The following piece below was first published at Thorofan's Handicapper's Corner. I understand it's not a Chicago-based race, but we'll get back into Hawthorne after the holiday weekend.
Out in Southern California, there’s been a new hype horse almost every day to represent the best hope of the West Coast in the Kentucky Derby.
Rousing Sermon. Out of Bounds. Sky Kingdom. Fed Biz. Bodemeister.
So with six sophomores set to go in the San Vicente on Sunday, we get another chance to look for a new rising star. But perhaps an old star that hasn’t been seen in a while will reclaim his position. Who will the new leader be? Let’s meet the field.
Santa Anita -- Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes -- 7F on Dirt – Post time 6:36 ET on SUNDAY Feb. 19
Update, 3:13 ET: Both #4 SMOKING G and #6 CAPTAIN OBVIOUS scratched out. We'll go only two deep in the picks below, with no longshot.
#1, LETS GET CRACKIN. The most experienced runner, he’s made nine starts at six tracks. After graduating second time out, he went into listed stakes company in Iowa and was second to a decent Jake Mo and to a one-dimensional Twelve Hundred. After failed experiments on Hawthorne turf and Presque Isle Tapeta, he was sent west where he collected minor awards in two listed sprint stakes restricted to three year olds. I didn’t think too much of him in the Royal Glint on my home circuit nor the company he kept at two, and I don’t think he’s tackled anyone of substance at three. Pass.
#2, CREATIVE CAUSE. The aforementioned old star, who emerges from winter vacation in today’s event, his first start at three. When last seen he was third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Also as a juvenile he won the Best Pal and the Norfolk, was part of a blanket finish in the Del Mar Futurity, and banked $521K in earnings. With those earnings (and four graded starts), he’s got enough graded earnings to make the Kentucky Derby and the connections can use this race as a disposable prep, aiming to win the Derby and not some puny steppingstone G2 in February. He didn’t impress me at two, he’s making his first start off a layoff (not the trainer’s strength), and he doesn’t have to win. His resume does tower everyone else’s, however. Using defensively.
#3, DRILL. He won the G1 Del Mar Futurity when he got his nose down in front. After that race he was stretched out two turns in the Norfolk, second to CREATIVE CAUSE. He was beaten before the real running began in the BC Juvenile, and was barbequed on the front end in both the Delta Jackpot and CashCall Futurity. Back at one turn, he folded in the stretch last time out in the listed San Pedro. He has only a second place finish in four dirt tries. Despite the presence of trainer Bob Baffert, rider Martin Garcia and despite the fact he’s only three, I think his best days are behind him.
#4, SMOKING G. SCRATCHED
Was cross entered into a Saturday N1X allowance on the turf, but scratched out of that race. He graduated last time on the Downhill turf course in his third career start in a respectable time. He steps up to graded company now, and goes first time on the dirt. The class hike shouldn’t be too much, as this field without CREATIVE CAUSE is fairly nondescript. The transition to dirt shouldn’t be an issue for a trainer with a 25% win rate going turf to dirt. The pedigree, Smoke Glacken – Whitewashed, out of Broad Brush, is also dirt-friendly. Add in a solid trainer, a very good work on February 12, and we have liftoff (especially with choosing this race over the Saturday race). Win Pick.
#5, AMERICAN ACT. Another horse going straight from a maiden special weight win to G2 company, with his victory coming on the dirt last time going 5 ½ furlongs. While the works have been average, trainer Carava is having a down meet. Yet, Carava is a good sprint trainer. He’s never been past six furlongs, but his stalking style should keep him around when they turn for home. Retains Martin Pedroza for this event. Worth noting that last time he finished ahead of highly-hyped juvenile Bodemeister when getting career win number one and Bodemeister won next time out. Underneath.
#6, CAPTAIN OBVIOUS. SCRATCHED
He’ll be making his first start since November and first start at three in this seven furlong sprint. That last start was in the $100K Real Quiet Stakes, the local prep for the CashCall Futurity across town at Hollywood Park. He launched a mild closing bid to be fourth behind Liiason and Rousing Sermon, who went 1-2 in the CashCall. Over the winter he’s been working at Santa Anita. I like the 1:12 2/5 gate work two works back. Over in Europe on grass, he won at first asking then was thrown to the wolves in a G3 then returned for another start. Maybe.
#4 SMOKING G
#5 AMERICAN ACT
#2 CREATIVE CAUSE
Longshot: CREATIVE CAUSE would win this race if it were run on paper. But it’s not, and you don’t need #6 CAPTAIN OBVIOUS to tell you that. He turns back to seven furlongs after going two turns last fall at Hollywood. Trainer has one win and four money finishes during the Santa Anita meet, and he’s turned in some good respectable works since his last start in the Real Quiet Stakes routing across town at Hollywood. First time dirt, but this isn’t the hardest field to try something new.