Jeff Siegel's Santa Anita Analysis (Sat., March 22, 2014)

An excellent Saturday program begins with a competitive mid-grade claiming sprint. #4 Peacenik disappointed when perhaps not caring for the wet fast surface last time out but he remains above his claim level so Spawr must still like him. We’ll give him a chance to make amends. #3 Muchos Besos, first off the claim for Lewis, has always liked this main track and will be doing his best work late. Both should be included in rolling exotic play.

The second race, a downhill turf sprint for maiden 3-year-old fillies, looks difficult so we’ll go three deep with preference to #5 Nazareth. Back sprinting after losing her punch over nine furlongs last month, the Puype-trained filly may be best as a late-running sprinter and gets ideal conditions today, so we’ll put her on top. #4 La Sorella is improving with racing and should be part of the pace throughout. #7 Shapely is a first timer by Empire Maker and might want a bit more ground, but she’s trained well enough to be used in rolling exotic play.

We’ll double the third race, a bottom-rung maiden claimer over a distance of ground. #3 Street Maven ran well vs. similar when second in his first start in 10 months, so there’s every reason to believe he’ll be fitter and tougher today. We like him on top but we'll also include #4 We Have Lift Off, the pacesetter in the same race ‘Maven exits and switching to Maldonado while trying to continue his improving pattern. We can’t really find much to like about any of the others.

The pick-6 begins in the fourth race, the San Luis Rey Stakes at 12 furlongs on turf. #1 Vagabond Shoes was thoroughly convincing in his San Marcos Stakes score against essentially the same group last month and we have every reason to believe he’ll run just as well, if not better, today. Espinoza fits him perfectly and should have the Sadler-trained gelding along in time as a straight play and rolling exotic single.

A good group of maidens sprint five and one-half furlongs in the fifth race; we’ll go three deep but you may choose to include a few more. #4 Midnight Storm has done everything right in the morning and acts like a quality colt; he’s shown enough speed to be dangerous at this trip so he’s a “must use” in the exotics. The one to catch, no doubt, is #6 Gameboy Luke, adding blinkers and exiting a hot race while shortening up a furlong for Glatt. He’s an experienced colt and his numbers are rising with each start. #3 Loudon’s Gray also has worked like a nice sort, should be plenty fit enough for Mulhall, and is worth using in the exotics on a few tickets.

The sixth race is a high priced claiming miler on turf and is especially difficult with a number of logical options. The two that we’ll prefer are #5 El Commodore and #8 Stoney Fleece, but feel free to go deeper if you can afford to. El Commodore stretches out again and if he can make the lead without undue pressure he could take this field a long way. Stoney Fleece does his best running from off the pace and should have enough speed up front to aid his closing kick. He’s genuine and consistent, having finished first or second in 13 of 27 career starts.

The seventh race is no picnic, either. #12 Tuckers Point gets the worst of the draw but he looked good winning vs. a similar group here last month and he’s strung together winning performances in the past, so we’re anticipating another huge effort. #11 Paseo Alegro makes a favorable trainer switch via a claim by Belvoir and all of his recent efforts have been solid. He’s dangerous when he makes the lead but has won from off the pace as well, so Nakatani has a few options. These are the two we’ll prefer but this is another race that might require a spread.

The Pasadena Stakes, for 3-year-olds over a mile on turf, is an excellent feature race and it will take a very good colt to win it. #5 Quotient was visually quite impressive breaking his maiden at nine furlongs last month and was subsequently sold privately. He makes his debut for Sadler barn today and if his improving continues he can spring an upset. This drop back to a mile shouldn’t inconvenience the son of Stormy Atlantic. #1 Enterprising returns to turf, lands the good rail, and is strictly the one to beat based on his Eddie Logan Stakes score over this course and distance earlier this season. #4 Diamond Bachelor, back on grass where he belongs, is another likely to return to top form. He continues to impress in the morning and switches to Smith. We’ll use all three in our rolling exotics while pressing a bit with the best price, Quotient, on top.

The finale is a restricted (non-winners of two) claiming sprint for fillies and mares, and anything goes. #7 Corinthian Melody gets what probably is her favorite distance (seven furlongs) and a repeat of her maiden claiming win two races back makes her a major player in this group. #9 Brandon’s Princess, away since August, launches a comeback with a steady work pattern and should be prominent throughout. These are the two that we’ll prefer but not with a high degree of confidence.