Jeff Siegel's Santa Anita Analysis (Sun., Jan. 26, 2014)

A massive $430,875 Pick-6 Carryover makes Sunday’s card a “must play” and the sequence (races 4 through 9) appears manageable. Let’s dive in.

In the opener, #8 Mank has trained like a better sort this time around for Shirreffs and in a below par field of older straight maidens the son of Pulpit looks dangerous in his first start in almost two years. We’re expecting Nakatani to have him rolling in the final furlong. #3 Bench Press adds blinkers after being disqualified from a maiden $40,000 claimer in November; he’s being protected today in a sign of confidence and has worked decently of late for Sadler. Based on speed figures #5 Forest Boy is a solid fit, though his zero-for-10 lifetime record in hard to get past. We’ll use all three in our rolling exotics and then press a bit with Mank on top.

The second race, a six-runner affair for older fillies and mares, will have #6 Melanistic as the logical favorite; however, she’s pretty much a need-the-lead type and she may not get that kind of golden trip today. If she can switch off early under Bejarano, she’ll probably win. #1 Include the Cat, away since June, hails from the red-hot Miller barn; however, her comeback workouts have been average at best. We’ll use both in our rolling exotics without any great conviction; feel free to buy the race if you can afford to.

Bottom-rung maiden claimers sprint five and one-half furlongs in the third race. #5 Exclude drops to his lowest level ever for Mandella and seems to have found his friends. The son of Tiznow continues to work well and may be a bit better than shown. If he doesn’t win, anybody can. We suggest you tread lightly or pass the race altogether.

The Pick-6 begins with the fourth race, a good allowance miler on turf that has several contenders. #5 Artic North exits the San Gabriel Stakes (finished a decent third) and today drops to a realistic spot. The Miller-trained gelding retains Talamo and should be running on strongly late. #2 Den’s Legacy is as one-paced as it gets and hasn’t won since 2012 but he always tries hard and should be in the battle throughout. #3 Horizonatalyspeakin could be the controlling speed and if left alone up front he might get very brave. Plus, he’s back with Bejarano, who won on him over this course during the fall meeting.

#9 Everheart has yet to get out of the gate cleanly in two career starts but she continues to train well and one of these days the light switch might go on. Drawn comfortably outside in the fifth race, an extended maiden claiming sprint, the Glatt-trained filly looks capable of producing the last run in a below par field for the level. #1 Q Viva, a closing third in a slow race in her debut, has a right to improve with experience but must overcome the rail. #8 Bert’s Melody is bred for speed (Bertrando) and has shown enough in the morning to warrant a look in this league. These are the three we’ll be including in our rolling exotic ticket; you can add a few more if you feel it’s necessary.

The sixth race is a downhill turf sprint for maiden 3-year-old fillies. #11 Pragmatical has done good work in the morning for Puype and looks fit and ready for a huge run first crack out of the box. She lands the cozy outside post and gets Smith, and with her pedigree (More Than Ready) there’s every expectation that she’ll love grass. #3 Divine Way has shown she can run a bit and may be worth using, though a decent filly probably will beat her. #7 Bird In Love is a sneaky first-timer from the O’Neill barn with Bejarano taking the call. She’s trained well enough to be considered a contender.

The seventh race marks the comeback of the highly-regarded Sawyer’s Hill, an excellent third in his debut at Del Mar last summer before being stopped on. His recent works have been outstanding for Mullhall, and the son of Spring At Last looks extremely live from his outside draw under Bejarano. Small ticket players should consider him as a possible single; others capable of going a bit deeper should also take a close look at #1 Chelios (strong second in his debut, capable of improving for Baffert) and #6 Superlooper (solid works for Baffert and bred for much speed).

The featured Clockers’ Corner Stakes for older turf sprinters has attracted a few of the usual suspects, including #3 Boat Trip, winner of the Hollywood Turf Express two races back. The Pender-trained horse flattened out over a mile in his most recent outing but he’s back where he belongs today and should be flying through the lane. #6 El Commodore is genuine and consistent and ran his heart out when second in the Daytona Stakes over this course and distance last month. He’ll be in the firing line again. #9 Ready for More crushed claimers two weeks ago in fast time and returns off short rest for new trainer Mitchell (27% with a flat-bet profit). He looks like a strong contender despite the class hike.

The nightcap, a restricted (nw-2) claiming sprint, is one of those “use-as-many-as-you-can-afford-to” affairs. #8 Tribal Smoke is lightly-raced with a bit of improvement in him for Mullins; he retains Pedroza and should be within striking range throughout. We’ll put him slightly on top but also toss in #5 Mary Helen’s Storm (runner-up vs. similar last month) and #9 Warren’s Tyler S. (a fit on numbers, has a prior win over the track, and retains Bejarano).