Shapiro's Spot Plays for New Year's Day at Santa Anita
by SCOTT SHAPIRO
Happy New Year racing fans! 2018 is going to be a great year.
To celebrate the start of a new voyage around the sun Santa Anita Park has a nine-race card headlined by the $75,000 Joe Hernandez Stakes run over the hillside turf course.
The card has a number of logical contenders that could be tough to beat, but here are a few horses that I think are worth building your New Year’s Day wagers around in Southern California.
I rarely endorse maidens that have had as many chances as #4 Hollywood Strike, but it may just be graduation day for the son of Smart Strike.
The five-year-old George Krikorian homebred looks to be lone speed in a suspect field of non-winners going a mile and a sixteenth over the main track. Last time out jockey Victor Espinoza could not relax the Kentucky-bred when he went 22.1 and 46 flat and to no one’s surprise he could not hold off the late run of eventual winner California Street.
Rajiv Maragh gets the call this time around with Espinoza opting to ride 5-2-morning line favorite #7 Ziconic. If Maragh can work out a more moderate early tempo this trial maiden should get his picture taken for the initial time.
A state-bred maiden special weight event down the hill gets the Pick 6 started on New Years’ Day.
I have seen enough of 2-1-morning line favorite #1 Raven Creek. The son of Old Fashioned has shown speed in each of his first five starts, but has failed to finish with enough energy to get the job done despite taking significant support at the windows.
I will take a shot against the Jeff Mullins trainee with #8 Croissant. The Reddam Racing colt has finished off the board in all three of his lifetime tries for trainer Doug O’Neill, but he fits the profile of horses I like to endorse down the hill since he flashed speed going two turns and he draws towards the outside.
Additionally, Croissant is out of a Momentum mare that broke her maiden over this unique configuration. If jockey Kyle Frey can relax this three-year-old colt in the early stages he could be full of run late.
I am willing to gamble at 8-1 that he appreciates the turn back in distance and takes to the Santa Anita lawn.
The Players’ Pick 5 concludes with an open $12,500 claimer at seven panels over the main track.
#5 Jes Jaa does not offer much value at 5-2 on the line, but the five-year-old ridgling should be able to make an uncontested lead on the drop in class for trainer Bob Hess, Jr. If Santiago Gonzalez can control things on the front end he will be very tough to get by in the lane.
The 10th running of the Joe Hernandez Stakes came up strong as the last two Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint runner-ups #7 Om and #8 Richard’s Boy are amongst those entered for the $75,000 event down the hill. I respect both, especially Richard’s Boy who is as consistent as they come, but I prefer #2 Pee Wee Reese on Monday.
The son of Tribal Rule led most of the way in his first race off the bench in the Grade 2 Seabiscuit Handicap at Del Mar in November, but tired late and finished third beaten a length. I can forgive that effort for two reasons.
Firstly, the Nick Alexander homebred likely needed the race since he had been away nearly five months for trainer Phil D’Amato. Secondly, I think a mile and a sixteenth is a bit further than the Cal-bred wants to go. If Joe Talamo can work out a clean voyage from the 2-hole he should be very difficult to beat.
Let’s get 2018 started right! Good luck at the windows!
You can find my full card Daily Selections every day for the Southern California circuit here: