Why I'm Betting Santa Monica in the Waya Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

August 1st, 2018

“Deep” probably isn’t a strong enough word to describe the depth of trainer Chad Brown’s stable, at least when referring to the number of quality female turf horses he trains. “Essentially bottomless?” Yes, that has a more accurate ring to it.

So naturally, Brown will be represented by two starters in Saturday’s $200,000 Waya Stakes (gr. III) at Saratoga, a 1 ½-mile turf event that seems tailor-made for Brown’s stable. Not surprisingly, Brown has won it twice in the last three years.

The Brown runner than interests me most this time is #5 Santa Monica, a five-year-old mare bred in Great Britain. A Group 3 winner in Ireland, Santa Monica has impressed since arriving in the U.S. for her 2018 campaign, starting off with a four-length romp in a 1 ½-mile allowance race at Keeneland before finishing third (beaten just a half-length) against a strong field in the Sheepshead Bay Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park.

That setback, if you can call it that, was only temporary. On June 30th, Santa Monica unleashed a powerful rally from last place to win the 1 ¼-mile Dance Smartly Stakes (gr. II) at Woodbine, defeating the stakes winners Inflexibility and Holy Helena in the sharp time of 1:59.51 seconds. Even better, Santa Monica ran the final quarter-mile in less than :23 seconds.

In my opinion, that effort stamps Santa Monica as clearly the horse to beat in the Waya, and indeed, I don’t expect her to lose. I would be tempted to single her in multi-race wagers and key her on top in bets like the exacta, trifecta, and superfecta.

The remaining contenders are harder to separate, but Santa Monica’s Brown-trained stablemate #1 Homeland Security could be in the mix following a win in the 1 ½-mile River Memories Stakes at Belmont last month. #2 Mom’s On Strike, winner of the 1 ½-mile Bewitch Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland two starts back, is another obvious candidate for the exotics.

The wildcard in this race might be #4 Queen of Connaught, who ships in from Great Britain. Trained by Michael Bell, best known for his fine work sending Wigmore Hall to win a couple of Grade 1 events in North America, Queen of Connaught is not proven at a particularly high class level in her home nation, but to her credit she has won twice over the distance of the Waya. Furthermore, as a three-year-old filly, she’s set to carry just 113 pounds—11 fewer than Santa Monica—and that could potentially help her finish on the board at a nice price.

Here’s how I would play the race:

$12 to win on #5 Santa Monica $2 exacta: 5 with 1,2,4 ($6) $1 trifecta: 5 with 1,2,4,8 with 1,2,4,8 ($12)

Good luck!