There are two graded stakes on tap for today: the G2-Forward Gal at Gulfstream for three year old fillies, and the first Grade 1 race of the year, the Santa Monica Handicap at Santa Anita for older fillies and mares. Both races will be run at seven furlongs. Here's a quick look at some of the notable contenders in each race.
The Forward Gal features the return of Breeders' Cup Juvenile Filly winner She Be Wild, along with eleven other three year old fillies. I loved She Be Wild in the Breeders' Cup but I think she is extremely vulnerable in this spot primarily due to the surface change; She Be Wild has made every career start on synthetic tracks. Her works over the Gulfstream surface have been quite good, including a bullet at five furlongs on January 21st. But I'm going to need to see a race from her over the dirt before I'm a believer, especially since she will likely take a bunch of money at the windows.
5-Richiegirlgonewild is undefeated in three lifetime starts and is coming off of a big race last time out at this track in the G3-Old Hat. That performance came over a sloppy and sealed track which makes me hesitant to get strongly behind her. Still, at 12/1 on the morning line, she might deserve some action in the exotics.
The Todd Pletcher trainee, 7-Ailalea, looks awfully dangerous in this spot. Ailalea is coming off a freshening after winning the G3-Tempted at Aqueduct in early November, she's displayed a versatile running style in her last two efforts, and she draws outside She Be Wild, which should allow Prado to track that rival all the way. Plus, I think you have to respect any Pletcher trainee in a spot like this.
The 11-Sister Resistor is another lightly raced filly coming in to this race off a career best performance. After breaking her maiden impressively, Sister Resisor flopped in stakes race at Arlington on the Polytrack and then came back to dominate an N1X event at Gulfstream in early January. She's facing a tough field but if she takes the next step off of that Allowance win she could be right in the mix when they turn for home. Sister Resistor is 6/1 on the morning line.
G1-Santa Monica Handicap
The Santa Monica Handicap drew a full field of twelve fillies and mares, highlighted by the morning line favorite, 6-Free Flying Soul. This mare followed up her 3rd place finish in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint with two wins in a couple of minor stakes events at Hollywood Park and Santa Anita. She's certainly been on a roll lately but with a fair amount of early speed I wonder if this race might set up better for something coming off the pace.
Both 3-Evita Argentina and 7-Proviso fit the mold of horses that tend to do their best running by coming from far back in the stretch. Evita Argentina won at this track and distance in the G1-La Brea back on December 26th, so it appears that the trip suits her. Proviso, on the other hand, may want a bit more ground than today's seven furlongs. She's won at seven furlongs before but that was on the turf in Europe where races are run very different than what will take place today. If there's a big time pace meltdown, then I think Proviso will have a good shot to win. But absent that, I think Evita Argentina might make the most sense if you're looking for a closer.
The 10-Sweet August Moon seems like a decent longshot possibility in this spot. She's making her first start since last April, which is the main reason why she's listed at 12/1 on the morning line. But she absolutely loves running on the synthetics (9-5-1-0) and at Santa Anita (7-5-1-0). It might be too much to ask of this mare to take the top prize after a layoff this long, but at long odds she might be worth a nibble in the exotic wagers.