Keying Three Stakes Race Favorites at Santa Anita

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

February 8th, 2018

Three graded stakes races are scheduled to be run on Saturday at Santa Anita, and at first glance, making a decent wagering score could be challenging.

After all, each race features a standout runner that figures to be favored at a short price, so finding value in any one race won’t be easy. But since the three races are being run consecutively, there might be an opportunity to combine the favorites in multi-race wagers to increase the potential payoff. Let’s take a quick look at each race….

Race 4, Santa Maria Stakes (gr. II): There isn’t much speed in this 8.5-furlong event, which should only play to the strengths of heavy favorite #4 . The talented daughter of Tapit has shown flashes of brilliance while going 6-for-8 to start her career, and though the majority of her races have been sprint, she’s 2-for-2 going two turns, including a decisive triumph over the future three-time Grade 1 winner Abel Tasman in the Santa Ysabel Stakes (gr. III) over this track and distance last winter. I don’t think Unique Bella will be beaten.

Race 5, Thunder Road Stakes (gr. III): The expected favorite #3 Blackjackcat has turned into a beast of a miler since last summer, flashing excellent speed to win four straight races over this distance, including the Del Mar Mile Handicap (gr. II) against a small but quality field. However, it was Blackjackcat’s defeat in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. I) that really caught my eye. Breaking from post thirteen, Blackjackcat wound up much farther off the pace than usual while racing very wide, yet rallied steadily in the homestretch to finish a strong third, beaten just 1 ¼ lengths. He hasn’t run since then, but like Unique Bella, he’s facing a field without much speed and should be set to work out a perfect trip.

Race 6, San Vicente Stakes (gr. II): On paper, #1 Ax Man looks unstoppable. The Bob Baffert-trained son of Misremembered opened his career with a decisive 9 ½-length romp in a six-furlong maiden race at Santa Anita, setting fast fractions of :21.73 and :44.64 before drawing off to stop the clock in 1:09.43. That time earned an eye-catching 101 BRIS speed figure, and his four workouts since then have been very sharp. He looks like the “speed of the speed” in the San Vicente, and considering that Baffert wins at a 31% rate with last-out maiden winners, I’m expecting Ax Man to win right back despite jumping up in class.

With three favorites looking tough to beat in three consecutive races, I think this is the perfect opportunity to play them all in a large Pick 3 and try to hit the sequence to perfection.

Race 4 $20 Pick 3: 4 with 3 with 1

Good luck!