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On Saturday, March 5, Santa Anita Park will feature six graded stakes races including the Grade II San Felipe Stakes, which is a Kentucky Derby Prep race, in addition to three Grade I races. Get my analysis and selections for each stakes race.
ANALYSIS

Saturday Santa Anita Horse Racing Picks: Kentucky Derby Prep San Felipe, and More

Race 4

  • Distance: 7 furlongs
  • Name: San Carlos Stakes – Grade II
  • Age: 4-years-old and up
  • Surface: Dirt

Early speed in one-turn dirt races is often a winning recipe, which is the argument in favor of Brickyard Ride (3-1). He has the best early speed, regularly wires comparable fields, and is the defending champion of this race. However, he also just ran two weeks ago and in his 20-race career he has only run on such short rest once before and faded severely down the stretch to lose by 15 lengths. Despite winning eight of 11 career starts at Santa Anita, could something similar happen here? I think it might.

Cezanne (5-2) would be the likely beneficiary of Brickyard Ride faltering but he’s got his own set of issues. At his best, he’s a dominant horse as displayed back in April 2021 at the Grade III Kona Gold, but he went on the shelf for nine months and came back to run a disappointing third in a Grade III at Santa Anita. I’m willing to chalk that up to needing a race given his workouts since that January race have been spectacular.

Eight Rings (3-1) might have the most name recognition in the field given his prominence in graded stakes action on the west coast and at the Breeders’ Cup, but he struggles to close the deal and doesn’t have the same type of early speed as Brickyard Drive to get to the lead. He’s a frustrating horse to use in exotics since he does not offer much value but does typically hit the board. Canadian Pride (4-1) ran out of his mind last time out and I would expect a regression to the mean this time out, but I do like Shooters Shoot (4-1) to turn in a solid performance. He’s shown good versatility in terms of distance and should get a nice trip behind the early speed.

Race 4 Picks

  • Win: Cezanne
  • Place: Shooters Shoot
  • Show: Eight Rings

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Race 5

  • Distance: 1 mile
  • Name: Buena Vista
  • Age: 4-years-old and up (fillies)
  • Surface: Turf

There will plenty of early speed in this race, which should be led by Leggs Galore (7-2) has six of the 11 horses enter prefer to sit first or second early in a race. Obviously, that’s not going to happen until they stack up four wide. As a result, Leggs Galore might get pressured more than she would like and while she has experience running at a mile, she’s had much of her success sprinting. That said, she’s run well on the grass at Santa Anita finishing on the board in six of seven career races, including five wins.

A horse that has never missed the board in her career at Santa Anita is Mucho Unusual who is an amazing 13-13 hitting the board on the Southern California turf. She’s getting blinkers added, which is a little surprising given the success she’s had being forwardly placed without them. Breaking from the 11th post is not ideal and with so much early speed to her inside she may get shuffled back further than she likes or expend more energy early to get up front. She’s accustomed to going longer so I’m less worried about fatigue with her than others who might face a similar challenge.

Going to Vegas (3-1) had a lot of success running nine and 10 furlongs with a frontrunning style in 2021 until she ran in the Breeders’ Cup where she faded to a distance 11th. She’s been off since that race under the watchful eye of trainer Richard Baltas. She should get a nice stalking trip, but jockey Flavien Prat needs to make sure she doesn’t get caught up in too hot of a pace up front. If she runs back to her form prior to the Breeders’ Cup the outcome might be academic.

Tony Ann (6-1) offers some intriguing value for a horse that is ascending but taking a major step up in class. She’s a winner of three straight but her speed figures have flattened out while she’s stepped up from sprinting to route running. Her jockey, Umberto Rispoli, is one of the best on the turf in California. If you’re looking for a big number underneath, consider Avenue de France (15-1) who managed to close like a demon into a slow pace last time out. She’s got the turn of foot and the early speed should set up nicely for her.

Race 5 Picks

  • Win: Going to Vegas
  • Place: Tony Ann
  • Show: Mucho Unusual

Race 6 – Kentucky Derby Prep Race (50 points to the winner)

  • Distance: 1 1/16 miles
  • Name: San Felipe Stakes – Grade II
  • Age: 3-years-old
  • Surface: Dirt

The morning line odds would indicate this is a two-horse race between Doppelganger (9-5) and Forbidden Kingdom (8-5). When they last met at 7 furlongs, Forbidden Kingdom got the jump out of the gate and never let up as he wired the field in the San Vincente Stakes. The question will be whether he can extend that speed to route running over a mile. I love the way trainer Richard Mandella has been working him out since that win extending him longer works and then shortening him up the week of the race.

Doppelganger has also been working out beautifully and the son of Into Mischief will love every inch of the extra distance. He should sit close to the lead but has the versatility to get shuffled back without it impacting his late run. Obviously, if he were to win, he would not receive at points toward the 2022 Kentucky Derby as he’s trained by Bob Baffert who is currently suspended from entering horses at Churchill Downs.

Armagnac (5-1), another Baffert runner, would have to improve on his maiden-breaking effort and is no match for the early speed of Forbidden Kingdom, so he’ll have to carve out a stalking or mid-pack trip as a result. Happy Jack (8-1) was going to wrong direction late in his last race, which was the first time he routed, and finished 27+ lengths behind the winners. I think he will improve but he would need a 25-points speed figure jump to hit the board. Finally, Cabo Spirit (5-1) was blown out by Messier last time out but still finished second. He’s run well, primarily on turf, but has versatility and distance should not be an issue.

