Shapiro's analysis of Daytona and Wishing Well Stakes

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TwinSpires Staff

February 23rd, 2018

by Scott Shapiro

A pair of stakes races down the hillside turf course, including the Daytona Stakes (G3), headline a 10-race Saturday afternoon card at Santa Anita Park.

The $150,000 Daytona drew a much smaller field than the restricted $70,000 Wishing Well, which is for older fillies and mares that have not won a graded stakes since July 1, 2017. However, the featured event pulled a trio of Peter Miller trainees, including Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) winner Stormy Liberal (#7).

Stormy Liberal has not raced since a disappointing 11th-place finish in the Hong Kong Sprint (HK-G1) at Sha Tin last December, but the son of Stormy Atlantic returns to a configuration where he won all four of his starts in 2017 prior to the Breeders’ Cup, and seven of 12 throughout his career.

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Joel Rosario was aboard Stormy Liberal in the Breeders’ Cup and the veteran jockey ships out to Southern California to ride the six-year-old gelding in his first start of 2018. Rosario may have the best horse in the Daytona, but he is likely to get a major test from stable mate Calculator (#5).

Calculator was extremely impressive last out in the Clocker’s Corner Stakes, where he took an uncustomary spot on the early lead, blazed his way through the first half-mile and had enough late to get the best of Fly to Mars by a length in the end. The son of In Summation has never lost in three tries down the hill and appears to be doing as well as ever for owner Richard Pell.

Given the dynamics of the race and his current form, I prefer the chances and value that Calculator will offer in the Daytona. I expect Flavian Prat to find a cozy spot just off the likely pacesetters, get the jump on Stormy Liberal, and have enough late to hang on for his first graded victory since the Sham Stakes (G3) in January 2015.

At 5-2 or above I will wager on Calculator to spring the minor upset in the Saturday feature.

The Wishing Well Stakes concludes the 10-race Saturday afternoon card at Santa Anita and appears much more wide-open than the Daytona.

The 11-strong Wishing Well field is led by Argentinian import Samba Inc (#5), who makes her first stateside start for Hall of Famer Bob Baffert. The daughter of Include lost by three-quarters of a length in her debut at San Isidro, but has won her other three races by a combined 25 lengths, including a pair of graded victories at the age of three.

Assessing Samba Inc’s chances in the Wishing Well is not an easy drill. She clearly has a load of talent and an affinity for the green, but she has not run in nine months and has never competed over the unique downhill turf course at Santa Anita.

Samba Inc comes into her first North American start off a series of strong drills and attracts the services of Flavian Prat, but it is still difficult to swallow the 5-2 morning-line price given the unknowns.

Bendable (#4) should sit a perfect midpack trip as she makes her second attempt down the hill for Hall of Fame conditioner Richard Mandella. The five-year-old mare finished a solid second to Coniah in the Las Cienegas Stakes (G3) last month and has every right to replicate that effort in Saturday’s finale. But is 3-1 enough of a price to build your wagers around the daughter of Horse Greeley?

I am not against the top two choices on Jon White’s morning line, but I prefer a horse who will offer significantly better value on the tote board.

Anita Partner (#6) rattled off three straight victories down the hill last spring (though disqualified to second in one) before a third-place effort in the Monrovia Stakes (G2) in late May. Trainer Jeff Mullins tried five furlongs and two turns last summer, but he rediscovered that this mare is at her best over the unique one-turn course at Santa Anita.

In her first start of the form cycle in the aforementioned Las Cienegas Anita Partner encountered a ton of traffic issues before finishing sixth in a field of seven. I can forgive that effort since Tyler Baze never gave the Irish-bred a chance to run. With a start under her belt in 2018 and a cleaner voyage, Anita Partner should be rolling late at a big price.

At 10-1 or higher I will wager on Anita Partner to win, as well as key her for underneath in trifectas.

Good luck at the windows!