Santa Anita (Friday-3/17/23) By Dean Keppler

Analysis & Selections By: Dean Keppler @Keppskorner

BEST BET: 4-Hulk (Race 1)

Race #1: The speedy 4-Hulk should be long gone in the Friday opener. The 5-year-old gelding returns off an 8-month freshening for Team O’Neil this afternoon making first start off the barn claim. He returns protected and this lucrative jockey/trainer combo are an impressive 4 for 6 (67%) with a $7.57 ROI with new acquisitions. 1-Carpe Bellum returns off a lengthy layoff of nearly a year for trainer Brian Koriner for a career low claiming tag. The 4-year-old gelding makes his first main track start today after 3 subpar performances on grass and is bred to handle the surface change. His sire multiple Grade 1 winner Carpe Diem gets 16% with his dirt sprint runners and this gelding’s a.m. drills have been decent. 3-Lemon Drop Shot makes start number 14 today but has hit the board in 10 of 13 outings including eight 2nd place finishes to date over varied surfaces. He finished 3rd in most recent start at this level on February 18 earning the field’s best last out dirt Beyer (61).

Selections: 4-1-3

Race #2: 5-Sailing Along returns to afternoon racing after a couple starts on the Los Al evening program where she ran well, and now drops in for a career low claiming tag today. This mare finished 5th in lone start over the oval but that was against much better stock than she faces this afternoon. 1-Bella Renella off since April 2022 but rattled off three straight wins when last seen and has been a popular commodity in the claiming box (including back-to-back voided purchases). She’s run above par for this class level in all her last 3 starts and is an obvious threat again for Team O’Neil. This jockey/trainer combo won with their last two returnees off an extended break. 2-Rain Diva has good speed and has been freshened for this despite backing up badly in last pair of efforts.

Selections: 5-1-2


Race #3: 2-Lil Richards Bello returns off a 4-month break for conditioner Peter Eurton and was a good 2nd at this level when last seen back in mid-November 2022. The gelding has trained extremely well in recent weeks in preparation for today’s return and should fire fresh. 3-Talklessworkmore removes the blinkers today and comes off a career best effort at this level when switched to dirt February 4. He showed good early zip before surrendering the last sixteenth of a mile to settle for 2nd. The 5-year-old gelding makes 3rd start off the form cycle. 4-So I’m Told returns to the main track for trainer Lorenzo Ruiz where he’s run just as well in prior starts. The gelding has good positional speed.

Selections: 2-3-4

Race #4: 6-Trojan Way steps up off recent win and now goes out for new barn off the claim. The 4-year-old filly cuts back to a mile today and should control things from her outside break. 2-Bonita Leona goes two sprints to a route with improving Beyer pattern for conditioner Steve Knapp. This mile trip might be pushing the boundaries, however, as far as this filly’s distance limitations. 5-Roman Empress steps up off game score and is a multiple winner over the track and distance.

Selections: 6-2-5

Race #5: 4-Famous Star adds blinkers off the Ryan Hanson claim and makes 2nd start off the mini-freshening this afternoon. This colt exits a race on January 13 that’s produced a pair of next-out winners. He’s returned to work extremely well since switching barns including a bullet 4-furlong drill on March 3. 3-Purfied has finished 2nd in 3 of 4 starts for Baffert and drops back down for a tag off the 3-month layoff. He’s run above par for this class level on multiple occasions and is the one to beat in this spot. At likely very short odds, however, he might be worth taking a swing against. 2-Cupid’s Crusader makes the all-important 3rd career start and is back on the main track after a failed turf attempt. The gelding drops in for a first-time tag today and he earned a respectable dirt figure debuting at Los Al back in December.

Selections: 4-3-2

Race #6: The multiple stakes winner and ultra-consistent 2-Alice Marble has hit the board in 11 consecutive races racking up 6 wins in that timeframe for trainer Phil D’Amato. The 6-year-old mare moves back to turf today coming off a victory in the Spring Fever Stakes February 19. 3-Big Summer is another mare who fires every start with a perfect 12 for 12 ITM resume and a winner of her last 3 out of 5 outings. Her back-to-back (88) turf Beyer numbers are tops in this field and she loves the downhill course. 4-Shocking Grey steps up in class having won two straight for Mullins and has yet to misfire in all 5 starts. This filly cuts back in distance making her initial start over the downhill course.

Selections: 2-3-4

Race #7: 12-Soul of Midnight exits a January 7 debut race that’s produced a pair of next-out winners and flashed good early zip in that event to finish 2nd. The sample is small, but Cedillo and Pederson are 2 for 3 with 2nd time starters. Beaten favorite 10-Big Drinker was off slowly and wide in most recent start January 29 and now makes first start off the Peter Miller claim. This barn is a solid 6 for 14 (43%) with a $2.41 ROI the past 3 years with new acquisitions at SA when sprinting on dirt. 7-R Heart of Gold (By Grazen) debus for trainer Kristen Mulhall who has quietly had a solid meet from limited starts. This formidable sire gets a respectable 15% with 3-year-old & up debut runners and is 21% overall with dirt sprint prodigy.

Selections: 12-10-7

Race #8: 8-Peppermint Flirt surely needed her first race back off a 17-month layoff and now stretches back out to a route for her second start off the bench. The 4-year-old filly shows a nice bullet a.m. drill on March 5 for this and is likely to work out a favorable trip with Frey back aboard. Upset chance. A beaten favorite in last 3-Eleuthera makes her 3rd start off the bench with an improving Beyer pattern and was a good 2nd at this level in last start on January 28. She adds blinkers today. 9-Tecumseh Caroline has won two straight on dirt for D’Amato and now switches back to turf where she finished 7th (in debut) and 4th back in October 2022. She’s bred to handle the footing and the additional real estate. It’s safe to say she’s improved substantially since last grass try 5 months ago.

Selections: 8-3-9

Race #9: A beaten favorite in last pair 1-Street Ruckus has hit the board in six consecutive races for trainer Vladimir Cerin. He switches to Maiden breaking pilot veteran Kent Desormeaux who has heated up in recent weeks. 2-Finneus hasn’t shown much of late (winless since November 2021) but switches to Hernandez and has run some competitive figures for this class level.  The $2.6 million dollar colt 3-Bletchley Park (By Nyquist) returns to action for Baffert off a hard earned Maiden victory to close out 2022. This colt should be on or close to the lead this afternoon.

Selections: 1-2-3

Race #10: 6-Make It Snow finished a good third in debut against similar and now stretches out for career start number two. This daughter of Empire Maker has turf route breeding on the dam side and should relish the additional real estate. 2-Window Shopping has not been out since troubled trip 6th in turf debut back on November 12 for Mandella. This daughter of American Pharoah is a $700K Keeneland purchase and should move forward in career start number two with the addition of Lasix. This jockey/trainer combo are 4 for 15 (27%) with second time starts on grass. 7-Galimine (Fr) makes first stateside start for trainer Leonard Powell off an 8-month layoff. Her two efforts back in France she finished 4th and 2nd and attracts Hernandez for U.S. unveiling.

Selections: 6-2-7

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