Mucciolo: How to Bet the Santa Anita Handicap

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March 9th, 2018

Eight will go postward in the historic $600,000 Santa Anita Handicap (G1) on Saturday in what looks like an especially wide-open race:

#1 TOP OF THE GAME: Vladimir Cerin trainee draws and will save ground in this 10-furlong test, but a trio of unplaced finishes with graded company of late does little to instill confidence today.

#2 PRIME ATTRACTION: Dark bay son of Unbridled’s Song has been very sharp in two of his last three and I loved how he rated and kicked home when second in the San Pasqual (G2) last time. In a race without an abundance of pace, five-year-old could be perfectly placed throughout beneath Tiago Pereira.

#3 CURLIN ROAD: Grade 3 winner was a distant fourth in the Pacific Classic (G1) and picks a very ambitious spot to make a first run since the summer. Doug O’Neill trainee has never proven to be of Grade 1 caliber and would be a surprise to me shining 1 ¼ miles off of solely morning works.

#4 GIANT EXPECTATIONS: Prime contender was put away in the lane, like many, in the Pegasus (G1) last time but is not facing the likes Gun Runner or West Coast today. Peter Eurton pupil proved his class with a front-running heist in the San Antonio (G2) and likely will aim for a similar type of trip and finish today. A recent bullet half-mile tells me that Giant Expectations will be ready to go with Corey Nakatani in the irons.

#5 HOPPERTUNITY: Workhorse from the Baffert barn is as likable as any runner in training right now in my opinion. Seven-year-old by Any Given Saturday has never been one to shy away from facing the best horses around on his way to more than $4.3 million in lifetime earnings. Hoppertunity seemingly always runs his race, which puts him on par with any in this field.

#6 FEAR THE COWBOY: Florida invader has never been better, posting 100+ BRIS Speed figures in a trio of races in succession. Efren Loza pupil was a solid fourth in the Pegasus and this appears to be the perfect time for him to face this particular cast. Javier Castellano taking the reins is a good thing, too.

#7 ACCELERATE: John Sadler trainee had a fine prep run for today’s endeavor with a stylish 1 ¾-length score in the San Pasqual (G2). Son of Lookin at Lucky has no doubt improved since being equipped with blinkers in July. The :12 flat final furlong last out is a positive sign to stretch out to 10 panels today.

#8 MUBTAAHIJ: $4.6 million earner is a Grade 1 winner on the surface and had a prep race that I really liked leading up to today. Son of Dubawi was used up early in a yearly debut and removes the hood for this one, which seems like a brilliant move to me. Mike Smith will pilot Mubtaahij, who comes in with a pair of fine morning moves of late.


In a race with a well-matched field, early pace will play huge role in determining the outcome. I envision Prime Attraction sitting in a garden spot early behind a pair of leaders, saving ground every step of the way. I am not sure how the Jim Cassidy trainee will handle today’s event at 1 ¼ miles but his ability to rate and then kick for home last out was a big positive for a runner who was often head-strong previously.

Mubtaahij was not fully cranked up for the San Pasqual and was out of his element when contesting the pace from the break. The equipment change and move to Smith should help him get back to his best.


$10 Exacta Box: 2-8 ($20)

50-cent Superfecta: 2,8 over 2,4,5,6,7,8 over 2,4,5,6,7,8 over 2,4,5,6,7,8 ($60)