Champagne's Sunday Racing Picks: Santa Anita

Our expert Andrew Champagne takes a look at Sunday's 7th race at Santa Anita
Andrew Champagne
Sun, January 19, 4:29 AM EST

Sunday’s seventh race at Santa Anita is a good one. It’s a maiden race for 3-year-olds going 6 1/2 furlongs, and if you like first-time starters, you’re in for a treat. Of the seven runners in this race, six are making their career debuts, and several are doing so for some of the best trainers in the game.

There’s a lot to decipher here, so let’s get going!

The Baffert Pair

In multiple ways, figuring out this race starts with analyzing a pair of colts trained by Bob Baffert. #1 NADAL and #2 VASARIANO both debut for him, and they each appear well-meant. The work tabs are impressive, they’re bred to be runners, and top-tier riders Joel Rosario and Drayden Van Dyke have the mounts.

If I had to choose between them, I’d give the slight edge to Nadal. He hammered for $700,000 at auction earlier this year, and while he’s bred to go longer than this distance, his gate works hint at plenty of pure speed. Vasariano is certainly bred for two turns, and while I’ll use him, Nadal seems like the one to beat.

The Lone Veteran

#4 JEFFNJOHN’STHUNDR is the only runner in here that’s raced before, and that alone is enough to merit some respect. He ran well in a pair of sprints late last year, and he was second behind next-out Sham Stakes winner Authentic back in November. His last effort came going two turns over a wet track, so I have no problem drawing a line through it.

The Jeff Bonde trainee once again goes up against a promising Bob Baffert runner (two, actually), but a repeat of the two-back 84 Beyer Speed Figure may make him the one to beat. He certainly can’t be ignored, and we may get an overlaid price given the last-out clunker.

They May Need Races

#5 EXAULTED and #7 LANE WAY both hail from good barns. The former is trained by Peter Eurton, and the latter is conditioned by Richard Mandella. They’re both training like good horses ahead of their debuts, and they’re both prospects to watch for big races down the line.

However, I’m betting against them here. Both barns’ horses tend to need a race or two to get going, and it’s not like this is an easy spot where a horse that isn’t fully-cranked can coast to a win. They both hit me as likely underlays, which means there may be value to be had elsewhere.

How I’ll Play It

I’m boxing the two Baffert runners and Jeffnjohn’sthundr in exactas. My thinking is that throwing out Exaulted and Lane Way may drive up my potential payoffs.

2 units: Exacta box, 1,2,4

Andrew Champagne
AndrewChampagne
Andrew Champagne is a horse racing handicapper with a specialism in juveniles. One thing is for certain, Champagne gets the party started.
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