Jeff Siegel's Santa Anita Analysis (Sun., March 25, 2012)

As this is penned, the rains haven’t yet arrived at Santa Anita but we’re told they’re coming. Unsure of the type of race track we’ll be dealing with, our best advice is to tread lightly.

The first race finds #2 Salty Sarah dropping drastically in class for Baffert; clearly she’s more than good enough to win a $25,000 claimer, but what kind of condition is she in? This barn has a good record with huge class droppers, so we’re inclined to assume that the veteran mare will be okay for at least today. #4 Halfapondarosa won’t beat Salty Sarah if that one fires, but if she doesn’t than this daughter of More Than Ready seems like a logical alternative. First off the claim for Doug O’Neill and being raised two levels in class, she gets a break in the weights with the switch to bug boy Flores and has the proper style for this seven furlong trip.

The second race is a low level middle distance main track claimer that brings back #2 Capture the Call, an all-out winner for $8,000 earlier this month. Claimed out of that race by solid trainer Terry Knight, the veteran gelding should run at least as well today. #4 No Stadium switches to the Spawr barn and could show some improvement today. Rosario takes over and the stretch running son of Gone West really won’t have to improve all that much to win. These are the two we’ll be using in our rolling exotics; you may feel the need to go a bit deeper.

#3 Rocket Roan looks well spotted in the third race, a $16,000 claimer over a distance of ground. First off the claim for Pedersen after finishing a solid second over this track earlier this month, the son of Tribunal switches to Rosario and should draft into a comfortable second flight trip. In an empty affair, we’re expecting Rocket Roan to be along in time.

The San Luis Rey Stakes will go as the fourth race and be contested entirely over the main turf course, with the starting gate being placed at the head of the backstretch, not up the hill as is usually the case. This is in deference to the anticipated rain; officials don’t want the horses to have to cross over a sloppy main track. #5 Bourbon Bay always has loved this turf course, and after finishing a close fourth – and appearing a bit rusty – in the recent San Marcos Stakes, the son of Sligo Bay should be dead fit and ready to show his best. And his best is more than good enough to win. He’s a single in our book.

The fifth race is an extended sprint for $12,500 sellers and probably requires a spread in rolling exotic play. We’ll try to survive using #2 My Man Sumo, runner up for $8,000 in his comeback last month and raised two levels in class by Ellis in what we’re taking as a show of confidence; and #3 Hidden Blessing, a two level class dropper for Mitchell with competitive figures but winless in six starts over this track.

The sixth race is another raffle, a bottom rung maiden claimer for older fillies and mares. Factor in the possibility of a wet track and we’re pretty much reduced to guessing. #1 Babeneau is slow on numbers but she seems to be gradually improving for good trainer Ellis and if she can avoid trouble from the rail she should be competitive. #6 Candys Girl adds blinkers for the first time and might be worth using on that angle alone, although having failed as the favorite in her last pair she’s certainly not one to trust. #7 Lovely Sophia, freshened since mid January, is a 13-race maiden but is a fit on speed figures and occasionally produces a the type of late kick that could be dangerous at this extended sprint distance. Hopefully, the winner will be one of these three.

The Santa Ana Stakes for older fillies and mares is the second feature race of the day. The old cliché, “top to bottom a chance” certainly applies here. #2 Cambrina found her best stride too late when fifth in the recent Buena Vista Handicap; she switches to Gomez, gets an extra furlong to work with and with racing luck could produce the last run. #6 Camelia Rose just missed in her U.S. debut against a lesser field but was impressive nonetheless and retains Rosario, who could have ridden #4 Strawberrydaiquri if he wanted to. Either one could win, with Guitierrez picking up the mount on Ben Cecil’s mare. #11 City to City must leave from the extreme outside post but there was nothing flukish about her Buena Vista victory and today’s extra distance won’t hurt her in the least. Spread, spread, spread.

The eighth race is a starter’s allowance sprint and brings back #1 So Tough, an impressive first out maiden claiming winner last summer at Del Mar but away since then after being claimed by Sadler. The comeback works are okay, nothing fancy, but this barn has exceptional stats with first-off-claims and comebackers so this Old Topper gelding may be the one to beat. We’ll also use #3 Bull Ring, a disappointing sixth down the hill last month but back on the main track today and extremely dangerous based on the huge speed figure he earned when breaking his maiden two runs back. This is another very tough race that might prove very attractive to price shoppers.

The nightcap, another bottom rung maiden claimer, looks like a good spot for both #2 Smart Hombre and #9 Father Pabst. The former adds blinkers for the first time after finishing in the money in his last two and with any kind of forward move figures to be tough to beat. Of course, he did get beat last time - at 2/5 – so he’d be a dicey single today. The latter may be hooking less early zip than he saw in his last start and could stick around a long time while shortening up a half furlong.