Shapiro: Finley'sluckycharm one of four spot plays on Santa Anita opener
Once again Santa Anita will open its winter/spring meeting the day after Christmas and the racing office has compiled an extremely challenging nine-race card that is headlined by the 44th running of the La Brea (G1) and the 65th edition of the Malibu (G1), both run at seven furlongs.
To celebrate the big day at Santa Anita, Twin Spires is offering an Opening Day Cash Back promotion! Just place a $15 Win bet on a single horse in any stakes race at Santa Anita on Monday, December 26, and if it finishes second or third, Twin Spires will refund your $15 Win bet.
The opening day card appears to be void of odds-on favorites and should offer horseplayers plenty of potential overlays in the Win pool. Given the Twin Spires promotion over the last four races and the low 15.43 percent takeout, it is a great opportunity to place some good old fashioned Win bets!
Here are a few that I will be wagering on to hit the wire first if the price remains on or above the morning line:
Race 1: #9 Informant
The opener is an optional claiming event for two-year-old fillies at 6 1/2 furlongs over the main track. While the favorites are certainly contenders in this spot, I think Informant is an interesting price play at 8-1 on odds maker Jon White's morning line.
Two back, this daughter of Informed dueled between runners on the backstretch, put away her rivals on the far turn and into the stretch and finished a game second over this racetrack. Despite not being first to the wire, she was rewarded with a victory due to the winner being takedown for interference at the quarter pole.
In her most recent start going two turns for the first time, the Eddie Truman trainee had an uncomfortable voyage and finished a well-beaten third at odds of 23-1.
I think the cutback in distance to one turn, the outside draw, and a trip that should allow her to stalk outside the pacesetters makes her a very intriguing upset candidate and worth a win bet to start the meet.
Race 4: #1 Rye Patch
The fourth race is an optional claimer at 1 1/8 miles over the Santa Anita lawn. Rye Patch is listed at 5-1 on the morning line and appears in a good spot to win his fourth lifetime start. The four-year-old Hard Spun gelding has shown an affinity for the nine-furlong distance with a win in two seconds in three recent tries.
Rye Patch certainly will be prominently placed in this spot, and while I have some concerns that he will get caught up in a duel early with #5 Cardiac or #11 Dark Energy, the presence of jockey Drayden Van Dyke for the first time gives me confidence that if needed this Bill Spawr runner can relax just off the lead if needed.
I would not advise taking anything less than 9-2 or 5-1 on Rye Patch given the possibility of a contentious early pace, but he is in great form and faces a group I think he can handle on opening day.
Race 6: #3 Stormy Liberal
The sixth is the first of four graded stakes races and is probably the best betting race of the day. The San Simeon (G3) at about 6 1/2 furlongs down the hillside turf offers horseplayers several ways to go.
In the end, I landed on Stormy Liberal for trainer Peter Miller. This son of Stormy Atlantic comes off a strong runner-up finish against top-level optional claiming company at Del Mar when he stalked an extremely hot pace early and still finished well. He now gets back to the course he has won all three of his career races on and should be able to work out a trip just off the early pace.
I would prefer to see Stormy Liberal drawn further outside in this spot, but with two speed horses drawn inside him, I am hopeful that jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr. can still work out a favorable trip. At his morning line odds of 8-1 I am willing to gamble that he can.
Race 7: #3 Finley'sluckycharm
The seventh is the La Brea for three-year-old fillies run at seven furlongs. A solid field of eight females is prepared to break from the gate at 3:30 (PST) including my top pick Finley'sluckycharm.
The daughter of Twirling Candy has been nothing short of amazing in her three starts since September for trainer Bret William Calhoun. She heads west with a record of five wins in six starts and meets a group she should be able to handle.
If she can get out of the gate well, she should out-sprint this group early and hold off 2-1-morning line favorite Lightstream in the stretch.
I always have reservations going too crazy with a horse shipping west and running over this surface for the first time, but this filly has won with such ease in all three of her starts this fall that I think she stands out against this group. Given the fact that I get my money back on part of my win bet if she finishes second or third, I think she is worth wagering on at anything 5-2 or higher.
Happy Holidays and good luck at the windows!