Analysis & Selections By: Dean Keppler @Keppskorner
BEST BET: 3-Augusta Melody (Race 8)
Race #1: The Baffert first time starter 6-Conquistar is a $800k Keeneland purchase by Quality Road who debuts off some solid well-spaced a.m. drills and attracts Hernandez for unveiling. The obvious knock is the short price. Trainer Phil D’Amato has a pair of fillies represented in the Sunday opener. The edge goes to 3-Curl Girl who holds racing experience over her stablemate and the rest of this field. This daughter of Curlin has been freshened since 5th place August DMR debut effort and adds Lasix and blinkers for career start number two. This lucrative jockey/trainer combo are a solid 7 for 18 (39%) with a $2.56 ROI with second time starters at Santa Anita. 5-Con Seal and Kerry (By Gun Runner) debuts off a strong worktab but trainer Steve Knapp is only 1 for 29 the past 5 years with first time starters. She’ll likely need this race, however, before showing true potential.
Race #2: 2-Please Focus was eliminated after losing the rider on the first turn in most recent effort in the King Glorious Stakes at Los Al but now moves back to turf where he was a sharp Maiden wire-to-wire winner two-back. Recent Maiden winner 4-Thirsty Pappy will likely be the beneficiary of a pace meltdown using the same come-from-behind racing tactics as last winning effort. 6-Tom and Jazzy also exits the same December 18 stake as top choice and finished in front of Please Focus in 22/1 Maiden upset victory back in October when last trying grass.
Race #3: 3-Outright drops in class today and has run above par going this trip three and four-back. 6-Claim of Passion goes synthetic to dirt making second start off the bench for trainer Steve Miyadi. 4-Lookin for Revenge didn’t fire in most recent effort when facing better but was an impressive 9-length winner two-back at Los Al against cheaper over a wet fast track earning a solid (77) Beyer speed figure. A big chance if he can muster up a similar performance here at Santa Anita.
Race #4: This is the first leg of the mandatory 20-cent pick six. 7-Timely Luck was a well-beaten 4th on January 7 debut try but now switches to grass for start number two. Trainer Michael McCarthy is a solid 6 for 21 (29%) with second time starters at SA the past 2 years and this filly’s sire Prospect Park ran well on grass. Improvement likely in weak field. 1-Loyal to a Fault adds Lasix and drops back down to face straight Maiden Special Weight types after being overmatched in back-to-back stake tries. This Nyquist filly cuts back to a sprint and has 3 runner-up finishes on turf at this level for winning connections. 2-Smooth as Silk goes two routes to a sprint today and adds blinkers. This barn has had good success with this equipment change.
Race #5: 6-Del Mar Drama makes 3rd start off the bench today with an improving Beyer pattern and trainer Peter Miller is a strong 13 for 37 (35%) with a $2.23 ROI with first off the claim runners at SA on dirt. 3-Violent Runner finished 6th of 8 in the Grade 3 Las Flores back on December 31 but prior to that subpar performance rattled off 4 straight wins for Sadler. The 5-year-old mare has been freshened and returns for a $40k claiming tag today making her 3rd start off the bench. Her sire Violence won his debut at 7 furlongs. 4-Miss Fia stretches out to today’s tricky 7-furlong trip today but comes off a good second place finish against slightly cheaper and adds blinkers for second start off the mini-freshening.
Race #6: Trainer Phil D’Amato has 4 of the 10 entrants for today’s running of the Grade 3 San Marcos Stakes. 2-Masteroffoxhounds is a multiple winner over the track and distance and is reunited with winning rider this afternoon. He figures to sit a favorable journey close to the early pace behind likely pacesetter Evan Harlan and perhaps get first jump on the closers. 9-The Grey Wizard was a sharp N1X allowance winner in last and second in the G2 Hollywood Turf Cup two-back against several of these same runners. 7-Dicey Mo Chara (GB) overcame a challenging trip to win the G2 San Gabriel in most recent start earning the field’s best last out turf Beyer (96). The veteran 8-year-old gelding 8-Say the Word has not been seen since finishing 3rd in this event last January but is a 7-time winner and likes this 1 ¼ mile trip.
Race #7: 3-Howbeit is the lone graded stakes winner in this field and returns off the freshening for good layoff barn that’s having an excellent meet. This 6-year-old is a 7-time winner; loves this SA course and projects to get a favorable stalking trip this afternoon with the hall of famer Mike Smith back aboard. The lightly raced 2-Hopkins was trounced in lone stakes try going two turns two-back but has been first or second going 7 furlongs or shorter and is today’s likely pacesetter for Baffert and Hernandez. 6-McLaren Valve can move forward today making 2nd start off the bench for Sadler and has returned to drill a sharp “best off 55” 4-furlongs in :47 flat January 29.
Race #8: 3-Augusta Melody goes dirt to turf and is likely to get an easier pace scenario this afternoon then he’s faced in last two tries when hooked through some taxing fractions. He was a strong winner three-back on grass and finished a solid 2nd in lone downhill turf attempt. 1-Lovesick Blues is 1 for 1 over the tricky downhill course and comes into today’s event with an improving Beyer pattern. This jockey/trainer combo are 4 for their last 7 (57%). 4-Virat is in super sharp form right now for trainer Peter Miller and owns the field’s best last-out turf Beyer (81).
Race #9: 8-Kanderel looms an upset chance in the finale making his first start off the Papaprodromou claim. This barn is 3 for 11 (27%) with a lofty $7.85 ROI with new barn purchases on turf. This gelding is a multiple winner over the track and distance and makes 2nd start off the bench. He made a menacing wide move into contention before flattening out in most recent start. Class dropping 2-Flashiest owns the field’s best last-out grass Beyer (95) with solid 2nd place finish in the Grade 2 San Gabriel and this 5-year-old gelding is 3 for 5 at this mile trip. 6-Mecklenburg (Ire) is 6 for 18 lifetime and is today’s projected frontrunner for trainer Jeff Mullins.