class droppers, #3 Funny Me and #5 Kalookan Event. Funny Me was beaten as the favorite against $50,000 sellers just eight days ago and wheeled back quickly by Mike Mitchell. The 4-year-old gelding isn’t really one to trust – he’s 1-for-15 lifetime – but he’s never raced this cheaply and could get brave. Kalookan Event earned a speed figure two races back that could beat this field and the drop in class is warranted after a disappointing try in a tough $50,000 affair last month. The high class #5 Georgie Boy, so impressive when returning to winning form in the Sunshine Millions Sprint last month, will be a very short price to continue his winning ways in the 4th race, the San Carlos Handicap. Seven furlongs might be the perfect distance for this Kathy Walsh-trained gelding in a race that promises to have the slowest opening quarter and half in the race’s history (Past the Point will make the pace, but he’s a front running router). The pace, or lack thereof, won’t matter to Georgie Boy; he’ll take control whenever Garrett Gomez chooses to. Of course, this is an unplayable race from a straight wagering standpoint, but - if you need the action - consider the Fair Grounds shipper #6 Mutadda in the exacta. He’s something of a seven furlong specialist and should be comfortably placed outside throughout. California-bred entry level allowance horses compete in the 5th race, which kicks off the Pick-6. I think you have to go at least three deep, using #1 Natural Touch, #3 One Chin Again, and #8 Warrens A P Strike. Natural Touch, first off the claim for Peter Miller, adds blinkers, switches to Espinoza and goes from a main track sprint to a turf route while landing the good inside draw. He’s only run twice on the lawn in 54 career starts, but there’s no reason he won’t at least duplicate his best form today, which would make him a major threat. One Chin Again has run well on the lawn in the past and fits on numbers, although his 1-for-15 record is hardly inspiring. He has, however hit the board on seven other occasions, so we’ll throw him in. Warrens A P Strike shows a decent come-from-behind maiden win over this course during the Oak Tree meeting and earned a career top 81 Beyer figure when seventh (but beaten just over a length) in a similar affair last month. He switches to Smith and should get the patient ride he needs. The 6th race looks like a better than par race for the level and #1 Desperate, #2 Shelbydell, and #4 Thelma Rose all have legitimate chances. Desperate joins the Mitchell barn and gets Gomez following a solid runner up try over the track in what was a pretty good race for the level. The rail post is no help but she figures to improve and should enjoy this extended sprint trip. Shelbydell is a dangerous class dropper from the Mullins barn and should be on the front end for as long as Potts can keep her there. If she doesn’t get much early pressure from #7 South of France, she could be long gone. Thelma Rose overcame a slow start to rally wide and get up in time in the same race that Desperate exits, and goes for new trainer Metz today while retaining Bejarano. She is a prototype late-running sprinter with a style that is promoted by the Pro-Ride surface. Even if the pace comes up soft, she’ll be hard to deny. We have another grass grab bag to deal with in today’s 7th race, an inscrutable affair that has “Pick-6 buster” written all over it. Use as many as you can afford to use while including #5 Ballistic Heat; #9 Yodelan Dan; and #10 Cousin Joe. Ballistic Heat often produces a good late kick and today gets Gomez for the first time. With racing luck he could be a strong factor late. Yodelan Dan stretches out again and returns to his preferred surface and always gives his best effort. He’d actually be our top pick in the race and only needs good racing luck to be right there. Cousin Joe is drawn farther out that we’d prefer, but after a strong fourth place effort against similar in an off-the-turfer (beaten a neck for all of it) in his first start off a long layoff, the Jones-trained gelding could be fitter and tougher today. He shows a :58 4/5 workout since ran, retains Talamo, and could be very dangerous if taken back and allowed to make the last run. The 8th race looks like a very strong maiden dash – there are a number of fast working first timers – but those with experience have something of an edge and we expect that #1 Gold Schleiger and #4 Zensational will show significant improvement in their second outings. Gold Schleiger finished a fading seventh in his only start but removes blinkers today, retains Mike Baze, and hails from a barn that has a solid record with second time starters. The rail is no help, though. Zensational flashed big speed as the choice in his only outing at Saratoga before fading and this $700,000 2-year-old in training buy returns for Gomez and Baffert with a string of typically fast workouts. The 9th race is another difficult turf affair. The $100,000 Valentine’s Dancer Handicap matches state bred older fillies and mares at a mile and we’ll try to boil it down to just two - #2 Christiana’s Heat and #7 Tiz a Blend. The former has done her best work sprinting but she has won around two turns (last fall during the Oak Tree meeting) and from her good inside post position she should be able to establish the running. She’s been battling some tough ones in open company of late and will appreciate this return to California-bred company. Tiz a Blend adores the Santa Anita turf course (3 wins, 1 second in 5 career starts) and should snap back to top form in this softer spot and a return to the lawn. The 10th race is a restricted $12,500 claimer with three major players. #2 Capi and Max ran decently off a long layoff against a similar field when fourth (beaten 1 ½ lengths) as the favorite last month and if he moves forward today, he’ll be right there. The Periban barn is especially effective with second-off-layoff runners. #3 Squire Trelawny is developing into a genuine and consistent late-running sprinter and should be especially effective at this extended sprint trip. He gives Periban two bullets to fire and either one can win. #13 Mr. Elroy is a Mitchell-trained route-to-sprint class dropper and his only win was around one turn. With Bejarano staying aboard, he’ll be a pace factor throughout.