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Saturday Stakes Action: Three Grade 1s at Santa Anita

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Below are this weekend's scheduled graded stakes races along with a quick look at the three Grade 1 events taking place at Santa Anita.

Race

Grade

Track

Distance

Condition

Gotham Stakes

III

AQU

8.5

3yo

Toboggan Handicap

III

AQU

6

3up

Herecomesthebride Stakes

III

GP

9.0 T

3yo f

Palm Beach Stakes

III

GP

9.0 T

3yo

Azeri Stakes

III

OP

8.5

4up fm

Razorback Handicap

III

OP

8.5

4up

Sham Stakes

III

SA

9

3yo

Frank E. Kilroe Mile

I

SA

8.0 T

4up

Santa Anita Handicap

I

SA

10

4up

Santa Anita Oaks

I

SA

8.5

3yo f

 

Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks

Your 1/2 morning line favorite will be 5-Blind Luck, Jerry Hollendorfer's filly that won the Grade 1 Las Virgenes in her last start at 1/5 odds.  Her victory in the Las Virgenes on Feb. 13th was by the tip of her nose after receiving a pretty brutal ride from jockey Rafael Bejarano, a ride that gave her way too much to do after sitting well back of a slow early pace.   With the lack of speed in the race today, Bejarano can not afford a repeat performance or there may not be enough time to get up for the win.

The lack of pure early speed in the Oaks means that we are probably looking at the recent maiden winner, 4-All Due Respect, as the filly to set the tempo out of the gate.  And while that potential pace situation doesn't really suit Blind Luck I think it absolutely plays to 2-Crisp's advantage.  Crisp has displayed a solid mid-pack running style in her previous efforts, including a victory in the Grade 2 Santa Ysabel at Santa Anita in early January, and today trainer John Sadler is going to throw on the blinkers which should ensure that she is up near the lead early on.  If she's able to sit right off the recent maiden winner, she should be able to get first run on Blind Luck coming off the turn.  A slow enough pace and she might have enough in the tank to hold of the crowd's choice.

Crisp is two-for-two at the distance and she's got one of the best jocks on the ground in the irons, Joel Rosario.  At 6/1 on the morning line odds, she might have the best shot of the field to upset the favorite.

Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile

9-Fluke (BRZ) is your morning line favorite at 7/2 and he certainly warrants a lot of attention after winning the Grade 1 Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park last time out.  He earned the top last out Beyer for his efforts, a 104, and comes into the Kilroe in the best form of his career.  In the Citation, Fluke clicked off the final 3/16 of a mile in 27.81 second to pull clear of today's rival, 5-Ever a Friend, by a length and a quarter.

There is no question that Ever a Friend is a very talented colt as he won this race two years ago while earning a 106 Beyer figure.  But he's only raced three times since then and has appeared to have had some health issues along the way that's kept him from competing regularly.  He's undefeated over the Santa Anita turf course (3-for-3) and with Rosario in the saddle he's got to be considered a major threat to win.  However, there is a decent amount of speed around this horse and I wonder if he might be left with just a little too much to do when it comes time to get after it in the stretch.  I honestly don't know what to do with this horse (which usually means he's going to win by daylight) so my only thought is this: ignore him at your peril in the multi-race wagers.

While Fluke (BRZ) and Ever a Friend are likely and deserving favorites, I really like the mare 8-Proviso (GB) to score an upset in this spot.  This mare's North American form, while not bad, is darkened a bit by the fact that she's been running on the plastic instead of her preferred footing, grass.  In other words, I think she's better than what she's shown so far, and what she's done so far is win a Grade 1 race at Keeneland last fall (only to be DQ'd to second) and finish second in the Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap last time out.  Her synthetic form is good but take a look at those races in France on the lawn.  She won the Group 3 Prix du Pin against the boys at Longchamp in her last European race before coming to the states.  Prior to that she finished 3rd to Goldikova in the Group 1 Prix Rothschild in Deauville at today's mile distance.  She also beat the boys another time in early Spring at Longchamp.  That's some really nice work against excellent French compeition.  

Proviso (GB) is listed as 8/1 on the morning line odds and if she's close to that as we approach post time she'll warrant a win bet from my direction.  I'll take her to win as long as the odds are 5/1 or higher.

Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap

Where oh where have all the older male handicap horses gone?  Where ever they may be they certainly aren't at Santa Anita for the Big Cap today.  

Does this race really qualify as a true "handicap" anymore?  No horse can be assigned a weight of more than 126 pounds which is the same amount that three year old colts will carry at Churchill for the Derby.  To add insult to injury, this year's version of the Big Cap will feature zero horses carrying more than 120, including the morning line favorite that just happens to be the mare St. Trinians (GB).  It doesn't exactly make your mouth water for the older horse division later on this season, does it?

Of the three Grade 1s at Santa Anita today, I found the Big Cap to be the least compelling of them all; there is just not a lot of true quality throughout the race.  Sure, St. Trinians (GB) is a very nice looking mare that ran a super race in the Grade 2 Santa Maria against the girls on Feb. 13th., and Loup Breton (IRE) has done some nice work on the turf since shipping to North America from France, but beyond those two this field doesn't exactly dazzle you.

At the end of the day I landed on the horse in the 14 hole, the winner of the Grade 2 Strub, Jeranimo.  The distance is certainly a question mark but his mid-pack running style should help to conserve valuable energy as they run down the backside.  And with a pace scenario that looks good for an off-the-pace runner combined with his recent form over the Santa Anita surface, and some potentially nice odds (8/1 on the ML), Jeranimo could be a nice play in this spot.