Jeff Siegel's Santa Anita Analysis (Sun., Feb. 16, 2014)

A strong Sunday program starts with a better than average turf miler affair for older maidens. #6 Snaps showed some ability last year but today makes his first start since joining the Richard Mandella barn, and has trained like a much improved type of late. He also has the “blinkers off” angle working for him. We like him on top but in rolling exotic play we’ll also include #5 Scarly Charly, improving with racing, adding blinkers for the first time, and switching to Smith.

The second race is a bottom-rung abbreviated sprint and #1 Gal Has to Like It will be hard to beat if he has one good one left. The huge class drop is a concern, but if he breaks running from the rail under bug boy Van Dyke the Sherman-trained gelding should be able to out foot his soft rivals. If it’s not him, it could be anybody, so we’ll use him as a rolling exotic single without a great degree of confidence.

The Baffle Stakes is carded as the third race, a downhill turf sprint for 3-year-olds. #3 Royal Banker is a route to sprint play for Harty and should regain his best form while returning to turf. He was overmatched in the California Derby up north last month but he isn’t today and is reunited with Nakatani. #2 Gangham Guy ran well in an overnight event over this course and distance last month and seems like a logical exacta partner with ‘Banker.

Restricted (nw-2) $12,500 claimers sprint six and one-half furlongs in the fourth race, the opener of the Pick-6 sequence. We’ll go two-deep but you may find the need to spread. #4 Awesome Indy drops a notch for Jones and seems to have found his proper level. Freshened since late December but training well in the interim, the Golden Missile gelding has run well over this track in the past and should not have any excuses. #7 On My Honor has low profile connections but enough early speed to gain favorable early position. We’d toss him in on a ticket or two.

The San Vicente Stakes looks like a two horse race on paper. #6 Kobe’s Back hasn’t yet run back to his terrific debut score in the Proctor Stakes last summer but he’s had excuses; today we’ll find out if he’s going to be any kind of player in the big races for three year olds this winter and spring. He’s trained remarkably well for Sadler of late and seven furlongs should be an ideal trip for his stalking style. Rosario hopped a plane from Florida to ride him and that should tell you something. #5 Cherubin broke his maiden in sizzling fashion and today will try to carry his speed an extra furlong. He’s the controlling speed, for sure, and it’s entirely possible he’ll dominate throughout. We’ll use both and may the best colt win.

The sixth race is a competitive downhill turf sprint for maiden state-bred fillies and mares. #2 Warren’s Cracker figures to fire a big shot; the Guitierrez-trained filly has been freshened since December, switches to Smith, and is a route-to-sprint play. She’s looked very good in the morning lately and we’re expecting her to be rolling home in the final furlong. #1 Van Dien Avenue just finished second in a similar spot and should be in the battle once again, while #8 Autumn View retains Bejarano and seems like the best of the pace-pressing types. All three should appear on your rolling exotic tickets.

Maiden 3-year-olds sprint six furlongs in the seventh race. This does not look like a particularly tough event; the first timers really don’t impress so we’ll stick with the known element, #5 Nooten. He’s no world beater but won’t have to be and with Smith staying aboard the gelded son of Mud Route seems ready to graduate. A shaky single? Perhaps, but it’s either that or spread the race and we don’t feel comfortable doing that.

#7 Bee Brave was impressive winning her U.S. debut last month and moves up a notch today while trying to remain unbeaten in the eighth race, a nine furlong turf event for fillies and mares. The Callaghan-trained import has an excellent closing kick and should be along in time under Bejarano. #5 Journey On stretches out again and could be the controlling speed; nine furlongs might be a bit far for her but she’s a tough filly and will take them as far as she can.

The finale is a mess; it’s an ultimate spread race for rolling exotic players. #3 Natal has trained pretty well for Sadler and really won’t have to be much to win at first asking, so we’ll put her on top as a shaky single. The known element isn’t much, that’s for sure. We’re not planning to get heavily involved in this race.