Jeff Siegel's Santa Anita Analysis (Sat., March 24, 2012)

The Saturday program begins with a $32,000 claiming sprint for 3-year-olds. #3 Jack O Lynn moves up a notch following a solid win here last month from off the pace and looks tough right back. He gets an extra half furlong to work with while retaining Bejarano and the Mullins barn has been red hot of late. The one to fear most may be the recent runaway maiden claiming winner #5 Always the Same, though he is facing considerably more early heat today and may be vulnerable if he can’t establish the same kind of clear lead that he did last time out.

An intriguing 10 furlong entry level allowance race on turf occupies the second half of the early daily double. #1 Gab Power likes to lag and then blast home and he should appreciate the extra ground he’ll be working with today, though the expected moderate pace of the race might soften his late kick. Bejarano stays aboard the Eurton-trained gelding. Erbeia is just 1-for-17 lifetime and clearly lacks a winning punch, but he was nosed out at 25-1 in a similar spot last month over a marathon trip so you know he’s fit and in good form. He’s another who prefers to settle early and take hold late. Our top pick in the race is #8 Smug for Drysdale, who always has been strong with second start off layoff runners. Given a run in his recent comeback and lacking a clear path in the final furlong, the son of El Prado switches to Gomez and should draft into a nice mid-pack position. There’s value here at 6-1 on the morning line both in the rolling exotics and in the straight pool.

There’s not much to work with in the third race, a maiden claiming miler for $30,000 3-year-olds. #2 Jay’s Firetruck was beaten less than a length when fourth in a similar affair earlier this month and could move forward today with the switch to Gomez. Strictly on speed figures #4 Midnight Con is the one to beat, having finished second in three of his last four starts and returning to his claim level today for O’Neill. You can also toss in #10 Rude Bobby despite the poor outside draw. He drops a notch after failing to hit the board as the odds-on choice vs. tougher rivals last month but has back figures that make him a solid contender at this level.

Fillies and mares in for a $10,000 claiming tag sprint seven furlongs in the fourth race, and we’ll go two deep in our rolling exotics and hope that’s enough. #2 Moscow Movie takes a sharp drop class for good claiming trainer Chambers and is more than good enough to beat this field off her form from last year. This will be her third start off a layoff and her stalking style should play well at this elongated sprint distance. #9 Lauren C lands the cozy outside post and should fold into a lovely second flight trip. She likes this track, is a solid fit on figures and has that route-to-sprint angle going for her. At 7/2 on the morning line she’s our top pick.

A fairly decent group of sophomore maidens sprint down the hill in the fifth race. #1 Currahee, a solid third on the main track in his debut, has trained well since and should handle the grass, though we’re not crazy about the rail post. He exits a productive race and a bullet six furlong workout nine days ago should have him fit and ready. #12 Canuletmedowneasy earned a big figure when second at 40-1 in a similar turf sprint last month in just his second career outing. He was more than three clear of the rest and probably won’t have to improve much at all to graduate today. We’ll include both in our rolling exotics with slight preference, post and all, to Currahee.

The sixth race is a competitive first level allowance sprint that can be won by #5 Chapman’s Peak if he’s fit and ready in his first start since the Hollywood Park fall meeting in 2010. Sadler brings him back in an allowance race – that’s a very encouraging sign – and the recent works have been sharp. On pure figs he can win and he looks like the controlling speed for a stable that is solid with comebackers. We’re going to put him on top and hope he can dominate from gate to wire.

The seventh race is a starter stakes on turf that looks wide open and probably requires a spread. #5 Gatheratthealter is good enough to win on numbers but he’s unproven at nine furlongs. On the plus side he’s back with Garcia, who has won with him in the past. #8 Unusual Jazz has a win at this trip earlier this meeting, though his last pair against first level allowance foes have been disappointing. Back in a starter race today, the Knapp-trained veteran seems capable of snapping back and deserves inclusion in rolling exotic play. #9 Letsgetitright stretches out, adds blinkers, and is likely to try gate-to-wire tactics. In a race without too much speed, he could be very hard to run down.

The feature today goes as the eighth race at a mile and one-half on the main track. Most of these are unproven over a marathon distance, so there’s some guesswork required. #4 Highway Bandit, one of two Art Sherman-trained entrants, has that grinding style that makes a good long distance runner and we’re expecting this gelding to thoroughly enjoy the trip. Talamo got to know him last time out and stays aboard. The Mitchell-trained #5 Dhaamer gets Lasix for his U.S. debut and was a very useful 10 furlong type overseas last year in decent handicap company. He’s trained well and you have to use him, though he’s thoroughly untested over conventional dirt. #8 Dynamic Host, the second of the two Sherman starters, has been waiting for a shot at a marathon trip all of his life and finally gets the chance. He’s run well for Flores in the past and looks particularly attractive at 8-1 on the morning line.

The ninth race, a maiden special weight dash down the hill for state bred runners, looks like a perfect spot for #12 Suances Candy. Off slowly and then flashing excellent early speed over this course in his debut last month, the Vienna-trained gelding looked headed for victory crossing the dirt, only to drift extremely wide and cost himself his best chance. That he was beaten less than a length while still managing to save second money is a credit to his performance, and if he minds his manners today under Bejarano, he’ll earn his diploma. We’ll make him a straight play and rolling exotic single on our ticket.

The finale is a restricted (non-winners of two) $12,500 claiming sprint that will be won by #3 Solar Rocket if he’s even half the horse he was when last seen around these parts almost 15 months ago. The Baffert-trained six year old will be making only his fifth career start and clearly has big problems, but if he’s feeling good he’ll simply out class this field. If he’s doesn’t fire, well, anybody can win.