Analysis & Selections By: Dean Keppler @Keppskorner
BEST BET: 5-Nuclear (Race 1)
Race #1: 5-Nuclear was off a step slow from his outside post in debut but made a decent wide rally late –while racing greenly– to close for third. It was an encouraging effort for this expensive $1.55 million-dollar Keeneland purchase by Justify. That February 11 race has produced a pair of next-out winners and this well-bred colt for Sadler adds blinkers today for career start number two. This jockey/trainer combo are 3 for 7 (43%) with 2nd time starters at SA. 1-Escape Artist makes career start number three today off two solid second place finishes at this level routing on grass. A logical threat again with improving Beyers for trainer Michael McCarthy. 2-Precision Strike makes second start around two turns today for Team O’Neil after encountering some traffic issues in most recent start on March 12. The Gun Runner colt shook free too late but managed to grab the show spot. Today’s additional 1/8th of a mile should help his chances.
Race #2: 2-Big Bell finished a solid 3rd at this level in most recent start March 19 earning a Beyer close to par for this level and now makes first start for the Knapp barn off the claim. This lucrative jockey/trainer combo are 4 for 11 (36%) with a lofty $7.09 ROI with new acquisitions at Santa Anita. 6-Lunatic makes first start in 11 months for trainer Peter Miller but returns protected and this mare has proven she runs well fresh. Her a.m. drills have been sharp, and leading rider Hernandez is enticed to ride here instead of Big Bell. 7-Teen Drama makes an initial start over the main track today but is bred to handle the surface switch and takes a significant class drop for low-profile crafty barn.
Race #3: 1-See Through It had his six-race win streak snapped on March 12 but still ran well coming up less than a length short as a beaten favorite 3rd. The gelding makes his third start of the form cycle today and is reunited with winning rider. 4-Maven has enough early zip to clear these in here and could be tough to reel in late. He was a good second at this level in last. The veteran 8-year-old gelding 2-Chaos Theory was taken out of his game when squeezed at the start to last in that March 12 race that several of these exit from. The Mike Puype-trained runner had back-to-back turf sprint wins two and three-back with solid Beyers (91,90).
Race #4: 2-Katonah moves back to the main track where he won two straight prior to last troubled trip and subpar turf effort March 5. The gelding stretches back out today for Team O’Neil. 6-Finneus has lost 13 straight and is winless since November 2021 but comes off a strong second at this level (while rank early) where he earned Beyer par (89) for this class division. 7-It’s My House drops back down to $50k claim purchase level from two-back for Glatt and projects to get a favorable pressing stalking trip with outside draw.
Race #5: The grade 2 winning 6-Whatmakessammyrun is the class of this field; makes second start off the mini-freshening and should be up in time at this reduced level with Bravo for trainer Mark Glatt. 2-Fast Buck flashed good speed and tired in the Sensational Star Stakes March 19 but should be much tighter today making his second start off the layoff and second attempt on the tricky downhill layout. 1-Respect the Code is 0 for 4 on the downhill course but has seen his turf Beyers increase in recent starts and now takes a class drop today for the Papaprodromou barn. The gelding was a wide 4th at this level three-back.
Race #6: 6-Mitco steps up off strong wire-to-wire win where he earned the field’s best last out main track Beyer (76), which is on par for this next class level. 5-Savile Row was a voided claim and beaten lukewarm favorite when attempting this level back in February but gets in light today and barn has been solid all meet long. 2-Stir the Pot flashed speed and folded badly in last start at this level March 12 but in his defense that was his first effort off an 8-month layoff. He can move forward here for trainer Steve Knapp.
Race #7: 3-Valiancer steps up to face stakes caliber colts and geldings today but has won two straight for conditioner Jeff Mullins and figures to get another live pace to close into while making his initial start over the downhill course. The lightly raced 4-Conclude earned a (96) Beyer in second career start when trouncing a Maiden field for D’Amato on March 4. The son of grade 1 winner Collected figures to be tough in here if able to replicate that effort over the downhill course. 2–First Peace returns off a 3-month freshening for trainer Mark Glatt and is likely to appreciate today’s turnback to 6 ½ furlongs.
Race #8: 5-Cowboy Mike makes his initial start for the Baffert barn off a string of fast and flashy a.m. drills. He’s by multiple grade 1 winner Smiling Tiger who gets an ordinary 11% with his 3-year-old & up debuting prodigy but attracts Hernandez for unveiling and is likely to come out motoring early. 7-Austonian was hammered to 3/5 on March 4 debut when finishing second while earning a solid (77) Beyer for that sharp try. This barn has strong numbers with second time starters. 1-Tapatio Leo returns off a 9-month layoff as a gelding for trainer Peter Miller after flashing good speed before tiring to 4th in Del Mar debut last July. He’s trained well for today’s return effort and this jockey/trainer combo has clicked over 30% with these type of returnees.
Race #9: 4-Big Beauty had a sluggish beginning in most recent start March 18 and never recovered. The 5-year-old mare removes the blinkers today; drops in class and makes 2nd start off the claim on the stretch-out. She did break her Maiden going this mile trip and can rebound here. 2-Sensible Move nailed the place spot late over a trio of the same fillies and mares she faces today and makes the all-important 3rd start off the bench. 10-Dolly May (Ire) is 0 for 13 in the U.S. coming off a beaten favorite 3rd but has been knocking at the door at this level in recent starts and now goes first off the claim for trainer Vladimir Cerin.
Race #10: The lightly raced 2-Chicks Dig It returned off a 4-month freshening with a solid second at this level with the addition of Lasix. The 3-year-old gelding has returned with two strong 4-furlong works since that effort and appears ready to take another step forward. 10-Soul of Midnight trounced a bulky field of Maiden claimers by 7 lengths March 17 earning a (77) Beyer speed figure and is nicely drawn outside with speed for his first start against winners. 7-Quagmire Magic drops in class and is back on the main track while making his second start off the long layoff. Improvement likely.
Race #11: 3-Big Flint steps up off decent looking Maiden score with improving grass Beyers and makes 3rd start of the form cycle off long layoff. That February 19 race produced a pair of next-out winners. 2-Howboutdemapples ships west off a year layoff making first start in the D’Amato ban and was a Maiden turf winner at Gulfstream when last seen in March of 2022. This filly has worked well for her new connections and this jockey/trainer combo are 10 for 26 (38%) with a $2.95 ROI with horses returning 0ff >180 days. 9-Derecho Dandy has been sidelined since late January but is an obvious threat if he can duplicate that strong runner-up finish where he earned a (83) turf Beyer behind repeat winner General Mathis.