Thursday Santa Anita Park Recap: March 8
Fast main track and firm turf course. Four front running winners on dirt at a mile and a sixteenth. The other 8.5 furlong dirt event was nabbed by a pace presser. The winning turf course running styles were a midpack stalker down the hill, an inside stalker at one mile, and a last-to-first winner at one mile (rail at 20 feet; rail on hill at 14 feet).
Apprentice Franklin Ceballos guided home two winners. Peter Eurton saddled two maiden dirt route winners.
March 8 Claims: Race 1 - Impression ($50k, William Morey). Race 7 - Popular Kid ($16k, Genaro Vallejo).
Popular Kid (7th race) rallied to finish six lengths clear of the rest in 3rd, but was disqualified and placed 6th for causing interference into the first turn. Speed was very strong on the main track today, and he did well to rally for a share. He was nabbed out of this optional claiming dirt route for $16,000 by sharp trainer Genaro Vallejo.
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Justify capture above courtesy of Today's Racing Digest.
Friday Santa Anita Park Recap: March 9
Fast main track and firm turf course. Three front running winners on dirt (6.5f, 8f, 5.5f). The winning turf course running styles were a patient runner at a mile and an eighth, a pace presser at one mile, and a stalker at one mile (rail at 20 feet).
Stewart Elliott booted home a pair on the main track.
March 9 Claims: Race 3 - Mercer Island ($16k, William Morey), Tough It Out ($16k, Vladimir Cerin). Race 6 - Sally Simpson ($16k, Craig Dollase).
Mercer Island was an easy winner as the favorite in today’s third race, and Tough It Out was clearly second best. They were claimed by sharp barns (see March 9 claims above), and I will keep an eye on both.
Saturday Santa Anita Park Recap: March 10
Fast main track and firm turf course to start the day. The track condition was downgraded to wet fast (sealed) by the ninth race. The opening race on the downhill course was moved to the main track, as was the turf route finale. The other three turf routes, including a pair of flat mile stakes races, were run on the lawn, and the course was listed as firm. Three dueling front running winners on dirt (6f, 6f, 6.5f). The winning turf course running styles were a front runner at a mile and an eighth, a patient runner at one mile, and a stalker at one mile.
Drayden Van Dyke won the first four races on Big ‘Cap Day, including a victory aboard City of Light in the Grade 1 Triple Bend. Bob Baffert saddled two maiden sprint winners, and Van Dyke rode both. Phil D’Amato saddled two winners including Bowies Hero in the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile.
March 10 Claims: Race 7 - Allaboutaction ($40k, Richard Baltas). Race 9 - Liberty Jack ($12.5k, Peter Miller).
City of Light sat a nice stalking trip and gradually wore down front runner Bobby Abu Dhabi in the Grade 1 Triple Bend. The latter was clearly second best, and Edwards Going Left was best of the rest in 3rd.
The Grade 1 Kilroe Mile was a strange race with a fast pace. Last year’s BC Mile hero World Approval never lifted a hoof as the heavy favorite, and What a View, Om, and Free Rose ended up at the back of the field after setting lively early splits. That left flat mile specialist Bowies Hero in the perfect spot, and he got first run under Corey Nakatani and held off Next Shares and Channel Maker. Long winded sort Syntax rallied for 4th in his much needed return.
The Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes lived up to the hype. McKinzie and Bolt d’Oro hooked up around the far turn and battled all the way to the wire, with the former prevailing by a head. There were a couple of bumping incidents, and the stewards disqualified McKinzie for his late race antics under Mike Smith. The two aformentioned Kentucky Derby hopefuls were 6+ lengths clear of show finisher Kanthaka. This may have been the strongest Derby prep this year, and the top two finishers are both battle-tested and well-prepared for the rigors of the Derby trail.
Miss Bad Bahavior took all of the money and was much the best in the China Doll Stakes for 3-year-old fillies traveling one mile on the turf course. Treasuring stalked inside and was second best, and Lexington Grace edged Finess Bere for the show.
Accelerate is on top of his game now, and he stalked Mubtaahij and pulled clear to win by 5+ lengths in the Big ‘Cap under Victor Espinoza. The latter was clearly second best, and Fear the Cowboy got up for 3rd. Giant Expectations ended up 4th but ran much better than the margin of defeat indicates. The expected front runner hopped and bobbled at the start, and ended up three deep stalking the pace. He made a wide bid to engage the two leaders after a mile, and weakened in the lane. Give him a fast track and a clean start vs. this kind in the near future, and an entirely different outcome is likely.
Sunday Santa Anita Park Recap: March 11
Muddy (sealed) main track and off the turf. Two front running winners on the dirt oval. Five races were nabbed by pressers or stalkers, and the other two races were captured by patient runners.
Geovanni Franco guided home three winners. Mike Smith booted home a pair. Reed Saldana saddled two claiming winners ($36.20, $12.20).
March 11 Claims: Race 6 - Wonderful Lie ($20k, Ryan Hanson). Race 7 - Classico ($16k, Mark Glatt), Airfoil ($16k, Mike Pender), Top Brass ($16k, Mark Glatt).
Justify romped for the second time in as many starts, and earned a shot at an upcoming Kentucky Derby points race. In today’s fifth race vs. four badly overmatched opponents, jockey Mike Smith had Justify stalking lively fractions from the outside post. He cruised up to weary early leader Calexman, and kicked well clear in the mud while coasting across the line in an effortless performance. He has a ton of raw talent and is an exciting sophomore, but he lacks seasoning and has yet to be tested. We will learn more in his first stakes start next month.
Masochistic and Richard’s Boy set the table for outside stalker Tough Sunday in the Sensational Star Stakes. The Sunday feature was originally scheduled for the turf, and ended up being contested at 6.5 furlongs on the main track. Tough Sunday prevailed by a length over late runner Solid Wager, with Smokey Image another neck back in 3rd.