Jeff Siegel's Santa Anita Analysis (Sat., Feb. 4, 2012)

An excellent Saturday program begins with a straight maiden sprint for 3-year-olds and marks the debut of the highly-regarded #5 Mile High Magic. The son of Roman Ruler has been burning up the track in the morning for Baffert and appears fit and ready to score at first asking. He’ll be a very short price in the straight pool and heavily played in rolling exotics as well. The private clockers think he’s the goods.

Restricted (nw-2) $12,500 claimers meet at six furlongs in the second race and there appears to be three main contenders, all of whom are worth considering in rolling exotic play. #2 His Boy Elroy drops below his claim level, shortens up, and returns to the main track for O’Neill after failing as the favorite in a one mile turf event last month. Most effective as a late running sprinter, the son of Decarchy could use some help up front but warrants a look. #3 Seek the Light, first off the claim for Conlon and adding blinkers while retaining Bejarano, is another route-to-sprint play who may require a fast pace for his late kick to be effective. We’ll see if the hood gets him into the race early on. #6 Me Salty, a solid runner-up in a similar affair last month, gets an extra half furlong to work with today and although winless in six starts at Santa Anita deserves a strong look with the switch to Rosario.

The Arcadia Stakes has been kept out of the Pick-6 sequence due to the expected short price of #8 Mr. Commons. The son of Artie Schiller crushed a softer field in the Sir Beaufort Stakes opening day when a hot pace complimented his late-running style. The fractions should be slower today but it probably won’t matter; Smith should have this classy colt along in plenty of time. #2 Patchwork makes his U.S. debut for Sadler and has trained nicely; he was undefeated in good company as a juvenile in England and should be quite useful on this circuit, though he may want a bit more ground that just a mile to be at his best at this level.

A fairly competitive band of state bred maidens square off in the six furlong fourth race. The two we’re looking at are #5 Real Conundrum, a distant third in a hot race in December at Hollywood Park and eligible to improve considerably for Hendricks; and #10 Jonny’s Choice, sixth behind subsequent stakes winner Midnight Transfer in a fast maiden affair opening day and also likely to improve a bunch today while landing a much more favorable post.

The Pick-6 begins with the fifth race, a downhill maiden sprint for 3-yar-old fillies. #2 Belle Passe missed by a head in her only outing last May at The Curragh and has been impressive in the morning while preparing for her U.S. debut. She attracts Rosario and looks extremely live. In addition to Belle Passe, Eurton also will saddle #4 Sidney’s Darling, a useful fourth in her debut in December at Hollywood Park and likely to make a forward mover today with the switch to Bejarano. #7 Mirrow Ball, another European import, hails from the Mitchell barn and has worked steadily for her local bow while being equipped with blinkers. She should act with these. We’ll give Belle Passe top billing but all three should be included in rolling exotic play.

The Robert B. Lewis Stakes, an important Santa Anita and Kentucky Derby prep, brings back #2 Liaison and #6 Rousing Sermon, one-two finishers in the Cash Call Futurity in December. Both have made progress over the winter and both should be set for big efforts today. #5 Sky Kingdom is slower on numbers but don’t let that last race fool you; he literally coasted home the final sixteenth and could have run much faster if called upon. The son of Empire Maker continues to develop and it shouldn’t be a major upset if he rolls on by late.

The seventh race is a better-than par entry level allowance race over nine furlongs on turf and probably requires a spread in rolling exotic play. #1 Truism was a moderate handicapper in England but has trained like a much better type for Mitchell and could leave his British form far behind in his U.S. debut. He’s a “must use” at 6-1 on the morning line. #3 Acaffella was a bit rusty in his comeback vs. similar last month when winding up eighth of 12, though beaten less than fourth lengths. He should be fitter and sharper today for Mandella. #5 Tippety Tap Tap adds blinkers after a strong runner up effort here last month and should appreciate the extra ground of today’s event. He’s another 6-1 morning line play that deserves a close look. #9 Gab Power, a flying third in the same race that Acaffella and Tippety Tap Tap exit, retains Bejarano and could prove the strongest of the deep closers.

The Strub Stakes is carded as the eighth race and #7 Tapizar would seem to have this group over a barrel based on his convincing gate-to-wire score in the San Fernando last month. Nakatani will have on the front end again and the only other colt in here that could cause an issue early on is #4 Ultimate Eagle, a classy turf runner trying conventional dirt for the first time (he’s bred for it). If the pace comes up quicker than last time things could set up nicely for the comebacking #1 Jaycito. The Norfolk Stakes winner from two years back is training like he’s fit and ready for Baffert and could cause some havoc as one of the few truly come-from-behinders in the lineup.

$25,000 claimers sprint down the hill in the ninth race and the always dangerous #2 Crossing the Line will be flying late as usual. He’s been dropping too far back in his recent races and has been given way too much to do; hopefully he can stay in contact early and then have room to rally late. Also worth considering are #3 Mark the Bench, back at his claim level for Mitchell though winless in six starts over the Santa Anita turf course; and #7 Devoted Magic way up in class for Heap following a highly-rated all-weather tally at Golden Gate Fields in his comeback last month and a winner of his only prior outing over this course way back in 2008.