Shapiro: Sunday Spot Plays at Santa Anita
By SCOTT SHAPIRO
Sunday’s card at Santa Anita Park is light on star power, but offers those who enjoy turf racing several opportunities of cashing a few tickets over the nine-race slate.
Here are a trio of grass runners I will be leaning on during Championship Sunday in the National Football League:
The opener is an optional claiming event run at a mile and an eighth over the Santa Anita lawn.
I really like the chances of #2 Saltini to start the day.
The lightly raced five-year-old finished a solid fourth in his first start against winners back on November 25 and should be ready for a career best effort after a two-month freshening from Hall of Fame conditioner Richard Mandella.
Two-back the son of Bernardini sat a few lengths off the early pace in a race run over the same surface and distance and got the best of a field of eight to earn career victory number 1. Jockey Stewart Elliott should be able to navigate a similar voyage on Sunday, which will make this Diamond A Racing Corp runner a tough customer when they turn for home.
He has continued to improve with each start and comes in off a steady series of maintenance works. At 3-1 or higher, Saltini is worth a win wager and is a great option to single in the first leg of the Players’ Pick 5.
The Sunday Pick 6 kicks off with this state-bred allowance event conducted at one mile over the sod.
Believe it or not I like a maiden taking on winners in this spot.
#2 Lostintranzlation tried two turns for the initial time on November 11 at Del Mar for trainer Richard Baltas and ran too good to lose. The daughter of Lucky Pulpit dueled early, put away the other speed, opened up a 3 ½-length lead but could not hold off eventual winner #3 Rolling Shadow in the final few jumps.
Lostintranzlation should be able to move forward off of that last effort and is almost certain to stalk just off the early pace instead of battling on the front end this time around. This should allow jockey Geovanni Franco to save some energy on the backstretch, yet still get the jump on this gal’s main rivals.
3-1 on the morning line is not ideal, but Lostintranzlation exits a strong performance and has a tactical advantage over the other logical contenders.
My final spot play of the day comes with an angle I have turned to quite successfully over the past couple of years in Southern California.
Trainer Richard Baltas has done a great job with his stock of late, but what really sticks out to me is his ability to move two-turn grass runners up while under his care. And #1 Unusual Meeting fits the profile.
This veteran son of Unusual Heat failed to win from a pair of starts under the care Kristin Mulhall last year but the eight-year-old gelding did run a winning race back two starts at Del Mar when eventual victor Chris and Dave got the jump and got to the wire first. Baltas takes over training duties today.
I love the fact the trainer attracts Corey Nakatani on Sunday, as well as the lack of serious early speed in the field. I expect Nakatani to find a prominent spot on or near the early lead, take control when they turn for home and hold off the late runners in the final furlong.
At anything near his 6-1 morning line price, I will be getting heavily involved.
Let’s close out the short week strong!
Good luck at the windows!
You can find my full card Daily Selections every day for the Southern California circuit here: