2014 Santa Anita Gold Cup Day Picks and Ponderings

The second leg of this weekend's Picks and Ponderings road trip takes us all the way out west to Santa Anita.  On Saturday, they run four graded stakes races that were previously part of the Hollywood Park calendar, but moved over to Santa Anita Park in light of Hollywood's December 2013 closure.  One of the races, the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (GI), is a Win And You're In race for the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Unfortunately, Santa Anita missed a golden opportunity to offer an all-graded-stakes Pick 4.  However, there are rolling Pick 3 wagers available on these races, and the four stakes races are the first four in Saturday's Pick 6 sequence.

The Santa Anita Gold Cup will be televised on NBCSN.  That telecast runs from 7:00pm-8:00pm EDT.

Race 5: Royal Heroine Stakes (GII), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, one mile on the turf, post time 3:00 PDT

Selections:  #10 Parranda (3/1), #6 Moone's My Name (9/2), #3 Wishing Gate (5/1)

An east coast mainstay until earlier this year, Parranda moved to the Jerry Hollendorfer barn, and quickly made a mark on the west coast by winning the Wilshire Stakes (GIII) at this distance.  She was caught wide and fell short last out in the 1 1/8 mile Gamely Stakes (GI) last out, but cuts back to her best distance here.  Her speed is good, and she can win from on, near, or a handful of lengths off the front -- something useful given the likely balanced pace scenario in the Royal Heroine.  Moone's My Name comes in here last having raced in April's Wilshire Stakes (GIII), where she finished second, a length and a half behind Parranda.  All seven of her career wins have been on the turf, with three at a mile.  She runs well most often from midpack, but has seen success on the lead as well, which may be useful if Kathleen Rose (the only true early speed in the race) falters.  She has won seven times on the turf, with three of those being at a mile.  She has yet to break through in graded company here, but this looks like a field where she could do it.  If the pace up front gets snappy, Wishing Gate looks like the one to pick up the pieces.  She comes in here off a five-month lay, but she races for a Tom Proctor barn that wins 21% of the time off of three-month or longer layoffs.  She has been a regular on the worktab; her last work was sharp, and she has been doing long workouts to get and stay fit.  She has won four of her seven attempts at turf miles, including the Autumn Miss (GIII) at Santa Anita three starts ago.  She has only races over the grass at Santa Anita twice, but those resulted in a win and a second, suggesting she runs well there.

Race 6: Triple Bend Stakes (GI), three-year-olds and up, seven furlongs on the dirt, post time 3:30pm PDT

Selections: #4 Sahara Sky (8/5), #7 Wine Police (9/2), #1 Declassify (5/2)

Sahara Sky will be chalk, but this appears to be one of those "if you can't beat them, join them" type of situations.  Most of the field likes to be on or near the front except for Drill and Sahara Sky; the pace will likely be hot.  Sahara Sky had an uncharacteristically dull outing last out in the Churchill Downs Stakes, but should rebound well here: he is 8-5-2-0 at Santa Anita.  Sahara Sky may not be quite the same horse he was last year, but even the performances he has put up this year other than his last should be more than enough to put away this GI-in-name-only field, especially with the pace setup.  He is a logical single.  Wine Police is one of the early speedballs, and has the best early pace of the bunch.  However, he can rate just off if need be, which will be useful since he breaks from the outermost gate.  He is working very strongly coming into this race, and retains the services of 22% sprint jockey Victor Espinoza.  Even if he regresses a bit from his big run last out in the Los Angeles (GIII) back to a speed more typical for him, that still likely makes him competitive with anyone here but Sahara Sky.  The lightly raced Declassify races for only the fifth time, and for the first time in stakes company.  It is a tall order, but he has the speed to compete, and has been working very well coming into this race.  He also has the rail, which has been winning at a 19% rate this meet at seven furlongs.  Finally, he has the combination of trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Martin Garcia: a combination that has been winning at a 31% clip these last two months.

