Analysis, Selections, and Tickets: Santa Anita Opening Day (12/26/17)

First and foremost, I hope you’re having a great holiday season with the people you love and care about. I’m huddled under several blankets typing this, as your resident handicapper/scribe is a converted Californian who’s no longer used to the winters of upstate New York!

One of the great treats of this time of year is opening day at Santa Anita. That card is coming up Tuesday and boasts nine races, including four of the graded stakes variety. I’ve got two multi-race exotics tickets that cover the entire program, and I’ll go through them all next!

$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

R1: 9,10
R2: 3,6,9,10,12
R3: 6
R4: 2,3,4,8,10
R5: 4,8

100 Bets, $50

This ticket is built around the horse that will likely be the shortest price of the day. However, despite this “free square,” I think this Pick Five could pay handsomely.

I’m two-deep in the opener, and while I’m using morning line favorite #10 BIG BUZZ, my top pick actually breaks directly to that one’s inside. #9 FENGARI took a step forward in his first start going long, and he showed some early speed that day, which could serve him well in this spot. There doesn’t appear to be much early speed signed on, and top rider Javier Castellano (who’s in town on a one-day trip) could get an ideal trip on or near the lead in a very slowly-paced race. 5-1 seems like a square price given the likely race shape, and I could see the logic in singling him.

I’m spreading in the second race, which features a full field of 2-year-old maidens going seven furlongs. #12 CANDY CORNELL may be favored, as he exits a fast debut race at Del Mar where he was second despite most of his trainer’s runners needing a race or two to get going. He could be talented enough to win, but a bounce off of such an effort is far from impossible. The one to fear could be #9 AMERICAN RULE, a Bob Baffert trainee making his career debut following a string of fast workouts.

The single I mentioned is #6 COLLECTED in the Grade 2 San Antonio. Simply put, he seems better than the rest of this group, and if he runs the type of race he usually runs, he’ll be very difficult to beat. I respect the likes of #1 HOPPERTUNITY and #5 ACCELERATE, but Collected seems like a different kind of animal.

I thought the fourth race was the most difficult in the sequence. This is a maiden race for turf sprinters coming down the hill, and I want coverage. #10 SENSIBLE MYTH is a reasonable favorite, especially given the cushy outside draw and the continued presence of Flavien Prat. With that in mind, there are others that merit consideration. #2 CHICKATINI likely needed her debut and should step forward, #3 LADYBUG has experience and the running style that hints at downhill success, #4 SLICK TRICK is bred up and down for turf and has worked reasonably well, and #8 MAPIT has the pedigree to suggest the switch to turf will be a welcome one.

I’m two-deep in the payoff leg, and I’m not getting cute. I’m using #4 BIG GRAY ROCKET and #8 SPECTRE BOND, and they’ll likely be the top two betting choices. The former has been working well ahead of his first start in 14 months and may not have been too out of place in the Grade 1 Malibu later on in the card, while the latter makes his first start for new trainer Peter Miller and has hinted at potential from the get-go.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #6

R6: 5,8
R7: 1,3,7
R8: 6,8,9
R9: 2,5,8,11

72 Bets, $36

This is a very difficult sequence that, I believe, will pay out a healthy sum. I don’t have a single on this ticket, and hopefully, we can get this home.

The sixth is the Grade 2 Mathis Brothers Mile for 3-year-olds. I’m two-deep, and I think this gets off to a formful start. #5 BOWIES HERO and #8 BIG SCORE are the two likely favorites, and I’m using them both. The absence of Sharp Samurai leaves the door open for one of the horses that have chased him to win this, and I think one of them does.

The seventh is the Grade 1 La Brea for 3-year-old fillies. Many will have this figured as a two-horse race between #3 UNIQUE BELLA and #7 PARADISE WOODS, and I’m using both, but I think it’s unwise to sleep on #1 MISS SUNSET. She’s a seven-furlong specialist with seven wins in 11 lifetime starts, and while the rail draw is a bit of a problem, she’ll likely be more of a price than she should be due to the presence of the other two heavyweights.

The eighth is the Grade 1 Malibu, and while it may bite me in the rear end, I’m against the morning line favorite. #4 FAVORABLE OUTCOME ships west for Chad Brown, but I’ve yet to be floored by him this year. He earned a big number with his last-out win at Aqueduct, but he didn’t beat a ton that day, so I’ll try to beat him, especially at his likely price. I prefer #6 PAVEL (cutting back to a distance he should love), #8 DABSTER (who showed a new dimension last time out and should improve second off the bench), and #9 C Z ROCKET (who’s yet to be beaten and has worked lights-out since arriving at Santa Anita).

We finish with a real mess of a race in the form of a one-mile optional claimer on turf. #11 LAZZAM could be favored, but he wasn’t an automatic “use” for me. He’s had a lot of chances lately, and I almost put forth a ticket that didn’t have him on there. The redeeming factor for him, though, is a lot of early speed that’s signed on, which should lead to a favorable race shape. I’ll also use morning line favorite #5 SPANISH HOMBRE, as well as a few prices. #2 INCREDIBLE LUCK returns to his favorite turf course following a needed run off the bench, and #8 ACCOUNTABILITY has flexibility and boasts a last-out win here back in October.

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