Jeff Siegel's Santa Anita Analysis (Fri., April 4, 2014)

On the eve of Santa Anita Derby day, the eight race Friday program offers a few attractive wagering opportunities.

In the opener, #1 Tiz the Key looks well-placed in her comeback; the daughter of Tiznow showed some ability last year and has been training like a better type this time around for Mandella. She gets the rail and Stevens and should draft into a good pace-stalking position. #5 Thisonesforricky was almost 11 lengths clear of the rest when nosed out in a similar event earlier this season; with Bejarano riding her back for Jones the five-year-old mare is quite logically the to beat.

We’ll go two-deep in the second race, an extended sprint for $25,000 claimers. #4 First Strike crushed a slightly softer field over a wet fast track recently and earned a giant figure; he moves up a notch for new trainer Kitchingman and sports a bullet blowout since raced. The veteran gelding loves to win, loves this track, and seems sure to fire another big shot. #3 Dress Code also was a big-figure winner last time out; he shortens up in trip but he’s won at seven furlongs and shows three fast recent works to indicate he remains on edge.

The Pick-6 begins with the third race, a maiden claiming sprint for 3-year-olds. #2 Bart the Barrister was very well-meant in his debut but probably lost his best chance when breaking slowly; the Southern Image gelding kept to his task to wind up third and was promptly claimed by Hendricks. Improvement can be expected so we’ll put him slightly on top over #6 W. Giles, second in the same race ‘Barrister exits. The Swiss Yodeler gelding has rising speed figures and the “blinkers off” angle. Both should be included in rolling exotic play.

The fourth race is a very difficult nine furlong starter’s allowance event on turf for fillies and mares. If you’re going to spread a race, this is the one. #9 A P Pepper was nosed out in a similar affair on the main track last month and if she can duplicate that performance on turf she’ll be tough to beat, outside post and all. She switches to Talamo but is picking up seven lbs. #5 Lakota Road is a maiden but has speed figures that make her a threat and with the switch to Bejarano we’ll toss her in. #6 Tiz Zoe Cee doesn’t have much acceleration but she’ll enjoy the extra distance and could come running on late. These are the three we’ll be using but feel free to toss in anybody else that catches your eye.

Bottom-rung claimers meet over a mile in the fifth race, a treacherous affair with nothing to trust. #7 Fit to Rule just beat a $16,000 field with a strong number but shows up today for $8,000 so his condition must be questioned. Bejarano stays aboard so if he has one good one left the Glatt-trained gelding will be hard to beat. #4 Big Wags also is dropping off a win – he just won a photo for $10,000 – and must pick up nine lbs. today, so a repeat won’t be easy. #5 Tuckers Point has a look off his clever score two runs back and should improve his last try while breaking from a better post today. This is a race we’re not planning to get too involved with.

The sixth race should boil down to #4 Rhagori and #8 Moulin de Mougin, with the latter getting a slight nod in a tough event. The daughter of Curlin overcame a poor draw to beat a softer field in convincing fashion and looks capable of winning right back on the raise for Mandella. She’s lightly raced with plenty of upside. Rhagori was a thoroughly pleasing winner of her U.S. debut last month for Callaghan, retains Bejarano, and continues to impress in the morning. The extra furlong of today’s event is a positive as well. Tough call.

The featured seventh race, a first-level six furlong sprint for fillies and mares, looks fairly contentious with three main contenders. #3 My Sweet Addiction broke her maiden in good style last summer at Hollywood Park and then disappeared; she’s trained like she’s fit and ready for Jones and is a solid fit in the speed figure department. The daughter of Tiznow appears to be a filly of some quality. #5 Sidebar beat a starter’s allowance field with a strong number last time out but this is a tougher field. We’ll see what she’s made of today. #1 Seattle Charlie broke her maiden for fun last month though the number wasn’t particularly noteworthy. She’ll have to improve, especially from the rail, but seems capable of doing that for the always-potent Hollendorfer-Bejarano team.

The finale is a very strong Hillside turf sprint for California-bred 3-year-olds and it’s going to take a pretty nice colt to win it. #6 The Custodian was given a run in his debut and should get serious today; the son of Square Eddie continues to impress in the morning for O’Neill and figures to enjoy turf and the extra distance. Look for him to be running on strongly late. #1 Stake Hunter hasn’t fared well in two career starts but his form has been compromised by trouble; we’ll give him one more chance as the Mullins-trained gelding shortens up in trip and continues to flash ability in the morning. #8 Golden Chalice is a first-timer with a series of impressive works and looks like a live item for Gaines. All three are worth including in rolling exotic play.