Analysis & Selections By: Dean Keppler @Keppskorner
BEST BET: 2-Nolo Contesto (Race #2)
Race #1: 5-Elegance Code is one of two Carla Gaines-trained 4-year-old fillies lined up in the Friday afternoon opener. This gal has been freshened off a 9-month layoff for barn that excels with these returnee types going 4 for 15 (27%) with a $2.61 ROI the past 2 years with horses returning off >180 days rest on turf at SA. 8-Shocking Grey is an obvious choice off three consecutive runner-up turf finishes posting above par Beyer figs for this level twice. Code’s stablemate 4-Candy On Top makes career start number 10 this afternoon but has been consistently collecting checks at this MDSW level while still waiting for a breakthrough winning performance.
Race #2: 2-Nolo Contesto is 1 for 17 with 7 runner-up finishes but makes his 3rd start off the bench today on the cut back and first off the Team O’Neil claim. This lucrative jockey/trainer combo are 3 for 3 (100%) with a $7.27 ROI when teamed up on new acquisitions. Class dropping 5-Brutto goes turf to dirt off the layoff for new barn with a snappy worktab. The 5-year-old should find himself on or close to the lead in here and runs well fresh. 1-Big Splash returns to the main track and takes a nosedive in class off the extended freshening. This productive jockey/trainer combo are 5 for 12 (42%) the past 2 years at Santa Anita.
Race #3: Recent Maiden winner 9-Good Boo Joo has trained well since November score and owns the field’s best last out grass Beyer (75). 4-Majestic Steps (Ire) goes route to sprint and has been competitive at this level for Prat and Eurton. The speedy 2-Topolina is a wire-to-wire threat again facing winners for the first time and has returned to fire back-to-back bullet drills since 10/1 upset.
Race #4: 3-Distorted Math was well-backed in December 18 debut try where he finished a good second with a field’s best (81) Beyer speed figure. The 4-year-old colt by Distorted Humor takes a somewhat suspicious drop into a Maiden claimers in start number two for Baffert but barn is a strong 3 for 5 (60%) with a $2.96 ROI with this small sample maneuver. A beaten favorite in last pair 2-Famous Star makes second start for a tag today off two-month freshening and is projected to be today’s likely pacesetter. 5-Hydro Frost goes turf to dirt dropping from MDSW to Maiden Claimers while making his second start off the extended layoff for Papaprodromou. He’s bred to handle the main track.
Race #5: 2-Kanderel has been plagued by layoff lines but returns in an easier spot than he’s seen in recent months and should be motoring home late on the cutback. Trainer Peter Miller has a pair of runners entered in this $50K claiming grass sprint and they both merit a strong look. 1-Give Me the Lute is 0 for 7 on the SA turf course but has good speed and the rail. His stablemate is the 9-year-old veteran 8-Hembree who is a multiple G2 winner but has not been seen since February 2021 and returns for a price tag. Nonetheless he’s trained well for return and this jockey/trainer combo are 4 for 10 (40%) with a $3.16 ROI with horses returning off >180 days on grass at SA. 6-My Summer Dream goes dirt to turf seeking 3rd straight win and is a multiple winner over this turf course and distance.
Race #6: 5-Queen Molotov has only one main track start, but that lone effort resulted in a sprint score at Sacramento back in the end of January. The 5-year-old mare makes her 3rd start off the bench today and is projected to be on or close to the lead this afternoon. 1-Big Shamrock goes turf to dirt today and was a winner at this level two-back at Los Al with a (73) Beyer. 6-Feeling Graceful was a back-to-back winner on turf when last seen back in February 2022 and now starts for new connections off a formidable worktab.
Race #7: Of the D’Amato pair 6-Phenom seeks third straight win and owns the field’s best last-out grass Beyer (87). Another forwardly placed trip makes this filly the one to beat again. 1-AquaSeaform Shame drops in class and has been freshened for good layoff barn. The 6-year-old mare projects to get a favorable ground-saving stalking trip from the rail with top turf pilot. The last time the Desormeaux brothers teamed up on this mare 2-Stella Noir it resulted in an 18/1 upset over this downhill course back in January 2022. A hot contested early pace would help her chances.
Race #8: 5-Vella comes in with an improving Beyer pattern off recent runner-up finish for trainer Jonathan Wong and owns the field’s best last out main track Beyer (70). This 7-year-old mare should be up in time late. 1-Irish Wahine has won 3 of her last 4 and now makes first start off the Steve Knapp claim who has above average numbers with new acquisitions. There’s room for further improvement with her making 2nd start off the bench today. 3-Starship Defiant goes route to sprint; makes 2nd start off the claim and should be on or close to the lead this afternoon. Dettori up.
Race #9: Perhaps 8-Beachgrass has improved enough to take this challenging nightcap off recent 3rd place finish November 20 at this level for Team O’Neill. She’s returned with several solid drills since that 5-wide closing effort where she galloped out extremely well past the wire. Upset chance. 1-Sweet Heidelberg didn’t show much in lone grass effort but that was some time ago and this 4-year-old filly has improved a ton since then. She was second in most recent main track effort when facing winners for the first time. 9-Dolly May (Ire) makes her 3rd start off the layoff today off back-to-back (69) turf Beyers and takes a significant class plunge for Prat and Sadler. She’s still looking for first stateside victory, however.