Jeff Siegel's Analysis for Sunday, Jan. 17, 2010

Yesterday’s late pick-4 – which we recommended to play with a mere $24 ticket – returned $1,920.70 and followers of this column easily could have had it multiple times. As for the Pick-6, no I didn’t play it, but if anybody had the good sense to construct a ticket using only the horses I mentioned in the column (that ticket would have cost $384), they would have hit the Pick-6. The payoff: $363,860. Okay, that's yesterday's news, what about today?

The early portion of the Sunday program isn’t terribly exciting. I can’t get a feel at all for the first race, a $20,000 claiming sprint for 3-year-old fillies that finds #2 Duck River as the morning line choice. After a five length win vs. M32,000 types, she is dropped in claiming value and clearly trainer Bob Baffert has no qualms about losing her. #3 Bye Bye Hollywood has some previous form that would be good enough to beat this group, but she just failed as the favorite in a slightly tougher spot and may be a hard one to trust. The best thing you can say about her is that she’s one-for-one over the Pro Ride, so it’s possible she can snap back. We’ll pass.

The second race, a maiden claiming router for $40,000 older types, probably should be won by #5 Halo’s Law, but he’s 9/5 on the morning line and it wouldn’t surprise us to see him go lower. The Mullins-trained gelding, in the money in his last three, is a one-paced grinder but that style might work over a track kind to closers in a field with a few faint-hearted speed types. Another pass.

The third race looks far more interesting. It’s a downhill turf dash for first level allowance 3-year-olds and a nice trifecta box consisting of #2 Majestic Afleet, #3 Camp Victory, and #4 Driveliketiger could produce a healthy payout. Certainly all three should be used in rolling exotics. Majestic Afleet, a route to sprint play, tries turf for the first time and is bred to like it on both sides of his pedigree. Bejarano rides him back, and the Northern Afleet colt seems ideally suited in his role as a late-running sprinter. Camp Victory faded in the tough Stuka Stakes but he was sharp winning a turf sprint at Hollywood Park two runs back and that race, if reproduced today, makes him a strong contender. Driveliketiger was visually impressive beating a much softer band and will need to step it up again to be competitive on the raise, but he’s worth using at 12-1 on the morning line based on his top-and-bottom turf pedigree.

The fourth race kicks off the Pick-6 and we’ll double the race in our rolling exotics using #1 You Can Dream and #5 Ultra Awesome. Use more if you can afford to. You Can Dream is stuck on the rail and the big class drop is of some concern, but a repeat of her race before last would be good enough to win and she’s had prior success over the Pro Ride. The switch to Espinoza must be considered a positive move. Ultra Awesome, claimed back by Yakteen (always a positive sign), retains Bejarano for his first start since November and should be part of the pace throughout. He won’t have to improve much to act with these.

Older straight maidens meet in the fifth race, and on paper it’s a very strong race for the level. #3 Solar Rocket weakened late to finish a close fourth in a promising debut here last month and since Baffert wins with a very high percentage of his second time starters this 4-year-old can be expected to move forward. We’ll use him along with #7 Pious David, who exits the same race (second, beaten a head) And should appreciate the extra half furlong of today’s race. It was his first start since the summer and it produced a career top Beyer figure (90), so this Mitchell-trained colt could be the one to beat. The morning line choice at 2-1 is the comebacking #8 Off the Wall, who had the misfortune of encountering Zensational is his debut last February and had to settle for second while five clear of the others. He hasn’t been seen since, but the work tab is impressive and the outside post ideal. Another major plus is Bruce Headley’s record with comebackers – it’s outstanding. We’ll use all three in our rolling exotics and feel pretty safe about it.

The sixth race is another downhill turf sprint – this one for older $32,000 claimers – and pretty much anything goes. Our top three are #3 Noblety, #4 Within Reason, and #10 High Standards, but a case can be made for several others as well. Noblety seeks his third straight win and must be considered right back over a course he clearly loves. Espinoza should have him in an ideal pace stalking position throughout. Within Reason has been off the track for more than a year but his workouts indicate he’s fit and ready and he’s got a few back numbers that could win. High Standards, in the money in his last four outings, should at least get another piece of it and won’t have to improve much to take it all with Rosario riding him back. Hopefully for the sake of our rolling exotics, the winner will be one of the three.

State bred 3-year-olds in the first allowance condition make the seventh race a good wagering event, and we’ll go three-deep using #2 A Plus Topper, #3 High Success, and #7 Runaway Bandido in an exacta/trifecta box and in our rolling exotics. A Plus Topper looked pretty good winning at first asking last month at Hollywood Park, has trained well since, and merits respect on the raise. High Success was visually quite impressive breaking his maiden over the Pro Ride last month at this extended sprint distance and should be the most dangerous of the closers once again. Bejarano stays aboard for O’Neill. Runaway Bandido, a route to sprint play exiting the Cal Breeders’ Stakes, probably prefers one corner and looks very dangerous as a late-runner from his comfortable outside post.

The El Encino Stakes, the second jewel in the La Canada series of 4-year-old fillies, brings #7 Stardom Bound back to her favorite track (she’s four-for-four here) and despite a disappointing comeback in late November in New York, she seems very likely to bounce back in a big way today. She was victimized by a lack of pace in the Gazelle at Aqueduct and could only finish fifth, but should have enough pace in here to compliment her late-running style, and you know how well closers in route races have been doing this meeting. She’s a major contender, along with the classy #9 Justwhistledixie, never off the board in nine career starts but making her first start over a synthetic track, and #11 Spirit Seeker, also trying synthetic for the first time after just missing in a sharp effort on turf when second in an overnight stakes last month at Hollywood Park. That race should have her primed a ready for her best, and that makes her very dangerous for the always potent Hollendorfer-Rosario team.

The finale is a poor maiden claiming extended sprint and #2 You Know I Wancha likely will be a short price in her first try for a tag. The numbers she earned in three tries vs. straight maidens weren’t impressive, but they make her a standout in this very soft affair. Reluctantly, we’ll make her a rolling exotic single simply because there’s nothing else in here worth backing.