Jeff Siegel's Santa Anita Analysis (Sun., Feb. 23, 2014)

The Sunday opener is a maiden $40,000 claimer that drew six entrants, including the two logical contenders, #2 Fast Moka Too and #3 Jetbird. Away since April of 2012 but training well enough to expect a top effort, the Ellis-trained Fast Moka Too makes her first start on conventional dirt and has only one way to go, on the front end for as far as she can take them. Jetbird should be pressing the issue as well, and in her first start for a tag, the Pender-trained filly will appreciate the class drop. However, they’re the two favorites so this race might be best left alone.

The second race drew just fine runners and looks like an ideal spot for #3 Craving Carats. Second down the hill in his first start since arriving from Florida, the Miller-trained gelding drops a notch, adds blinkers, and stretches out to what probably is his favorite trip. In a below par field for the level, he seems the solid choice. #5 Anythingscookin is a need-the-lead type who will take them as far as he can. While he’s hit the board in all five of his starts over the local lawn, he has yet to win.

Class dropping claimers from the Baffert barn usually are over bet and under achieve, so we hesitate to embrace #6 Key Vista with any large degree of enthusiasm in the third race; yet the lightly-raced mare looks like the speed of the speed from her comfortable outside and her recent works indicate she’s ready to fire in the first start in two months. A repeat of her race before last buries this group, but because of the layoff there’s a question of her current condition. #3 Thermal Nermal has never raced on anything but turf but there’s no panicky drop and with Bejarano taking the mount she’s probably pretty live in here. We’ll use both in our rolling exotics.

Bottom rung maiden claimers meet over a distance of ground in the fourth race. #1 Right On Schedule has the classic two-sprints-and-a-stretch out pattern and the rail to go along with it, so the Walsh-trained gelding should be prominent throughout in a race that should be slowly run early. He’s certainly bred to run this far and may improve with the switch to Baze. #3 Roman Tizzy drops drastically from straight maidens to $20,000 and should benefit greatly from the easier competition; he retains Talamo and is a solid fit on the speed figures. However, once again these are the two morning line favorites so there’s not a lot of value to be found.

Undefeated #5 Velvet Mesquite was scratched the other day for this main track miler in the fifth race and we’re curious, as trainer Heap must be, to see how she handles conventional dirt and two-turns both for the first time. She’s not terribly fast on speed figures but she certainly has a fair degree of quality and she continues to impress in the morning. On pedigree she’s “iffy” at this trip, so we’ll see. #6 Include the Cat may have been a tad rusty in her recent comeback but should be fitter and sharper today for Miller, and the veteran daughter of Include has several back numbers that would be more than good enough to win. Blanc should have her doing her best work late.

The sixth race is a hillside turf sprint for starter allowance runners and we’re expecting both #4 Fighting On and #8 Clubhouse Rock to run very well. Fighting On, second in a similar event earlier this month, has maintained his form in the morning for Hess and won’t have to improve much at all to handle this assignment. He has a good stalking style and Talamo stays aboard. Clubhouse Rock earned a fairly decent figure in beating bottom-rung maiden claimers recently in his first start since March of 2012 and it’s encouraging that Lewis chooses to protect him today. From where he’s drawn, the son of Flatter should draft into a perfect pace prompting position, and if he handles the course he’ll be right there.

The seventh race is another maiden claiming affair, this one for $30,000 3-year-olds. None of these are trustworthy but at least three have credentials to run well. #6 California Jade isn’t fast on numbers but at least he hit the board in a similar spot earlier this month and retains Talamo, so there’s that. #1 W. Giles, a so-so third in his debut against similar last month, has worked okay since that race and may improve enough to pose a threat. Harrington’s not too bad with second-timers. #4 Como Mi Padre was far back in his debut but that was against light years better company than he’s facing today and with this monumental class drop and the shortening in trip the Heap-trained colt almost has to run well by default.

The featured eighth race is the Joe Hernandez for older sprinters down the hill. #6 Sweet Swap was likely best in the recent Clockers’ Corner Stakes; the Sadler-trained colt stumbled badly and appeared to lose all chance yet rallied bravely through the lane and wound up second, beaten a bit more than a length. It was a hard, taxing effort off a long layoff, though, so there’s always the possibility of a “bounce.” Hopefully, he won’t, and with two solid workouts since that race we’re going to assume that he’ll run as well today. #4 Unbridled’s Note is back sprinting and won the Daytona Stakes over this course and distance earlier this month. He’s always tough to beat under these conditions.

The ninth is yet another maiden claimer, this one a split of the fourth race. We’re going to take a flyer on #5 Tempest Rising, a second-time starter from the good Leonard Powell stable. Last of nine in his debut vs. similar though not beaten too badly, he’ll add blinkers today and has shown much improved form in the morning of late while working with the hood on. He’s 10-1 on the morning line and quite likely will go higher, so let’s use him. #2 Indygo Andy, beaten a head in the same race ‘Rising exits, is the likely choice and one to beat though he picks up a significant amount of weight today. #6 Street Maven, away since April of last year, returns in a very soft spot for Kitchingman and ran okay vs. tougher in his two starts last year. This is the kind of race begging to be won by a fresh face and he certainly fits the bill.