Race 6 Picks

  • Win: Forbidden Kingdom
  • Place: Doppelganger
  • Show: Armagnac

Race 9

  • Distance: 1 mile
  • Name: Beholder Mile – Grade I
  • Age: 4-years-old and up (fillies)
  • Surface: Dirt

Small fields with overwhelming favorites are often a staple of Santa Anita cards and the Beholder Mile fits that description. As Time Goes By (4-5) is the overwhelming favorite and she’s looked dominant since coming out of the suicidal pace of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Her most recent victory came at the Grade III La Cananda by over 13 lengths and prior to that she outdueled the late-Warren’s Showtime. She can hold up to a hot pace in a way that none of the other contestants can and is the clear pick and should be singled in horizontal wagers.

Envoutante (8-5) has posted higher Beyer Speed Figures than As Time Goes By but rarely has run the type of pace that she has in previous races. She’s shipping from the east coast (Gulfstream Park) but picking up veteran jockey John Velazquez who is winning at a 27% clip at Santa Anita this winter. She’s coming back from a three-month layoff for trainer Ken McPeek, whose barn has not been firing on all cylinders if you’ve been watching his horses perform on the Derby trail.

Miss Bigly (5-1) has been beaten by both the favorites on different occasions but just turned in a nice win at the Grade III Bayakoa at Oaklawn Park. She seems fresh coming out of this race and would be wise to sit behind the pace and hope she can run into something down the stretch. Varda (6-1) is coming back from a 15-month layoff and does not offer the appropriate morning line value to play underneath.

Race 9 Picks

  • Win: As Time Goes By
  • Place: Envoutante
  • Show: Miss Bigly

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Race 10

  • Distance: 1 mile
  • Name: Frank Kilgore Stakes – Grade I
  • Age: 4-years-old and up
  • Surface: Turf

Let’s break up this chalk-fest with a large field on the turf. There is a lot of early speed between Subconscious (5-1), Beyond Brilliant (8-1), Tell Your Daddy (6-1), and Bob and Jackie (20-1). As a result, you want to find a horse that has a great turn of foot and can pass people down the stretch. Enter Law Professor (6-1). He is a rare horse that is effective on both surfaces and is coming back to the grass after running a monster second place to Express Train in the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes last month. He should get an ideal trip behind the early speed and then make his move around the far turn. He’s only been improving since coming back from a five-month layoff and I believe his best turf races are ahead of him.

Beyond Brilliant is the frontrunner that I have the most confidence in not fading completely as he’s equipped to go longer and has been so consistent over the last three races, all of which have been graded stakes affairs in California. Kent Desormeaux has been taken off the ride due to his legal troubles, but Victor Espinoza should be an effective replacement given Beyond Brilliant’s preferred riding style.

Morning line favorite Count Again (7-2) is a talented, but an erratic runner who does not win often enough to be considered strong win candidate. Tell Your Daddy is a horse to consider as east coast shippers on turf tend to do well out west. If he’s able to stay out of the early speed, he could carve out a nice stalking trip. Finally, if you’re looking for big value underneath, Delaware (20-1) is a horse with graded stakes experience and who rarely runs poorly. If he’s able to break okay from the #1 post position, and the addition of blinkers should help, then he could get a piece picking up the pieces.

Picks 10 Picks

  • Win: Law Professor
  • Place: Tell Your Daddy
  • Show: Beyond Brilliant

Race 11

  • Distance: 1 ¼ mile
  • Name: Santa Anita Handicap – Grade I
  • Age: 4-years-old and up
  • Surface: Dirt

The headlining race features the biggest names in west coast dirt racing with Express Trainer (8-5) set as the morning line favorite. He’s a formidable horse coming off consecutive victories, but his track record at 10 furlongs is a mixed back that has been getting worse over time. This is not the strongest field of competitors so he may be able to sneak by with a victory but it’s hardly a sure thing.

Stilleto Boy (5-2) handled himself very well in a third-place finish at the Grade I Pegasus World Cup in January finishing behind Life is Good and Knicks Go. He’s run against the best horses in North America over the last year and typically holds his own, but he hasn’t won very often either. He gets John Velazquez aboard but the 1 ¼ mile route may be a bridge too far based upon his Breeders’ Cup Classic trip.

Warrant (4-1) is perhaps a lesser version of Stilleto Boy in that he ran respectably behind two very good horses last time out in the form of Mandaloun and Midnight Bourbon. However, he finished nine lengths back and his victories have come at 9 furlongs and against Grade III or non-graded stakes company.

If you want to take a shot with a horse in exotics or in a late Pick 4 sequence, then think about using Soy Tapatio (20-1). He’s taking a massive jump in class, but his trainer Doug O’Neill seems to have stumbled upon a diamond in the rough when he stretched him out in length and he should relish the extra distance on Saturday. I could easily see him passing horses in the final furlong to capture a piece of the board.

Race 11 Picks

  • Win: Express Train
  • Place: Soy Tapatio
  • Show: Stilleto Boy

Article Author

Horse Racing

Matthew DeSantis is a horse racing handicapper with a fondness for lightly raced horses with improving speed figures. You can find him at the track playing surface changes and second off the layoff.

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