Saturday's stakes calendar is fairly light with only a pair of graded events - one at Gulfstream and one at Santa Anita. The race in SoCal is the G3-Daytona at 6 ½ furlongs on the downhill turf course for three-year-olds and up. A field of 12 drew into the race with one horse already scratching out - 2-Byrama (GB).
As I do with almost all races on the Santa Anita downhill turf course, I'm almost exclusively looking for a horse that has run and won over the trip on prior occasions. Horses successful at the traditional turf sprint trip of five panels but that have never touched the Santa Anita set-up are tossed quickly toss aside during my handicapping.
Let's take a trip through the field:
1-Great Mills (7/2): His first and only try over the downhill was a fourth place finish in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint this past November. Ran well in his first try.
3-Comma to the Top (9/2): He's tried the downhill once in his career and finished foruth in the G3-Eddie D back on Sept. 28th.
4-Starspangled Heat (20/1): He's been on the downhill five times in his career, winning twice with a second and two thirds. Not bad at all. All of those races came against Allowance company so it remains to be seen if he can step up to the graded stakes ranks. But he definitely has a liking for the trip.
5-Circa'sgoldengear (8/1): Like Starspangled Heat, Circa'sgoldengear has run well on the downhill albeit versus lesser company. He's 3-1-2-0 lifetime on the trip and beat OC $62k/N2X company last time out.
6-Clubhouse Ride (12/1): Four tries on the downhill, all against OC $62k/N2X company, with a win, a second and a third (and a fourth).
7-Capital Account (5/1): He's never tried the downhill or even the grass in 12 lifetime races.
8-Guest Star (12/1): Two attempts on the downhill with a victory over Maiden Special Weight company back on Oct. 19th.
9-Red Sun (6/1): Three tries on the downhill with a pair of victories prior to a 9th place finish in the G3-Eddie D back on Sept. 28th. The chart and the replay are silent as to why he ran such a clunker in that September race; he might be worth another shot given his prior success at the trip.
10-Wilkinson (6/1): Has never tried the downhill in his career and hasn't ran since a 44/1 upset in the G2-American Handicap at Betfair Hollywood back on May 26th.
11-Ain't No Other (8/1): Four races over the downhill turf course in his career with a second and a third for his efforts. He finished 7th in the G3-San Semeon back on April 12th of this year, and finished 3rd in the G3-Morovich in October of 2011.
12-Tale of a Champion (15/1): He's tried the downhill twice and finished 5th and 8th.
I tend to prefer the horses on the outside of the starting gate due to the fact that they are closest to the rail on the first easy right-handed turn after leaving the starting gate. By the time the field hits the big, sweeping left-hand turn just before entering the homestretch, the field is usually strung out enough to avoid a wide trip. That being the case, I like 9-Red Sun in this spot even though his last try on the downhill was a complete stinker. If Julien Leparoux can hustle him out of the gate in good order, he should get a beautiful trip from his #9 spot in the starting gate.
1-Great Mills makes a lot of sense as the favorite in this race and he should be able to use his speed to avoid having the field descend upon him as they roll into the final turn. However, I'm willing to take a stand against the favorite since A) he'll likely be over-bet given his strong effort at the Breeders' Cup, B) he's returning for his first start since that big effort against a quality field, and C) I think he's a better fit for races at five furlongs than six and a half.