Betting Against the Proven Class in the Santa Margarita Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

April 25th, 2019

There might be a couple of established grade 1 performers entered in Saturday’s $200,000 Santa Margarita Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita Park, but for various reasons I’m inclined to oppose both in this 1 1/8-mile test.

#8 Paradise Woods is by far the most accomplished mare in this eight-horse field, but the two-time grade 1 winner hasn’t won a race since September 2017, and she seems to have lost the early speed that once made her a dangerous frontrunner.

In contrast, the late-running #3 La Force never shows much in the way of early speed, but while she did rally to finish second in three straight grade 1 events last year, she’s an infrequent winner with just two victories from 23 starts. In other words, La Force is a quintessential pick-up-the-pieces type, more likely to hit the board than cross the wire first.

I’m going to take a shot with the lightly raced #5 Withholding Info. Trained by Bob Baffert, this 4-year-old daughter of Midnight Lute won her debut sprinting six furlongs at Los Alamitos in December, then stepped up in class and distance for a one-mile allowance race at Santa Anita, where she rallied to finish a close second behind fellow Santa Margarita starter #1 Starr of Quality.

Following a three-month break, Withholding Info returned in a similar allowance race April 7 at Santa Anita and produced a strong finish from behind a slow pace to win going away by 2 3/4 lengths. Her speed figures were modest (87 BRIS and 83 Beyer), but Santa Anita has been playing so slowly since racing resumed in March, I’m willing to overlook these modest figures and instead view Withholiding Info as a promising, improving filly with the potential to step up her game Saturday.

Starr of Quality, by virtue of her victory over Withholding Info in January, is another to consider for high-percentage trainer Bill Spawr (9-for-31 at the current Santa Anita meet), while Withholding Info’s inconsistent stablemate #7 Just a Smidge could also challenge on her best day. Just a Smidge was soundly beaten in the Beholder Mile (G1) last month, but sprung a gate-to-wire 25-1 upset over Starr of Quality in a one-mile allowance race at Santa Anita two starts back. Just a Smidge is at her best when allowed to set an uncontested pace, and that certainly isn’t out of reach in this closer-laden edition of the Santa Margarita.

I’ll make Withholding Info the key to my wagers while tossing Paradise Woods entirely:

$4 exacta: 5 with 1,3,7 ($12) $4 exacta: 1,7 with 5 ($8) $1 trifecta: 5 with 1,3,7 with 1,3,7 ($6) $1 trifecta: 1,7 with 5 with 1,3,7 ($4)

Good luck!