Jeff Siegel's Santa Anita Analysis (Sept. 28, 2012)

The Santa Anita Autumn season begins with a challenging nine race program. Most of the form we’ll be dealing with has been established over all-weather tracks during the past several months (save for the brief bulling meeting at Fairplex Park) so it might be wise to tread lightly early on. Additionally, the main track has been playing somewhat slow and deep during workout hours; whether this continues in the afternoon and creates any type of track bias remains to be seen.

We’re not going to get very creative in the opener; #8 Jones Destiny seems logical after finishing second at Del Mar in a similar spot in August. The Texas-bred gelding lands the cozy outside post while retaining Nakatani and should draft into a lovely pace prompting position. With two steady drills over this track since raced, he should run at least as well today and probably better.

The second race looks wide open and probably demands a spread in rolling exotic play. #6 Tummel has been chasing considerably tougher of late, seems to be improving, and today adds blinkers for the first time. He has the proper style for this extended sprint trip and is a fit on numbers. #7 Hey Yep had everything his own way when beaten as the favorite at Fairplex Park recently; however, he does deserve some consideration because of his excellent record over the Santa Anita main track and the possibility that he’ll wind up as the controlling speed. #8 Hombre Hughes, claimed in his last pair and today going for Lopez (strong with first-after claims), should be rolling late under seven pound bug Sanchez. #9 Panettone must have issues but he has back numbers that would bury this field and he’s dropping a notch off a claim for new trainer Becerera. Preference goes to Tummel but this is a toughie.

The third race sees #6 Brother Francis returning to the conditioned allowance ranks after a strong third place performance in the Del Mar Derby last time out. Earlier this year he wound up an admirable fifth in the Santa Anita Derby behind I’ll Have Another over this main track. The Cassidy-trained colt really should beat this field, though #7 Distort This will enjoy an ideal pace prompting trip and if he can duplicate his turf numbers on the main track he’ll be a factor throughout.

The fourth race is a chaotic turf affair; a legitimate case can be made for several of these. #1 Missie Ky I You is very one-paced so it’s not surprising that she’s 1-for-22 lifetime. However, she did run well in her most recent outing over the Del Mar lawn and she lands the good rail post. #2 Itsphun has powerful turf breeding on both sides of her pedigree and a recent confidence building maiden claiming win could have her headed in the right direction. #3 Around the Twig is another one-paced grinder but she deserves a close look due to the positive switch to Bejarano and her solid runner-up try on turf vs. similar at Hollywood Park two races back. Phoenix invader #9 English Rhythm joins the Mulhall barn via private purchase and her two turf races were quite good, better than rated we believe. With Gomez taking the mount we’re expecting the daughter of English Channel to be taken back and covered up early. Of the four, we’ll slightly prefer English Rhythm but, as noted, this looks like a typical grass grab bag.

The fifth race, for older straight maiden sprinters, is another difficult proposition. #1 Tribe showed some ability in his debut when overcoming a slow start to rally wide and wind up second in a better than average race for the level. He joins the Carla Gaines barn via private purchase and has every right to improve. #4 Just a Mirage switches to Bejarano for his second career outing and is another likely to step forward. The Puype-trained gelding didn’t leave well from the rail in his debut but flashed good zip to rush up and make the running, eventually settling for second while earning a nice number. You had to see the debut race by #7 Mavenofwinterset to believe it. Off poorly and hopelessly far back for a half, the debuting gelding took hold very wide and flew home to just miss while clearly best. Granted, that was a bottom rung maiden claimer but it’s a sign of confidence that new trainer Miller raises him to straight maiden company. These are the three we’ll be using in our rolling exotics; at the price preference goes to Mavenofwinterset.

We’ve got the sixth race down to just two; you may feel the need to go a bit deeper. #1 Sweet Swap ran extremely well in his comeback and we’re expecting a major forward move today from this lightly raced son of Candy Ride. In traffic to the head of the lane, the Sadler-trained colt finally secured room in deep stretch and finished strongest of all before galloping out far in front. #6 No Silent is back sprinting where he might be most effective and is the likely choice and one to beat. Never off the board in six starts (but with four seconds), the Gary Mandella-trained colt retains Bejarano and will be blasting home off the hill. Both fall into the “must use” category in exotic play; we’ll give Sweet Swap a very slight edge simply because he’ll be the better price.

Although it’s very difficult to trust any horse with a 1-for-20 record, #12 Nextdoorneighbor has much going for him in the seventh race, an extended sprint for $25,000 claimers. Drawn beautifully outside and shortening up from two-turns while returning to the main track, the Baffert-trained gelding has won over this Santa Anita dirt surface in the past (his only win, in fact) and makes a major switch to Bejarano. Arguably most effective as a late-running sprinter, the son of Lido Palace exits much tougher races and looks very much like he’s found his friends today.

Today’s eighth race feature is the Eddie D Stakes (formerly the Morvich Stakes) for turf sprinters, many of whom could return on Breeders’ Cup day. #6 Comma to the Top was extremely sharp in his recent Del Mar all-weather win and he can handle turf just as well. He’s always been fast but now has learned to stalk and pounce and that’s the kind of style that works quite well over this downhill course. #9 Red Sun is perfect (2-for-2) over the course; the Gaines-trained gelding ran a winning race when second off the bench going long at Del Mar last month and if he moves forward as expected he’ll be in the thick of things throughout. #13 Unbridled’s Note tries turf for the first time and if he can transfer his outstanding New York main track graded stakes form to this course he’ll be very dangerous. The Asmussen-trained colt also is tackling older foes for the first time but on numbers he’s right there with these. Red Sun may deserve a very slight edge – this is his course – but we’ll go three deep and hope that’s sufficient.

The nightcap is a maiden claiming juvenile filly dash and we’re looking at #6 Kevin’s Kool Kat as a rolling exotic single. The Decarchy filly doesn’t have a whole lot of gate zip but has shown she can finish and gets an extra half furlong to work with today. If there’s a pace meltdown, it will make her task that much easier. At 6-1 on the morning line she offers considerable value in the straight pool as well.