Jeff Siegel's Analysis for Friday, Jan. 8, 2010

A strong Friday program begins rather meekly with a five horse expensive maiden claimer for 3-year-ods. #2 Cape Finisterre is the 8/5 morning line choice after finishing an okay fourth in a very fast, highly-rated straight maiden dash, and he seems sure to improve with the class drop and the race under his belt. But #4 Drink At Last Call owns essentially the same pattern and he’s 9/5 on the morning line. Take your pick, we’ll pass.

Modest routing claimers do battle in the second race and in our rolling exotics we’ll use #3 Candy Arches and #6 A Royal Tizzy. The former found his friends at this level with a gate-to-wire score at Hollywood Park last month and set wicked fractions in the process. That style might not be so effective over the Pro Ride, which tends to inhibit speed, but this colt was once highly-regarded and may have gained some confidence in victory. A Royal Tizzy is stretching out for the first time and his pedigree suggests the extra ground will be within his scope. Based on his sprint numbers, he’s more than good enough to win, but he still has to prove he can project that form around two turns. Hess is solid with sprint to route plays, so we’re inclined to believe that he can.

Older maidens occupy the third race, a middle distance affair that would seem to favor #4 Quarter Given and #7 Indianapolis, and we’ll use them both in our rolling exotics. Quarter Given, second in all three of his starts to date, adds blinkers for the first time and following a recent bullet half mile blowout the Richard Mandella-trained colt with steadily improving speed figures looks all set to graduate. However, Indianapolis has credentials as well, having finished in the money in all of his three previous outings, one of which came in his debut over the poly track at Keeneland, which might have been his best race. The Kenny McPeak-trained colt lands Gomez for his local debut and should be very dangerous from off the pace.

Class dropping #7 Tamerin seeks her third straight score in the fourth race, a downhill turf dash for $40,000 claiming fillies and mares. Clearly, she’s good enough to win, but having dropped from allowance to $50,000 claiming to now $40,000 claiming isn’t exactly the healthiest of signs for a mare on a winning streak. If it looks like Mitchell is trying to lose her, well, maybe he is, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have at least one more winning race left in her. The daughter of Chief Seattle has excellent speed but doesn’t need to the lead to win, so Rosario has some options depending upon how the race shapes up.

The fifth race is for bottom rung sprinting fillies and mares and while #2 Suziqcutie has her issues (don’t they all at this level?) she knows how to win and likes this track. Sorenson knows her well, and the Carava-trained mare seems quite capable of producing the last run, assuming she’s feeling up to it. Also worth using in your exotics are #8 Havens Lake, a fair fifth vs. similar in her recent comeback for Spawr and likely to be fitter and tougher today; and #11 Msty Aly, comfortably drawn outside and set for another good effort after finishing in the money in each of her last five outings.

#2 Smoke Cat, a recent $8,000 claim by trainer Michael Pender, is very ambitiously spotted in the sixth race, a first level allowance sprint, but on speed figures the speedy gelding isn’t out of his element. First or second in nine of 16 career starts, the 7-year-old looks on paper to be the speed of the speed, and if he’s not respected he’ll take them a long way. But these aren't $8,000 sellers he’ll have to withstand. #1 Vaundell was a very impressive debut winner here last year and returns off a long layoff working like his old self for excellent comeback trainer Carla Gaines. He’ll settle early and charge late and is a “must use” at 3-1 on the morning line. You should also consider #9 Capt. Sparrow, a come-from-behind winner of a $12,500 claimer last month at Hollywood Park. Carava spots his stock realistically so we assume this gelding is doing quite well to be triple jumped in class. He’s also a two-time winner at Santa Anita and has the perfect style for this extended sprint trip.

Today’s seventh race feature brings out older fillies and mares in a “three-other-than” going a mile on grass. You have to admire #1 Bootleg Annie (and the job done by trainer Kathy Walsh), as this veteran mare has won 15 of 31 career starts, including the Cal Cup Distaff over this course during the Oak Tree meeting. She’s effective up to a mile and from where she’s drawn inside she’ll most likely try gate to wire tactics. Flashover, freshened since November, is another thoroughly genuine and consistent mare who is especially fond of the Arcadia lawn. Talamo should have her in striking range throughout. #6 Dreamt, a listed stakes winner in France in September, makes her U.S. debut for Mott and has trained like she’s ready to roll. Her form suggests she can fire a winning shot fresh, so you’d better use her in your exotics.

The finale is a typical wide open maiden claimer, and we’ll go four deep, using #2 Favre N Away; #4 Starry Strive; #10 Gold Country; and #12 My Friend Bernie. All four have credentials to win a race like this. Favre N Away has improved his speed figures in each of five career starts and with another forward move today should at least hit the board. Pedroza stays aboard for Bernstein. Starry Strive is a route-to-sprint play who might be a late threat at this extended sprint trip, while Gold Country is a second time starter from the Mullins barn (superb in this category) and exits a productive heat. And don’t dismiss My Friend Bernie, who was beaten a sixteenth of a mile in debut vs. tougher last summer at Del Mar but has trained like he’s much better than that for Mitchell.