Race 7: Senorita Stakes (GIII), three-year-old fillies, one mile on the turf, post time 4:00 PDT

Selections: #4 Morning Fix (5/1), #9 Rovenna (9/2), #8 Clenor (4/1)

This race should have an honestpace, since three of the eleven in the race (Disregarded, Lemon de Oro, and My Monet) have not shown real success when rating.  However, all but My Monet have experimented enough with going off the pace that the top choice is a horse who has seen success from off the pace, but not a stone-closer position: Morning Fix.  She steps up in class after an allowance win at 1 1/16 miles on the Golden Gate turf.  She has only raced once at stakes level, and it was a disaster -- but that was a dirt sprint, making it an easy toss here.  She has not had a bad race in either of two attempts on turf, and has the strong combination of trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and jockey Elvis Trujillo behind her.  This looks like the situation to step her back up into stakes company.  Rovenna stands to be closer to the pace, but can win from either right on or just off of the speed.  She showed in her last race, a state-bred stakes win at 1 1/6 miles, that she can prevail gamely in a duel.  Her speeds to date are the best in the field, though she has mainly run on dirt and all-weather.  She has only raced on turf once, a third-place finish in the Cal Cup Oaks.  However, she has improved since then, and is worth another shot on the turf due to her breeding.  Two of her three half-siblings who have raced have won on turf.  Finally, Irish import Clenor is fast enough to be likely to hit the board no matter what, and could prevail if the pace up front gets hotter than expected.  Her speed is very good for the field, and her only time off the board in three starts in the Santa Anita turf was in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, a tougher race.  She returns to her best distance after an attempt at sprinting last out; all three of her career wins are at turf miles, including one in the Surfer Girl Stakes at Santa Anita last year.  The biggest question on her is pace setup, but if the horses who haven't proven their ability to rate decide to go all out, she is likely to mow them all down late.

Race 8: Gold Cup at Santa Anita (GI), three-year-olds and up, post time 4:30 PDT

Selections: #2 Fury Kapcori (9/2), #5 Salto Del Indio (8/1), #6 Majestic Harbor (12/1)

Fury Kapcori is a consistent horse, and a fast one.  He is the speed of the early speed, and his presence in the race assures that Game On Dude will not lead everyone on a merry chase -- and he has enough early pace to get in front of Game On Dude right out of the gate.  He steps up in class here, and tries ten furlongs for the first time, but all signs point to him being able to handle it.  He has strong speed for the field, and he is by Tiznow out of a Go for Gin mare, suggesting Classic distance aptitude.  He has hit the board in his last seven races, including four wins in that span.  He has also never missed the board in the Santa Anita dirt; he is 6-4-1-1 lifetime over the track.  Salto Del Indio races here for the first time since shipping here from Chile.  He ran some very good races in Chile; at his best, he has been able to run with the stalking flight as a lone speed sets the fractions, and then mow that horse down late.  He was not facing horses as good as Game On Dude or Fury Kapcori, but this style should suit him well.  The distance will not be a problem -- he has won at 1 3/16 and 1 1/4 miles before.  His works have been very strong at Santa Anita, and with trainer Mike Puype's 18% win rate with horses coming off three-month or longer lays, Salto Del Indio should be ready to run.  For a longer shot, look at Majestic Harbor.  He has shown versatility in running style, running well from on the pace, stalking it, or midpack.  Look for a stalking or midpack trip here; he is not fast enough early to run down Fury Kapcori out of the gate.  In addition to versatility, he also has stamina: he won the Tokyo City Cup (GIII) at 1 1/2 miles two starts ago at Santa Anita.  He does go up in class here, but his recent speed puts him on par with this field, and he is working very well coming into this race.  At anywhere near his 12/1 morning line, Majestic Harbor is a steal.

Specifically, it is worth taking a stand against Game On Dude here, especially in single race wagers.  He is 4/5 on the morning line, and likely to be similarly chalky come post time.  The reason why can be summed up in two words: Fury Kapcori.  Game On Dude is most dangerous when he is the one who can lead the field on a merry chace, but he is not going to do that here.  Fury Kapcori has better early pace than Game On Dude.  The only scenario in which Game On Dude seems likely to win is if Fury Kapcori fades out late, and there's no serious threat rolling in from behind.  That may be enough to justify using him to save a multi-race exotic, because he is a quality horse, but the race suggests better value elsewhere.

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