Jeff Siegel's Santa Anita Analysis (Sat., Feb. 8, 2014)

A terrific Saturday program opens with an apparent standout in the first race, a downhill starter’s allowance turf sprint. #4 Yankee Rebel hasn’t won in two years – that’s hard to believe – but he continues to lay his body down and is due to breakthrough. He shortens up in trip and really has the perfect style for the course. However, at 8/5 on the morning line the Hollendorfer-trained colt doesn’t offer a whole lot of value.

The second race is a maiden sprint for 3-year-olds that drew just six starters. #3 Little Curlin is making progress with experience, most recently finishing a willing third from off the pace. He gets an extra half furlong to work with today while retaining Bejarano and should be a strong late threat. #4 Act is a first timer from the Sadler barn and acts like a quick colt in the morning. This stable does especially well with debut runners, so this son of War Front looks extremely live. #6 Pimpernel continues to train well for Baffert but he’s been a beaten choice in all three of his career starts and certainly isn’t one to trust. He’s probably the one to catch, though.

We’ll go two-deep in our rolling exotics in the third race, an extended sprint for $16,000 claimers. Los Alamitos-based Muchos Besos always has liked this main track and lands a cozy outside post. He’s a first-off-the-claim for Treece and after a bit of freshening should fire a big shot. #3 Magic Beam drops a notch and should be closing well; we’ll use him on a ticket or two despite the fact that he’s winless in 10 starts over the Santa Anita main track.

The fourth race kicks off the Pick-6. It’s a wide open maiden turf router for older fillies and mares that probably requires a spread. #1 Nashoba’s Gold is a beautifully-bred daughter of Smart Strike and has trained well enough to be included in what looks to be a below par field for the level. Gaines does very well with debut runners and Talamo is her go-to rider. #2 Sweet as a Rose has an improving pattern and with another forward move should be right there. Bejarano rides her back and the daughter of War Pass shouldn’t be inconvenienced by the nine furlong trip. #6 Nazareth, a promising third down the hill in her debut, switches to Smith and is another that should appreciate the nine furlong journey.

The San Antonio Stakes, one of three graded events on today’s program, is carded as the fifth race. #5 Game on Dude has been beaten just twice in nine starts over the Santa Anita main track, both defeats coming in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He returns fit and ready based on his recent workouts and should draft into an ideal pace prompting position behind the likely pacesetter #3 Blueskiesnrainbows. At equal weights with his main rival, Game on Dude should get back on the winning track.

The sixth race, a restricted (nw-2) claiming sprint for fillies and mares, finds #7 Beautiful Spirit well placed for a big effort and we’ll use her along with #2 Secret Memo in our rolling exotics. Beautiful Spirit drops to her lowest level ever while switching to Bejarano and looks capable of producing the last run. Secret Memo is wheeled back quickly by Miller and returns to a sprint; she’ll be out winging and a repeat of her race before last probably will be good enough to beat this group.

The San Marcos Stakes at 10 furlongs on turf goes as the seventh race; #6 Jeranimo has never been known to string good ones together but if repeats the quality of his recent San Gabriel Stakes score he’ll be hard to deny once again. The eight year old continues to shine in the morning for Pender and he seems to respond best under Bejarano. Small ticket players may consider singling him; we’ll have a few backup tickets on #7 Lucayan, a sharp winner of the Hollywood Turf Cup in December and ready to take his place among the premiere turf runners in the West for Drysdale.

The featured eighth race is the Robert B. Lewis Stakes for 3-year-olds at a mile and one sixteenth. #3 Midnight Hawk is unbeaten in two starts and we’re expecting him to remain that way. The Baffert-trained colt is strong in the speed figure department and continues to look impressive in the morning. How far does he really want to run? Well, he just won at a mile so we’re not worried too much about a mile and one-sixteenth. #1 Candy Boy, second to champion Shared Belief in the Cash Call Futurity, should continue to improve with maturity and is the one Midnight Hawk has to worry about the most. We’ll use both in our rolling exotics.

The finale is a mid-grade claiming turf affair over a mile; best advice is to use as many as you can afford to. #9 Trelawny looked quite sharp winning a similar event over this course and distance last month and the Mullins-trained gelding can be expected to fire a big shot again today. #8 Diamondsdiplomat, very popular at the claim box lately, stretches out again for new trainer Spawr and this gelding’s best puts him right there. #4 Swift Eagle, freshened since October, returns in a realistic spot and is back with Bejarano. He’s winless over the course but at this level he has to be given a look.