Champagne Picks: San Vicente Stakes

Andrew Champagne gives us his picks for today's Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita
Andrew Champagne
Sun, February 9, 7:56 AM EST

Even though it’s not a traditional Kentucky Derby prep race, the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita has attracted a fair number of top-class 3-year-olds over the past several years. Most notably, Nyquist and Exaggerator ran 1-2 in the 2016 race, which came three months before they completed the exacta in that year’s Run for the Roses.

Six horses will line up for Sunday’s 2020 renewal, but two runners figure to take most of the betting money. For at least one of them, this figures to be a stepping stone to far bigger things, and it makes for a fun race to handicap. Let’s get to it!

Justify 2.0?

It’s early, but there are plenty of similarities between the 2018 Triple Crown winner and #4 NADAL, this race’s 4/5 morning line favorite. Like Justify, Nadal was unraced at two prior to breaking his maiden in January of his 3-year-old year for Hall of Fame conditioner Bob Baffert. He gets a significant class test here, but everything he’s done to this point shows he should be able to handle it.

Because of this, Nadal is my top selection, and I’m hoping the presence of another top-tier 2-year-old (more on him shortly) drives his price up a bit. Anything 6/5 or higher would actually provide a bit of value, so I’ll be watching the tote board closely.

The Underlay

#5 STORM THE COURT parlayed a win in a bizarre renewal of the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile into an Eclipse Award as 2019’s top 2-year-old male. He makes his 3-year-old debut in this race, and regardless of your opinion on his amount of talent, I think this is a spot where it’s wise to go against him.

First of all, this race is far from the goal for Storm the Court, whose main target is the Kentucky Derby. This has “PREP RACE” written all over it in big, bold letters. Additionally, he’ll provide no betting value. Several sets of circumstances came together to create an anomaly in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, namely a favorite who blew the break and a track as tiring as any in the country. If he wins, or even runs second, I lose.

The Intriguing Third Choice

#6 GINOBILI had a star-crossed 2-year-old campaign. After breaking his maiden in his second lifetime outing, he was an OK fourth in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity before an unsuccessful try on turf in the Speakeasy Stakes. He’s been on the sidelines since that race, but I think he’s sitting on a big effort.

Ginobili comes in off of several sharp five-furlong works for trainer Richard Baltas, who’s been on a real hot streak of late at this meet. Unlike several of his rivals, he certainly looks like a sprinter who will appreciate this route, and the outside draw should allow Abel Cedillo to work out a trip. This makes him a legitimate threat, and I think there’s value to be had here.

How I’ll Play It

I’m tossing Storm the Court and boxing Nadal and Ginobili in exactas. Going against the likely second choice should drive the payoffs up a bit, and if Ginobili pulls off the mild upset, it could be a very profitable endeavor.

The Pick: (2u) Exacta box: 4,6

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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