What to Watch For As Santa Anita Opens

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TwinSpires Staff

December 23rd, 2014

       by John Mucciolo       

The rich and exciting meeting at Santa Anita Race Track gets underway Friday, December 26, and the winter action kicks off with a bang.

A trio of graded events will be featured on opening day, including the $300,000 Malibu S. (G1) and the $300,000 La Brea S. (G1), for three-year-old boys and ladies, respectively. The Mathis Brothers Mile (G2) will also be contested on opening day, a turf run for sophomore males at one mile on the grass.

Once-beaten champion Shared Belief headlines a contentious Malibu field. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, the exquisite son of Candy Ride suffered his first defeat in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) after enduring an horrific trip, and a cut back to seven furlong could make him super tough off the layoff while fresh.

The winter/spring meet, which runs through late April, plays host to a bevy of big events, with perhaps the biggest coming on Saturday, March 7 in the form of the $1 million Santa Anita H. (G1). The historic event always attracts a superb field and we fully expect more of the same in 2015.

April 4 will play host to the $1 million Santa Anita Derby (G1), a key Kentucky Derby prep race that featured soon-to-be champion California Chrome, who parlayed big wins in the 2014 editions of the San Felipe Stakes and Santa Anita Derby into victories in the first two legs of the Triple Crown.

California Chrome, one of the greatest California-bred horses ever, will make his 2015 bow at Santa Anita in the February 7 San Antonio Stakes (G2).

The trainers’ race at Santa Anita is often a tight one, and the fall meet saw Bob Baffert win the title by one over Leandro Mora and Hollendorfer, who each had 13 first-place finishers. We expect those three to have a big say in the outcome of this upcoming meeting, while others who should be heard from include Peter Miller, John Sadler and possibly Phil d’Amato, who took over for the retired Mike Mitchell and had a very healthy and lucrative second half of 2014.

Rafael Bejarano has dominated racing since coming out to the Southern California and will be the top jockey to watch once again. His 28 wins in the fall were six more than his nearest foe, Joe Talamo, and the Peruvian pilot must be considered the favorite until dethroned – he gets too many live mounts from top barns.

Elvis Trujillo has done some fine work since moving his tack to the Golden State earlier this season and could possibly present the main danger to Bejarano in the jockeys’ race. Martin Garcia, who rides a slew of horses for perennial leading trainer Bob Baffert, should also be in the top portion of the standings.

I use’s Ultimate Past Performances to handicap Santa Anita’s races and they are available for free to players when they wager.