How to Bet the Californian Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

April 27th, 2018

The field might be small, but I’m intrigued by the handicapping challenge offered by Saturday’s $200,000 Californian Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita.

Six horses will face the starter in this nine-furlong prep for the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (gr. I), with the clear 8-5 choice on the morning line being #4 Dr. Dorr. Trained by Bob Baffert, who won this race last year with Collected, Dr. Dorr has only run ten times in the last 2 ½ years and has been sidelined on several occasions, but he’s been in great form so far in 2018, winning a 6 ½-furlong allowance race at Santa Anita with a 102 BRIS speed figure before stretching out to a mile and cruising to a four-length win in the Santana Mile.

Dr. Dorr has spent the majority of his career sprinting and has never run beyond a mile, but his gate-to-wire triumph in the Santana Mile suggests that routing might be his strong suit after all. He did secure a very easy lead in that race—in fact, RacingFlow.com assigned the Santana Mile a Closer Favorability Ratio of 3, indicating a very speed-favoring race—but there’s not much speed in the Californian Stakes and Dr. Dorr should be poised for another perfect trip setting or stalking a slow pace. The question is, can he hang on while going nine furlongs?

I actually think #2 Full of Luck is rather interesting in this race. Although he’s never run on dirt, he was an accomplished Group 1 winner on turf in Chile despite having a thoroughly dirt-oriented pedigree—he’s by Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Lookin at Lucky out of a mare by Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus.

Full of Luck made his U.S. debut for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer in the San Francisco Mile (gr. III) on turf at Golden Gate Fields last month, and while he finished eleventh of twelve, he wasn’t badly beaten in the scheme of things while racing at a distance well short of his best. Considering his ample success running ten furlongs or farther in Chile, the nine furlongs of the Californian shouldn’t be an issue, and if he enjoys the switch to dirt I think we could see him step up in a big way.

I’ll emphasize Dr. Dorr on the top of my tickets, but will also cover for the possibility of Full of Luck pulling off the upset:

$5 exacta: 2,4 with 2,4 ($10) $3 trifecta: 4 with 2,5,6 with 2,5,6 ($18) $1 trifecta: 2 with 4 with 5,6 ($2)

Good luck!