Jeff Siegel's Santa Anita Analysis (Sat., March 3, 2012)

Big ‘Cap Saturday offers an 11-race program that begins with a restricted (nw-2) $12,500 claimer at five and one-half furlongs. We’re mildly intrigued by #3 Jack Reacher, a bottom rung maiden claiming winner up north recently and potentially the controlling speed in a field that really doesn’t have much. Winless in six Santa Anita outings but in the money five times, the Spawr-trained gelding has a healthy pattern amongst many who might have seen better days.

The second race looks like a virtual match affair between the two short priced favorites, #2 Stirred Up and #3 Holy Candy. The former likes to lag and produce a late run while the latter figures to display more tactical speed. Neither will offer much in the way of value; if we had to choose one we’d probably side with Holy Candy but certainly there are more attractive propositions later in the day.

We’ll use two in the third race, a downhill turf dash for $32,000 claimers. #3 Muny has been disappointing in his last pair but he’s back sprinting and dropping another notch, so the Mitchell-trained gelding may deserve one more chance. Preference goes to #3 Crossing the Line, now 10 years old but still winning. The New Zealand-bred gelding packs a powerful late kick and Rosario knows him well. We’re expecting the old guy to produce the last run once again.

A couple of hot shot prospects spice up the fourth race, a straight maiden dash for 3-year-olds at six and one-half furlongs. First time starter #3 Mavericks Gun has been quite impressive in the morning according to the private clockers and looks cranked up and ready to show his stuff first time out for Koriner. The son of Officer offers considerable value at 6-1 on the morning line. #6 Mile High Magic has the benefit of a prior run and seems sure to improve for Baffert after encountering a tough trip in his debut last month. The son of Roman Ruler figures to flash improved early speed, assuming he breaks cleanly today, something he failed to do in his debut. Both should be included in rolling exotic play.

The fifth race is a fairly competitive entry level allowance event over a distance of ground on the main track. #3 Strasbourg was the fourth nose on the wire in a similar affair in January and has trained steadily since for Asmussen. First or second in five of eight career starts, the son of Friends Lake should at least be in the frame once again. #7 Graeme Crackerjack is back with Bejarano, who won with him two races back, and if he repeats the speed figure in earned when beating a field of $20,000 claimers in early January he’ll be a strong factor today. The Bonde-trained gelding likes to lag early and cut loose late. #10 American Blend is stuck way outside but is lightly-raced and eligible to improve considerably. The Gaines-trained gelding continues to impress in the morning and retains Rosario. Use all three in your rolling exotics; we’ll slightly prefer American Blend on top.

The sixth race begins the Pick-6 sequence and we’re excited about the prospects of #5 Lake Maracaibo in her racing debut for Spawr. Mike Smith has been out to work her in the morning and the daughter of War Front has done everything easily for a trainer who rarely asks his young stock for speed in the a.m. Listed at 15-1 on the morning line but reportedly much better than that, Lake Maracaibo is a “must use” in rolling exotic play. You should also consider #6 Lobshot, a distant third behind future star Princess Arabella in a hot race on New Year’s Eve and training forwardly since; and #10 Swingaway, a promising daughter of Tapit who shows some nice moves in the morning leading up to her debut for Kruljac.

The seventh race is a stronger than average seven furlong sprint for entry level allowance runners. #2 Da Ruler, very impressive in a brief three-race campaign last year, returns to the track where he graduated at first asking, so we know he can fire fresh. The works are typically Baffert-fast and the son of Roman Ruler looks cranked up and ready to resume his career. We like him on top, but also will use #6 Scofield Barracks, a hard-hitting sprinter and a fast closing second in a highly-rated dash last time out; and #11 Hoorayforholiday, the second Baffert starter who has been freshened since finishing unplaced in the opening day Malibu Stakes but with prior speed figures that can beat this field.

A good group of first level allowance turf milers meet in the eighth race; this is a heat that may require a spread in rolling exotic play. #10 Twin Six is a lightly-raced gelding from the Gaines stable and may have the most upside in the field. Fourth after establishing the pace in a similar event at nine furlongs last month, he figures to enjoy this turn back in trip, and Rosario should have him tucked in behind the leaders, ready to pounce. We’ll also us #11 Tiz a Trip, a sharp recent maiden winner over this course and distance last month and capable of continuing his improving pattern with added experience. Since Rosario opted for Twin Six, eastern based jockey Jose Lezcano picks up the mount on Tiz a Trip. These are the two we’ll be using; big ticket players can add a few more.

The Las Virgenes Stakes is a Grade-1 mile affair for 3-year-old fillies; it’s carded as the ninth race and contains plenty of talent. #3 Killer Graces is hoping for a hot early pace to aid her closing kick; she won the Hollywood Starlet across town in December but was slightly below form when a no excuse runner-up in the subsequent Santa Ysabel S. here the following month. The daughter of Congaree continues to look sharp in the morning and could bounce back with Talamo staying aboard for Hollendorfer. #5 Eden’s Moon, a runaway maiden winner earlier this meeting, missed some time due to illness after that victory but her recent drills indicate she’s fit and ready. She remains very highly regarded by Baffert. #7 Reneesgotzip, unbeaten in two starts and blazingly fast on numbers, gets a chance to show she can handle two turns today. Based on pedigree she should at least stay a mile. She’s a Triple Crown nominee; that pretty much tells you how highly regarded she is by her connections.

The Kilroe Mile occupies the 10th race slot and should serve as another showcase for #1 Mr. Commons, listed as the 4/5 morning line favorite. Already a two time graded stakes winner over this course this season, the son of Artie Schiller lands the good rail and actually drops 3 lbs. in weight. #5 Jeranimo actually beat Mr. Commons during the autumn meeting in the Oak Tree Mile, but Mr. Commons seems to be a better type now. The Shirreffs-trained colt will be a rolling exotic single on many tickets, and deservedly so.

The finale on the program is the Big ‘Cap and while this 10 furlong main track classic lacks a “big” horse it certainly offers plenty of legitimate price opportunities for long shot players. #2 Ultimate Eagle crushed his own age group in the recent Strub Stakes and if his improvement continues the son of Mizzen Mast will be hard to catch once again. He’s not a need-the-lead type but is probably most effective when he can establish his own pace. That could happen here. #3 Ron the Greek is a very sharp Eastern invader with a style that suits this distance perfectly. He’s a fit on speed figures and is a “must use” in the exotics at 6-1 on the morning line. Our preferred top pick, though, is #9 Setsuko, nosed out in this race last year but apparently a better type this time around after being gelded. His first level allowance win last month in his comeback was quite impressive and with a couple of triple digit Beyer numbers in his portfolio the son of Pleasantly Perfect really shouldn’t have to improve much to capture a race he probably should have won last year.