Jeff Siegel's Santa Anita Analysis (Sat., Feb. 25, 2012)

The Saturday program begins slowly with regards to wagering value but picks up steam midway. The opener is a restricted (nw-2) $25,000 claiming sprint for fillies and mares and should boil down to #2 Ziva and #5 Big Tsimmis. The former is making just her third career start so improvement is likely, and the Owens-trained filly will offer strong inside speed, while the latter should draft into a second flight, stalking position and have every chance to wear down the front runners late.

The second race is a bottom-rung maiden claimer at the abbreviated distance of five and one half furlongs. #2 Hey I’m Sobaa has little to beat and rates top billing by default. Third in a similar spot here earlier this month, the Sadler-trained filly retains bug boy Flores and wouldn’t really need to improve much to graduate. This is another event offering very little value.

The third race brings back #4 Mizdirection, the convincing winner of the Monrovia ‘Cap over this course and distance earlier this meeting. The Puype-trained filly picks up four lbs. but her recent exceptional drills indicates he’s better now than she was then, so the higher impost won’t make a difference. Mike Smith takes over for the injured Garrett Gomez and should have her along in plenty of time at a very short price.

#2 El Martillo is dropping way down to the $10,000 level in the fourth race following an off-the-pace tally for $25,000 earlier this month. Clearly he has major issues, but if the Baffert-trained horse has one left in tank he’ll bury this modest group. #5 Bench the Judge seeks his third straight score for O’Neill and the former Pomona Derby winner could be set to extend his streak if El Martillo fails to show up.

A good group of hard-knocking mid-grade claiming sprinters meet in the fifth race at six furlongs and we’ll double the race and hope to get by. #5 Valkyrie Missile missed as the favorite when second in a hot race against slightly softer foes last month; he’s raised a notch by Carava and retains Rosario so we’ll assume he’s doing well and capable of making amends. #7 Streakin’ Mohican, away since October and dropping out of a series of graded stakes races, shows just four workouts for his return but gets a nice outside post and a weight break with bug boy Flores taking the call. He’s run well over this track in the past and catches a very favorable pace scenario. If he fires, he’ll be tough to catch.

State bred maiden 3-year-olds sprint down the hill in the sixth race and in an unclassified event a spread in rolling exotic play might be necessary. #5 Pork Chop appears to have some talent; the Knight-trained gelding missed a month of training earlier this season or else he probably would have started by now. The son of Ministers Wild Cat was working very well last fall and his recent drills have been decent as well. #6 Jonny’s Choice, second as the 4/5 choice earlier this month in a main track affair, is likely to improve on turf based on his strong turf breeding (Unusual Heat). #9 Huntsville, back from Canada and looking pretty good in the morning of late, is worth tossing in as well.

The San Carlos Stakes is today’s seventh race feature and it’s a Grade 2 event in name only. Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner and Eclipse Award champion sprinter #2 Amazombie returns and has worked like he’s ready to pick up where he left off. The Spawr-trained gelding is especially fond of the glib Santa Anita main track and has the perfect style for this extended sprint distance. However, who will run with #3 The Factor? Fresh from a dominating victory in the opening day Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at this distance, the son of War Front clearly is the controlling speed once again, and given the projected pace scenario looks very likely to dominate from start to finish. On this basis alone, we have to give The Factor the edge. May the best horse win.

The eighth race is a two-other-than turf affair and we like both #5 Tigah and #8 Irish Art and will use both in our rolling exotics. Tigah was buried inside and had little chance to show what he could do in his U.S. debut last month; the Sadler-trained colt switches to Mike Smith and seems sure to improve with better racing luck. He’s a lightly-raced French import with a good late kick and should be dangerous in the final furlong. Irish Art is back on turf where he belongs and the son of Artie Schiller will be hard to handle if he runs back to his second place effort behind Mr. Commons in the Sir Beaufort Stakes on opening day. Never worse than second in three career starts over this turf course, he retains Rosario and has been working impressively since failing to handle the dirt in San Fernando Stakes in mid-January.

The nightcap is a maiden claiming sprint that appears to be unusually weak. #6 Frenemy, a $125,000 two-year-old in training buy a year ago, shows up in a claimer for the first time and is shortened up in trip. He’s not without some ability and has run well for Bejarano in the past, plus he has back numbers that are better than par for this level. The Baffert-trained colt figures to be a short price.