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Racing expert Sweet Lou Monaco's picks for the Palos Verdes Stakes at Santa Anita

Today, Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California offers the $200,000 Grade 2 Palos Verdes Stakes for 4-year-olds and up over six furlongs on the dirt. The short field of 6 will go to gate for race 8 on the 9-race card with an approximate post time of 7 p.m. ET.

#3, Flagstaff, Victor Espinoza, 2-1

Flagstaff has finished in the money in five straight starts (3-1-1) and is coming off a win in the Damascus Stakes on the early portion of the Breeders’ Cup card at Santa Anita on Nov. 2. A start prior in his only graded stakes appearance, he finished third in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes on Oct. 5. Victor Espinoza has the ride for trainer John Sadler. I think his second graded stakes appearance will be better than the first. The pick.

#5, St. Joe Bay, Rafael Bejarano, 7-2

This will be St. Joe Bay’s third start in the Palos Verdes, having finished fifth last year and first in the 2017 edition. He has finished in the money in six of his last eight starts and is coming off a three-length victory as the sixth choice in a field of seven in the Grade 2 San Carlos Stakes here on March 30. This will be his third straight graded stakes race and is first race running in almost nine months. Rafael Bejarano is in the irons for Sadler, his second horse in the race including my top selection. Runner-up.

#6, Speed Pass, J.C. Diaz, Jr., 5-2

He is 2-for-2 for trainer Bob Baffert with both races coming at Los Alamitos in a maiden special weight race (9/20, 1 ¾ lengths) and an impressive seven-lengths win in an allowance optional claiming race (12/7). This will be his first graded stakes race and is making a huge jump. We will see how it likes the upgrade. J.C. Diaz, Jr. has the mount. Contender.

#1, Ax Man, Drayden Van Dyke, 5-2

Today marks his 10th career start (4-0-2) and his fifth graded stakes start (0-0-2). He is coming off a fifth-place finish in the Grade 2 San Carlos Stakes at Santa Anita on March 30, so he too is coming off a 10-month layoff. He did win the start prior in an allowance optional claiming race here on Feb. 8. In the mix.

PICKS: 3-5-6-1

By Lou Monaco


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