Jeff Siegel's Santa Anita Analysis (Fri., May 23, 2014)

The Friday program offers eight races and a late-afternoon first post of 3 p.m.

A strong group of juvenile colts meet in the opener with a couple of first-timers catching the eye. #8 Story to Tell was impressive breezing 10 seconds flat at the Barretts March Sale preview and looks cranked up and ready to roll for Hendricks. The son of Bluegrass Cat brought $200,000 at auction and looks the part. #4 Social Request sizzled 9 4/5 seconds at the Ocala Sale last month (the fastest work in the entire sale) and clearly is a colt with plenty of zip. We’ll give Story to Tell a slight edge but use both in our rolling exotics.

The second race is a weak maiden claimer and though he’s winless in 13 starts #6 Ice Cream Truck will get plenty of play by default. Beaten at 3/5 in his most recent start, he was claimed out of that race by Avila, who brings him back at the same level, shortens him to seven furlongs, and adds blinkers (‘Truck has worn them before). Certainly not one to trust but with speed figures good enough to win, the son of Pleasantly Perfect may have finally found a field he can beat. #5 Cache Wanted is improving with racing and has the style for this extended sprint distance. With another forward move, the Garcia-trained gelding might be a factor.

The Pick-6 begins with the third race, a contentious turf claimer for fillies and mares. #3 Heat Du Jour, first off the claim for Baltas, looks capable of producing a dangerous late kick and has won over this course in the past. She’s never run this far but nine furlongs should be within her range. #1 Elegant is another that might find this distance a bit taxing but she should enjoy an ideal pace-prompting, ground-saving trip and will have every chance. #6 Smart N Dreamy was claimed back by her prior trainer, a positive sign, and comes off a solid win in a similar spot last month. We have to toss her in as well.

The fourth race is a bottom-rung claiming sprint for fillies and mares with little to trust. Class dropper #4 Miss American Pie has issues, for sure, but if she has one good one left she’ll beat this field. She’s back sprinting and back on the main track while retaining Baze and these are the conditions that have brought out the best in her. #3 Halo La looks cheap on paper but she’s been popular at the claim box lately and this Golden Gate invader knows how to win races.

The fifth race, a downhill turf sprint for high-priced claiming fillies and mares, is no picnic and requires a bit of a spread. #2 Boller Bomb returns to the selling ranks while adding blinkers and should regain her best form over a course she’s been known to love. #5 Could Be Trouble is another exiting a series of stakes and she, too, adds blinkers, though the Miller-trained filly has no history of preferring grass. #7 Always a Chance, first off the claim for Mullins, continues to impress in the morning and could easily improve for her new connections. She’s won over this turf course in the past and on her best day can produce a winning stretch kick.

#1 Hear the Ghost should out class his rivals in the sixth race, a middle distance main track allowance affair. The Hollendorfer-trained gelding is in good form but is overdue for a win and should have every chance from his inside draw. #4 Footbridge defeated a lesser field over 10 furlongs last month in what had to be a confidence builder and this once highly-regarded son of Street Cry should be a strong factor right back despite shortening in trip. We’ll use both in our rolling exotics.

The seventh race is another Hillside sprint, this one for first-level allowance fillies and mares. #3 Heat Trap, away since October, has trained like she’s fit and ready for Gaines and this lightly-raced five-year-old mare can handle this field if she returns as well as she left. Espinoza should give her the patient ride she needs. #1 Baruta has finished second in both of her local starts over this course and distance and must be given a look once again, though to be truthful she hung under pressure in each of those two starts and may not be thoroughly genuine. We’ll find out today. #8 Mark of a Gem beat a state-bred field in game style last month with a competitive figure and likely will be on or near the lead throughout again today.

The nightcap is a restricted (nw-2) claiming miler for $25,000 fillies and mares. #5 Room for Me seems ideally spotted; the Avila-trained filly shortens up, returns to conventional dirt for the first time since a runaway maiden win in February, and continues to look sharp in the morning. We’re hoping she can take this field gate to wire.