Jeff Siegel's Santa Anita Analysis (Thu., Feb. 27, 2014)

A pick-6 carryover of $198,609 looks quite enticing as Santa Anita begins another week of racing with a challenging eight race program over a track that took a considerable amount of overnight rain. Pay close attention to the early races to see if any track bias might exist.

The first race has two main contenders. #6 Silk in Silver has the “blinkers off” angle working for her and she should produce a major forward move in her first start since being claimed by Baltas. With Bejarano taking the mount the lightly-raced daughter of Silver Train looks very likely to be the controlling speed in her first try around two turns. #2 Belonging tries conventional dirt for the first time and there’s no reason she shouldn’t handle the surface switch. For whatever its worth, her two synthetic track numbers were fairly decent.

In the second race, #2 Pray Hard and #3 Well Measured should get the bulk of the play based on the morning line. Play Hard, freshened since December and exiting the much tougher King Glorious Stakes, retains Bejarano and should draft in behind the likely pacesetter #1 Oh Daddy Oh. The latter will try to steal off – and it’s not inconceivable that he will – but we’re thinking that Pray Hard is good enough to wear him down late. Well Measured earned a fairly decent figure in his debut win and has every right to move forward for Miller. In a five runner field, there’s really not much value to be found no matter which direction you go in.

The Pick-6 begins in the third race. #1 This Cat’s Awesome stretches out for the first time and from the rail he’ll likely try gate-to-wire tactics in a race that has been taken off the turf. His pedigree says a mile should be within his range. #2 Arctic Code has numbers that fit but will be making his first start on dirt, so who knows? #3 Zackos My Man has improving numbers and exits a pretty tough race, so despite the low profile connections he’s worth tossing in as well.

The fourth race looks treacherous; we’ll prefer #5 Newfound Gold and #7 Change of Plan but both are committed front runners and could do each other in. Change of Plan might actually be the quicker of the two and if he can shake loose early under the bug boy he might never look back in a field lacking in effective closers. Small ticket players may try to survive using just these two but if you can afford to spread, by all means do so.

The fifth race is an off-the-turf claiming miler for fillies and mares. This is another race that may require a spread because several of the contenders are questionable over conventional dirt. #9 Born Lucky has run well over this track in the past and looks live in her first start for Diodoro following a two month vacation. We’ll put her slightly on top but also include #6 Lilly’s Perfect (second off the claim for Sherman and a dangerous closer if she can handle the track) and #8 Love Tale (good enough to win at this level but completely unproven on anything but turf).

The sixth race should boil down to #5 Thisonesforricky and #6 Sheza Dish. Thisonesforricky has plenty going for her; she’s a second off a layoff play for high percentage trainer Jones and she retains Bejarano. Her speed figures are good enough to beat this below par field of older maiden fillies and mares. Sheza Dish launches a comeback for Kitchingman and has worked like a better type this time around. Her last race at Del Mar charts well with these.

The featured seventh race is another off-the-turfer and the field has been reduced by three late scratches. #6 Baffi Man shouldn’t be inconvenienced by the surface switch; the Hendricks-trained gelding probably is better on dirt, anyway. Baze should have him on or near the lead throughout. #7 Magic Channel has the pedigree to handle conventional dirt (at least on the dam’s side) so it’s anybody’s guess as to how he’ll run; however, he retains Bejarano and he’s proven to be a versatile sort that can win sprinting or routing. These are the two we’ll prefer but feel free to include anybody else that catches your eye.

The nightcap is a weak maiden claimer; the two main players appear to be #5 Divine Way and #8 New Nature, but we’d really like to have the whole field covered. Divine Way has turf figures that are good enough to win but has never actually raced over conventional dirt; he does, however, make a pivotal switch to Bejarano and has trained well enough over this Santa Anita main track to provide hope that he’ll handle it. New Nature has shown he can run a tad for Avila and with only two prior starts very likely has plenty of room to improve. He was an okay third vs. similar earlier this month.