Four stakes races highlight a strong 11-race card on Saturday at "The Great Race Place." Closing Day is almost here ... get in while the getting is good! Horizontal wagering is going to be fabulous. As usual, our turf-man has you covered with picks for every race, as well as analysis of his best value plays throughout the day.
If you're looking for picks elsewhere around the country on Saturday, be sure to check out our Free Horse Racing Picks via the gold button below.
Early on, the Saturday card presents bettors with “Non-G” turf sprint that is going to be a fun one to handicap. The Siren Lure 75k is one of the last of the new 6½F distance implementation plans that the Stronachs brought in at the beginning of the Winter Meet. Most bettors seemed more than just mildly pleased about it; however, the old Downhill Course sure was fun … bit wistful.
As for this race, most of the cash is going to invariably funnel into the coffers of Mark Glatt’s class climber, Chasin Munny #7. The appropriately named colt gets Flavien Prat aboard for the first time, and built into these odds of 5/2 is that fact. Last out, in an ALLW70k go on the turf @SA he lost steam when it mattered most in the stretch—result 5th. I want to take a chance against these connections because it looks like the son of Munnings has to make the lead. Playing against a super jock like this one seems like specious reasoning, but I like others in here. Prat isn’t perfect on the grass … right?
At any rate, my top selection happens to be Peter Miller’s Commander #3, who is a 4-yr-old gelding out of War Command. He is classy in the sense that his last race was the Daytona (G3) back in late May @SA. Under JJ Hernandez, he was 3rd, but he easily could be considered 2nd best. The rider switch to Joe Bravo might be a welcome one, since he is just in from spurning the opportunity to ride at Monmouth. The crop changes there were just too much for him. He is going to find some restrictions out West, so it will be interesting to see how he reacts. He can get this one home based on his vast experience.
Let’s use both of these and go ice cold … Jersey … Joe … wait … SoCal Joe?
A Cal bred, the great Snow Chief was a force to be reckoned with in the mid-1980s. He didn’t win the Kentucky Derby, but scored in the Preakness. He then proceeded to win a number of other significant races. Belonging in the pantheon of Thoroughbreds of the period, it is apt that a race at Santa Anita is named in his honor.
In this year’s renewal of the contest, we have a group of interesting runners drawning in … Tops on the tote list will probably be Peter Miller’s None Above the Law #2. Makes sense … Out of super turf sire Karakonite, who once wowed the Breeders’ Cup throng, that is a bloodline that speaks grass. Getting Prat helps, of course, but most of all, he is coming into this spot from Golden gate having won a pair of “Non-G” races. GG, the “other” SoCal track, doesn’t always get the respect it deserves, so it will be interesting to see the balance here. I am against … not because of the latter; rather, I think there are other ways to go.
How about a price? You want one … Try swallowing this … Doug O’Neill is not known for training a slew of turf horses, but he sends a pair into this race. The higher priced one is the key. Although Ingest #6 looks overmatched here, the gelding has some hidden talent that I want to shine a light on. First, the pedigree speaks to sod on the sire portion with Square Eddie, but even more important is the dam side with Octogarian. Distance is the answer for that part … So, with Victor Espinoza back aboard, O’Neill has him extending out to 1 1/8th. That seems right to me. Using such a box car value like this one is a solid play. Don’t just wager on the consensus M/L pick … Bottoms Up!
Selective Wager: $2 Exacta Box, 2/6
1 1/16th (Dirt) Melair Stakes, $150k, 3F: Race 10
Some young fillies are just coming into their own are drawing into this route, going 1 1/16th on the dirt. This is their opportunity to garner one last “Non-G” race under their belts before the scene officially shifts to Del Mar for the rest of the summer. Some campaigns may end here, with a good rest coming, while others will fight on.
I want to find a runner who has competed in this type of company before ($150k), and knows how to rate at this distance. Preferably one with staying power up front would be even better. Glancing through the PPs, I think it is going to be very difficult to check all my boxes. Some in here have nice class, but are not terribly up for a distance over 1 mile. Still, you take what you get.
When it comes to strength, why not put your trust in Tom Bell’s Pawnee #1? She looks fit enough, and did not have too bad a spring. I like the graduation rate, and with Mike Smith at the controls, there are few that are better. Check out those speed figs … they look inviting. The filly has turned in some elevated numbers, and that is a ‘capper’s dream. This one is a bet in my book.
Selective Wager: $25/$50 WP, #1
1 ¾ Miles (Turf) San Juan Capistrano Stakes (G3), $100k, 3+: Race 11
A distance test unlike most others in North America … How many races can you name that are almost 2 Miles long? It is always interesting. Trainer Phil D’Amato has owned this event the past couple of years … the last being the capable Red King #2. He is back to defend his title. Before him, it was Acclimate #4, who is also returning this time around. Based solely on that, both 7-yr-olds should be considered the favorites at odds of around of 2/1.
Who likes that? Not I … Instead, let’s back a runner who is importing from Gulfstream Park named Pillar Mountain #5. Joe Bravo is also coming into town to ride this summer in SoCal. Bob Hess is probably pleased to have him, and if the seasoned jockey can get his mount to settle early, he could nail this one in the end. It is about time for a class jump, don’t you think? Time to dethrone D’Amato.