Dirt stakes plays for Santa Anita on Dec. 26
Opening day of the superb winter/spring meet at Santa Anita is on Saturday. A total of six stakes events, with five of the graded variety, are on the sensational 11-race card. In this segment I will tackle the marquee contests on the main surface.
A compact, but electric field of six will go postward in the 7-furlong heat for sophomores. The race features are a pair of horses that have yet to be headed in the unbeaten #3 Nashville and Bob Baffert’s #4 Charlatan. Both of the dynamic 3-year-olds are especially fast, and each is training like a colt sitting on another powerful race, as well.
But, I am seeking an upset with Grade-3 victor #6 Independence Hall, who is making his second start in the Golden State. McCarthy trainee is 4-for-4 in one-turn races, and I expect him to receive a very good trip to the top of the lane from the outside post slot. Kentucky-bred will have Joel Rosario in the silks.
La Brea (G1)
Eleven 3-year-old fillies will compete in the 7-furlong sprint in what appears to be a wide-open betting affair. I am expecting a very contested early pace and for the winner to be sitting just off of it during the early stages.
#4 Secret Keeper failed to fire at Keeneland most recently, but the Sise pupil left a fine previous impression of herself in California earlier this campaign. The Into Mischief homebred was super impressive in a debut win on the surface, and she gets back with regular rider Cedillo on Saturday.
I also have a lot of interest in #9 Fair Maiden for Eoin Harty. Street Boss filly is proven on all surfaces, and while she also didn’t run her best at Keeneland last time out, I like her chances to show vast improvement in this dash at a big price. Her allowance victory two back on the dirt at Churchill Downs was fantastic, and a repeat of that will see her charging down the stretch under Gonzalez.
San Antonio (G2)
A total of eight contenders will travel 1 1/16 miles to kick off the late Pick 5. I’ll be the first to admit that I do not have a strong hold of the handicap division in California this year. But #2 Kiss Today Goodbye has impressed in his last pair of dirt efforts for Brian Koriner, and I will tab him to make the frame at a huge price from off the pace. Cairo Prince colt lacks the class of his foes, but the pace of the race will be very swift, and the one-run closer should capitalize and pick up horses late under Mike Smith.