Analysis & Selections By: Dean Keppler @Keppskorner
BEST BET: 7-Flint Stroll (Race #5)
Race #1: First time gelding 5-Star Prospect returns to turf today for trainer Carla Gaines and makes the all-important 3rd career start. He was bounced around some and wide in grass debut attempt on November 6 and this lucrative jockey/trainer combo are 7 for 25 (28%) overall with turf tries at SA. The duo won the Sunshine Millions F & M Turf Sprint Stake Saturday with Big Summer ($9.80). 1-Thirsty Poppy doesn’t have a ton of turf pedigree but comes into the Sunday opener in top form for trainer Peter Miller with an improving Beyer pattern in each subsequent start. The 3-year-old gelding by Stay Thirsty makes second start off the layoff today and adds Lasix. 6-Herecomegeorgieboy owns the field’s best last out grass Beyer (60) and makes second start off the bench today with the addition of Lasix.
Race #2: 5-Margot’s Girl has shown little in 6 lifetime starts but goes turf to dirt on the stretch-out and drops to career bottom level claiming tag for trainer Craig Lewis. The filly’s sire Clubhouse Road gets a respectable 18% with dirt route offspring, so perhaps the move to the main track and class plunge will produce major improvement. Maybe. 3-Parco has speed and has hit the board in last two recent efforts at this level. 1-Moonlite in Heaven can improve off troubled debut effort.
Race #3: 1-Beaudacious stretches out this afternoon making second start off the extended layoff. This 6-year-old shows two nice drills since that last comeback 5th place finish and has had good success routing over this turf course. Beaten favorite 3-Forgiving Spirit stretches out today off troubled 5-furlong turf sprint try when squeezed at the start and stuck behind traffic for most of the stretch run. The gelding was a solid winner two-back against better with a (90) grass Beyer. 2-Mischievous Path makes 3rd start off the bench today coming off back-to-back solid grass tries. He was runner-up to the gelding Doc Adams in last who has won 4 of last 5 starts.
Race #4: 4-Post Facto returns as a FT gelding going first off the Sadler claim. He has speed; adds Lasix and switches to meet’s leading rider. The $760K Keeneland purchase 3-Clooney has been a big disappointment with two subpar performances. He’s been gelded and returns for a first-time tag today for trainer Tim Yakteen. This barn is 4 for 15 (27%) the past 3 years with MDSW to MDCLM dropdowns. He owns the field’s best last out main track Beyer (68). 5-Chicnfingerfriday stretches back out today making second start at this reduced class level for Team O’Neill.
Race #5: A beaten favorite in last pair 7-Flint Stroll takes a sizable class drop today for D’Amato and is proven going this 9-furlong trip. 10-Derecho Dandy is stuck on the AE’s and must draw in but has a big chance if he does. He goes synthetic to turf on the class drop making his 3rd start off the layoff. 1-Arrest moves inside today, and recent turf tries at this level have been competitive. The 5-year-old gelding could find himself on the lead today in a race void of any serious early zip. 9-Never Seen Before (Ire) slugged up for 4th in most recent try at this level.
Race #6: 6-Ice Dancing dropped back down for the sharp Maiden victory in last and wasn’t far behind likely chalk Justique two-back in the G2 Chandelier. This 3-year-old filly by Frosted projects to sit a favorable stalking trip from her outside post and get first run on her main rival. 3-Justique (By Justify) is the one to beat off eye-catching romps from off the pace in both sprint tries and owns the field’s best last out Beyer (81). It’s never wise to dismiss trainer Bob Baffert who has three fillies represented here. 4-Parody showed speed and faded in second career start when finishing behind Justique and is projected to be on the front end again this afternoon. It would come as no surprise to see this filly take these a lot further today.
Race #7: European import 3-Excelia (Ire) failed to fire in the G3 Surfer Girl Stakes when last seen back in October but adds Lasix today off the freshening and has trained well for D’Amato. The 3-year-old filly ran well in first stateside try. 5-The Wild Grazer (Ire) made her U.S. unveiling a winning one with impressive Maiden score off the 3-month layoff. A major threat right back with the addition of Lasix. 1-Princess Bettina comes off back-to-back strong grass efforts for trainer Peter Eurton and recent a.m. drills have been especially sharp. This filly appears well-spotted on the cutback.
Race #8: Trainer Bob Baffert has four of the six 3-year-old colts entered in the G3 Sham Stakes. 2-National Treasure could be the beneficiary of a projected swift early pace making his first start since third place effort in the BC Juvenile. This son of Quality Road owns the field’s best last two main track Beyer speed figures and should fall into an ideal stalking journey with Velasquez. Recent impressive Maiden winner 6-Spun Intended must avoid a pace duel with 3-Speed Boat Beach on the stretch-out but has since returned to drill a solid “best of 27’ 5-furlongs in :58.4 on January 2 indicating he’s more than ready to tackle this solid group. The aforementioned SBB has won 3 of 4 and returns to the main track today off a string of impressive dirt drills. His lone main track try was a Maiden breaking debut win with an eye-catching (104) Beyer.
Race #9: 4-Avenue gets some significant class relief dropping out of the G2 Hollywood Turf Cup where he finished in front of next-out winner Dicey Mo Chara (GB). The stone closer is at the mercy of how the early pace unfolds and potential late traffic issues but looks best. 9-Rip City could fall into an ideal trip if able to break alertly and sit behind likely pacesttter 7-Mecklenburg (Ire). He drops out of back-to-back graded stakes tries and when last seen at this level three-back was a sharp wire-to-wire winner with a (90) turf Beyer. Mecklenburg (Ire) is unproven going this far but will likely have the lead as the enter the top of the stretch and can hang on for a least part of the vertical exotics.