Santa Anita: Graded stakes plays for Memorial Day

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

May 25th, 2020

Memorial Day has historically been a major day in horse racing, and Santa Anita will keep the tradition going by hosting a trio of graded stakes races on Monday.

The highlight of the afternoon is the $300,000 Shoemaker Mile (G1), a "win and you’re in" qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1). But the $300,000 Gamely (G1) and the $200,000 Monrovia (G2) are also shaping up to be compelling and competitive races, supporting the day’s feature in a big way.

Let’s play all three races on a $100 budget:

Race 5: Monrovia (G2) (5:30 p.m. ET)

There’s plenty of speed in this 5 1/2-furlong turf dash for fillies and mares, with #7 Jolie Olimpica the filly to catch. A Group 1 winner against males in Brazil, Jolie Olimpica was clearly best in the Las Cienegas (G3) over this course and distance on Jan. 11, winning by 1 1/4 lengths in the course record time of 1:01.00. Though she weakened to finish second when stretching out over a mile in the Feb. 22 Buena Vista (G2), cutting back in distance will make Jolie Olimpica a dangerous threat with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith in the saddle.

But since the Monrovia is packed with speed, #2 Oleksandra is also worth a long look. The stretch-running daughter of Animal Kingdom is two-for-three over the Santa Anita turf course, winning a pair of 6 1/2-furlong sprints, and she competed with aplomb against tough competition throughout North America last year. She ended the season with a rousing triumph in Keeneland’s Buffalo Trace Franklin County (G3), romping by two lengths against a deep field, and a repeat of this effort can land Oleksandra in the winner’s circle.

$15 to Win on #2 Oleksandra
$10 Exacta Box: 2,7 ($20)

Race 9: Shoemaker Mile (G1) (7:30 p.m. ET)

There are plenty of live contenders to consider in this competitive turf mile, so I’m going to think outside the box and play #9 March to the Arch. One of two runners conditioned by Mark Casse, March to the Arch’s recent form has been muddied by tough trips. In fact, he never got any chance to lengthen his stride in the Mar. 28 Appleton (G3) at Gulfstream Park—he was buried behind and between runners down the homestretch, yet still managed to thread his way through and finish third.

March to the Arch has shown enough talent through the years to win four stakes races, and he was beaten just a length in the 2019 Shadwell Turf Mile (G1), so it’s not a stretch to think he can compete against Grade 1 company. Since March to the Arch figures to start at large odds, let’s bet him to win and key him under "ALL" in the exacta—even a runner-up finish should be profitable:

$10 to Win on #9 March to the Arch
$2 Exacta: ALL with 9 ($20)

Race 11: Gamely (G1) (8:30 p.m. ET)

#1 Etoile was among the better 3-year-old fillies in France last year, winning the Prix Cleopatra (G3) and finishing fourth by less than a length in the Prix de Diane (G1). Now she’s set to make her North American debut for acclaimed turf trainer Chad Brown, who has gone four-for-eight with grass runners at Santa Anita since the start of 2018. Brown wins at a 21% rate with new acquisitions from abroad, so with hot jockey Joel Rosario in the saddle, Etoile will be tough to beat.

Let’s bet Etoile to win and play her on top of a straight exacta with #2 Ollie’s Candy, a consistent and versatile Grade 1 winner who looms as the only clear speed horse in the Gamely field:

$25 to Win on #1 Etoile
$10 Exacta: 1 with 2

Good luck!