Picks for Gulfstream & Santa Anita stakes races
Saturday is a big day of stakes action at Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita, a fun prelude to Sunday’s Super Bowl festivities. I’ll give my thoughts on some stakes races at both tracks.
Race 5, Fred Hooper (G3): AMI’S FLATTER (#1, 3-1) exits an eye-catching allowance tally over the track, registering a field-best 106 BRIS Speed rating as he kicked away to a 4-length decision, and he could develop into one of the top older horses in North America. The 4yo colt established himself as a Kentucky Derby prospect before losing the second half of his sophomore season, heading to the sidelines after a disappointing 8th in the Queen’s Plate, but he’s by Flatter and figures to improve as an older horse anyway. Ami’s Flatter gets in light under a 117-pound impost, receiving 4-to-6 pounds from his key rivals, and the class hike doesn’t concern me; expecting a big effort from the Josie Carroll trainee.
Race 6, Suwanee River (G3): TAMMY THE TORPEDO (#1, 7-2) is the slight second choice on the morning line but could easily go favored for Chad Brown, and I’m viewing her as an excellent single candidate for the Pick 4 that runs from races 6-9. After showing promise at 2, the More Than Ready filly missed the first 9 ½ months of 2015, returning in mid-October with a spectacular allowance tally, and she exits a commendable effort in the December 19 Tropical Park Oaks, overcoming a wide trip on both turns to gamely prove best in her first attempt over Gulfstream’s turf. She draws better in post 1 today and I think Tammy the Torpedo has more to offer.
Race 13, Donn H. (G1): I took a long look at Valid – the miler looms a threat to steal the race – but ultimately landed on ITSAKNOCKOUT (#7, 4-1), who moved his Gulfstream record to 4-for-5 with a sharp allowance score on December 31, defeating a nice field by a near 5-length margin. Winner of the Fountain of Youth (G2) via disqualification, the Lemon Drop Kid colt appeared to go off form when following with a dull third in the Florida Derby (G1) and missed the rest of the year after a ninth in the Kentucky Derby. Itsaknockout returned from a 9-month hiatus with a lethal turn of foot, registering a 99 Speed rating that serves as a good starting point, and Todd Pletcher wins at a 26% clip in the second start off a layoff. I think he’ll sit a good trip just off the front-runners, getting first jump on the late runners, and Itsaknockout looks poised to land a strong blow.
Race 4, Robert Lewis (G3): A serious Kentucky Derby contender for Bob Baffert, Mor Spirit (#5, 8-5) will likely have this competition at his mercy but I won’t be betting him to win at short odds. Instead, I’ll play a straight exacta (5-4) with Laoban (#4, 12-1) underneath. Laoban was the pick in the January 9 Sham (G3) but didn’t flash to the front as expected, which resulted in him being checked in traffic into the first turn. Tyler Baze was forced to guide him widest of all during the early stages and Laoban continued to take the overland route while racing greenly. He wound up a better-than-appears third, advancing to second in midstretch before being passed late, and the Uncle Mo colt still has plenty of upside for trainer Eric Guillot. Expecting further improvement with a clean trip.
Race 7, San Antonio (G2): Plenty of quality early in the card, with Mor Spirit and Songbird headlining the 3yo stakes, but not so much later, with less-than-stellar fields of older horses entered for the San Antonio and San Marcos. I’ll recommend the chances of CAT BURGLAR (#1, 4-1) in the former, giving him the edge over Cyrus Alexander & Donworth. I’m against Hoppertunity, who doesn’t run his best at Santa Anita, and usual suspects like Blingo, Hard Aces and Imperative, underachievers who seem more likely to clunk up for a minor award than challenge for the win. Cat Burglar is rounding into top form for Baffert, posting a 105 Speed rating for a nice victory over the track last time, and 6yo has the class to beat these foes, placing in races like the Brooklyn (G2) and Pimlico Special (G3). Cat Burglar drew well on the rail in a paceless race and can lead wire to wire with Rafael Bejarano.
Race 8, San Marcos (G2): My colleague Vance Hanson also likes POWER FOOT (#5, 15-1) and his price figures to be lower than 15-1 considering how well he fits at this level. The Neil Drysdale-trained gelding exits a rallying third to The Pizza Man and Big John B in the Hollywood Turf (G2), two rivals who be heavy favorites in today’s race, and Power Foot possesses solid back class as well as an affinity for the course (3 wins). The late runner should appreciate an expected solid pace in the bulky field.
Super Bowl Prognosis
CAROLINA (-6) will run away from Denver, with the game going “over” (44.5 points).
Ami’s Flatter photo courtesy of WEG/Michael Burns Photography