Hanson: Four to follow in Santa Anita's graded features opening day

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

December 23rd, 2016

Santa Anita's opening day is a big one on the U.S. racing calendar and everyone would love to be at their handicapping and betting best, myself included. However, with the possibility of potential bragging rights comes the chance of missing by over thinking, especially in the four graded stakes on offer.

Here are the entries I find the most attractive, odds-wise, in Monday's features.

San Simeon (G3) - Race 6 - If he's not over the top after two strong allowance wins this fall, He Will (#9, 6-1) certainly looks like a top contender in his stakes debut. While he hasn't faced this kind of field before, he has won over this course and distance, is in peak form for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, and should get a very strong pace to rally off of from mid-pack.

La Brea (G1) - Race 7 - Having witnessed in person Finley'sluckycharm (#3, 5-2) in her latest win, the $82,000 Dream Supreme at Churchill Downs, I can tell you she certainly appears all that. Though the most likely winner on present form, Santa Anita isn't always the easiest track for horses to ship into and win over. I'll be hedging my support for her in the Win and Exacta pools with Perfect Pic (#8, 6-1), who won impressively on debut, missed the break before rallying for second in her allowance bow, and most recently missed by a length against older fillies and mares in the L.A. Woman (G3). She's less exposed and has more upside than all of these.

Malibu (G1) - Race 8 - He hasn't faced stakes company yet, but the quality of Ten Blessings' (#4, 3-1) allowance score over this track and distance on November 4 could separate him from the rest of the pack if repeated. Bred to be a good one with Smart Strike and dual champion Indian Blessing as parents, he's starting to show his potential at the right time.

Mathis Brothers Mile (G2) - Race 9 - Blackjackcat (#2) and Conquest Enforcer (#4) should show early foot, perhaps enough to give Moonlight Drive (#3, 6-1) a chance from slightly off the pace. A recent allowance scorer down the hill after battling through wicked fractions, the Bob Baffert charge should revert to stalking tactics for this. A course-and-distance allowance winner in his U.S. debut, he fared well enough against stakes foes at Del Mar to suggest he can pull off a minor surprise.