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

With a strong nine race program, Santa Anita begins a five day run that carries right through New Year’s Day.

In the opener, Justa Gusta takes a realistic class drop and should stick better at this level. He looks like the best of the speed types. Bay Area shipper Surprise Sale, first off the claim for Josephson, has a strong closing style and gets ideal conditions based on the projected race shape. He sports a very good work (2nd fastest of 42) last week, lands Talamo, and deserves top billing.

The second race is a tough downhill turf sprint necessitating a spread in rolling exotic play. Miss Becca, first off the claim for Miller, has run well over this course in the past and looks dangerous from off the pace, rail and all. She earned a career top figure when beating $40,000 claimers at Hollywood Park in her last start and further improvement is possible. Eileen’s Dream won cleverly down the hill during the autumn meeting and has been freshened since by Sadler. She continues to impress in the morning and is another likely to move forward. We’ll give her a slight edge on top. Lemon Hero always poses a late threat and both of her efforts over the Hillside Course were strong. Bejarano stays aboard.

Miles Heir just won a similar bottom rung router across town and picks up two pounds while seeking a repeat in the third race. He’s won over this track in the past, so he deserves another look. However, our top pick is Aqua Fever, freshened since a score vs. similar here in October, training well of late for Mullins and appearing fit and ready for another big try.

The fourth race kicks off the Pick-6 and is a typical grass grab bag. We’ll use four and hope that’s enough. Four Better is a route-to-sprint play for O’Neill and at this level could represent danger from off the pace. She’s a non-winner in the U.S. but gets ideal conditions and is worth using in the exotics. Ms. G. I. Jane moves up a notch after a nice turf sprint win across town. She’s had prior success over the course and warrants a strong look despite her low profile connections. Nice Meidel is a first-off-the-claim play for Miller and switches to Gomez. Her two comeback races were somewhat lackluster but her back form coupled with the barn switch makes her usable in rolling exotic play. Pick and Pray, away since May but good enough to beat this field on her best day, gets a favorable pace scenario and has run well fresh in the past. Both of her races over this turf course were good. We’ll give a slight edge to Ms. G. I. Jane without any great conviction.

Political Man is a Midwestern invader with competitive numbers and may be a bit better than shown. In a weak bottom rung maiden claimer that goes as the fifth race, he looks dangerous from off the pace and gets top preference. Only the Gold is a blinkers-off play (love those) and stretches out again after flopping at 3/5 at Hollywood Park in a recent extended sprint. He also switches to Bejarano while dropping to his lowest level ever, so it’s pretty much now or never for this Jones-trained gelding.

The sixth race is a restricted nw-2 $12,500 claimer that looks like a good spot for Awesome Year, who drops for the money run, returns to the main track and is a perfect one-for-one at Santa Anita. We’ll also toss in Jay’s Firetruck, a recent maiden winner with competitive figs, and Clear, a stretch-out play after a sprint tightener vs. tougher at Hollywood Park last month.

The seventh race for older maiden fillies and mares may boil down to Dime Piece and Fantastic Mizz. Both have credentials and both come from the Shirreffs stable. The former missed as the favorite vs. similar last month but her best effort came over the course two runs back and that race probably beats this bunch. The latter is improving with racing and turned in a strong bullet drill (fastest of 52) last week, so another improved effort is likely. We should be able to survive in our rolling exotics with just these two while slightly preferring Fantastic Mizz on top.

The eighth race feature is expected to showcase Super Ninety Nine. He’s a quality colt and should regain his winning form after failing at 4/5 in the Prevue Stakes at Hollywood Park last month. The shortening to six furlongs shouldn’t be an issue for the son of Pulpit, who continues to shine in the morning. Back with Garcia, who won on him over this track in his debut in October, the Baffert-trained colt is a logical short priced rolling exotic single.

The nightcap is a modest maiden claiming dash for juveniles. Money Makin Sam shortens up in trip while retaining Maldonado and has numbers that can win. We’ll use him in our rolling exotics but we’ll prefer Zippingaroundtown, the quickest of the quick and likely to get brave at this abbreviated sprint distance.