Jeff Siegel's Santa Anita Analysis (Sunday, April 20, 2014)

The Easter Sunday program offers a nine race program and mandatory payouts in the Pick-5, the Pick-6 and the Super High 5.

The opener is pretty much unplayable; #4 Wine Country Wanda was eight lengths clear of the rest when second in a similar spot last month and is listed at 2/5 on the morning line. Use her as a rolling exotic single if you’d like, or simply pass the race.

The second race has a few question marks and probably requires a spread. #1 Askingfortrouble, away since July of 2012, returns cheap for Sadler and clearly has big problems. However, if he has one good one left he’ll probably show it today. The works seem decent and the barn is solid with layoff runners. #4 Mary Helen’s Storm missed in a photo in a similar restricted claimer last month and if he can turn in two alike he’ll be right there. #5 Cuneo drops and switches to Bejarano and is a fit on figures. We’ll be surprised if the winner isn’t one of these three but none are what you’d call trustworthy.

The third race, at 10 furlongs on turf, boils down to #4 Abbey Vale and #5 Hear the Ghost and both should be included in rolling exotic play. Abbey Vale was a clever winner of his U.S. debut last month and has trained well since, so we’re expecting a similar performance by this Mitchell-trained gelding. The added distance is well within his range. Hear the Ghost ran huge in his recent turf debut but Bejarano jumps off to ride Abbey Vale, for whatever that’s worth. However, Nakatani has gotten plenty of run out of this gelding in the past and should have him within striking range throughout.

The comebacking #5 Spy Girl looks well-spotted in the fourth race, the first leg of the Pick-6. The Miller-trained filly flashed huge speed last summer as a juvenile and then was stopped on; she could be a better type this time around and her drills at San Luis Rey Downs indicate fitness. This abbreviated sprint trip should help matters as well. #2 Faith Hope Love has plenty of zip but has had some trouble finishing; she adds blinkers today and will help insure a hot pace. #8 Enchanted Fortune is a first timer from the Baffert barn with a series of sharp drills and looks plenty fit for a big effort. The colt she’s been working with (Doctor Dempsey) won at first asking yesterday.

Expensive maiden claimers sprint down the hill in the fifth race and there appears to be two main players. #9 Secret Appeal tipped her hand with an excellent runner-up effort in her debut and any kind of forward move should land her in the winner’s circle. #11 Nazareth drops into a claimer for the first time, is a fit on figures, and looks like the most dangerous of the stalking/closing types.

#2 Sams Blue Cat is an intriguing price play in the sixth race, a $25,000 claimer restricted to 3-year-olds. Listed at 6-1 on the morning line, the Pender-trained colt removes blinkers (love that angle), switches to Talamo, and drops to his lowest level ever. He does his best work from off the pace and there should be enough early speed in this heat to aid his cause. Also worth including in rolling exotic play are #4 Good Samurai (easy maiden claiming win last month with an nice figure but probably catching a bit more heat today) and #8 Seeking Asylum (gradually improving and likely to enjoy a nice pace-pressing trip outside).

The seventh race, a Hillside turf sprint, looks made to order for #8 Rangi, a recent winner over this course and distance with a strong figure and capable of scoring right back. Maldonado should have him on the front end once again. The best of the closers might be #10 Examen, away since October and possibly prepping for longer, but training well for Proctor and worth a strong look at a price under bug boy Van Dyke.

#3 Beholder, last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner, returns for Mandella in the featured San Lucia Stakes and although she’s probably nowhere near cranked up, the daughter of Henny Hughes should easily outclass this group. At 2/5 on the morning line she’s unplayable other than as a no value rolling exotic single.

The nightcap is a 10-furlong turf affair for $25,000 claimers. #6 Bench Light looked good beating a similar bunch over a mile with a race-shape aided trip; we’ll see if he can perform equally as well with an added quarter of a mile to deal with. #11 Extensive, freshened and dropping to his lowest level ever, has some back class and could come to life with the switch to Talamo. #10 Husband’s Folly usually produces a decent late kick but he’s always preferred to run third.