Sunday, Santa Anita Race 5 — post time 2:34 pm

Maiden King conquers So. Cal. maiden races

Maiden claiming $20,000, 5-1/2 furlongs, 4-yo’s and up

Median winning Beyer Speed Figure: 70

Possible overlays                               Morning line

#1 Joburg Star                                       7/2
#3 Our Last Monte                                    3/1
#8 Brite Dreamer                                     8/1

Since Santa Anita opened on Dec. 26, I’ve been betting on nothing but 6-1/2 and 7-furlong maiden races on this blog. But that doesn’t mean I’ve been ignoring shorter sprints at the wagering window in real life.

In fact, I’ve hit quite a few nice-paying horses in the last month.

Last night I looked at the third race, which is a 6-1/2 furlong maiden claimer for 3-year-old females. Since I couldn’t find any solid plays in there, I decided to replace that race with this 5-1/2 furlong dash instead. One reason I like this race better is that two horses in this race are being saddled by trainers who I cashed many juicy tickets with over the recent years.

In my opinion, Darrell Vienna is one of the best horsemen on the grounds when it comes to winning maiden races with horses that the public overlooks. In this race, Vienna starts #3 Our Last Monte and he has given this gelding all slow workouts. A 4-year-old, Our Last Monte is running in his third race back off an 11-month layoff and can likely run better than the mid-60 Beyer Speed Figures he’s hung up in his last two runs.

Our Last Monte, who is making his seventh lifetime start, has demonstrated good early speed in most of his past races. The early foot will hurt this horse’s price, but he stands an excellent chance of winning today at a square mutuel.

Trainer Rafael Becerra won with only 5 of his 70 starters in 2011, so he doesn’t have much of a following. However, he has shown in the past that he’s excellent at winning races with maiden claiming sprinters that are coming off of long layoffs. Of his last 18 runners like this, Becerra won with seven of them, or 39 percent. Each $1 wagered on these animals returned $3.27.

On the rail, #1 Joburg Star ran well as a 2-year-old against maiden special weight company. But he hasn’t raced in one-and-a-half years. It would be no surprise to see Peter Miller getting his photo taken with Joburg Star in the winner’s circle, but I expect the presence of jockey Joel Rosario to drag this horse’s odds well below 7-to-2.

My betting strategy: I will put $300 to win on #3 Our Last Monte at 2/1 or more. Also, I want $250 on #8 Brite Dreamer at 3/1 to 14/1, but only $100 at 15/1 to 19/1.

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Friday, Santa Anita Race 4 — post time 2:34 pm

Maiden King conquers So. Cal. maiden races

Maiden Special Weight, 6-1/2 furlongs, 3-year-olds

Median winning Beyer Speed Figure: 78

Possible overlays                      Morning line

#1 Chestnut Moon                           8/1
#2 Melrose Woods                          12/1
#4 Magic Fire                              8/1
#7 Lady Vivien                             6/1
#8 Dixie in Pink                           12/1
#9 Salt Tequila Lime                      9/2

Although morning-line favorite #6 Nihilist showed early speed in her Sept. 3 debut where she exceeded the median winning Beyer Speed Figure with an 81, I am betting against her.

It’s not that she doesn’t have a great trainer and jockey. She does.

And it’s not that she isn’t the most likely winner. She is.

But I estimate her odds will be somewhere between even money and 3-to-2.

Instead, I will take my chances with some of the other first and second time starters who may fly under the radar and strike at a big price. 

Although #9 Salt Tequila Lime loses points for being a May foal, trainer Bob Baffert has done well with first-time starters in sprints longer than 6 furlongs. On the inside, Both #1 Chestnut Moon and #2 Melrose Woods are conditioned by cagey trainers.

My betting strategy: At odds of 7/2 or better, I will wager $400 on #9 Salt Tequila Lime. Between the odds of 8/1 and 19/1, I will put $100 on the two highest-odds horses among #1 Chestnut Moon, #2 Melrose Woods and #8 Dixie in Pink.  Finally, I want $150 to win on whoever is the longer price between #4 Magic Fire and #7 Lady Vivien.

Friday, Santa Anita Race 1 — post time 1 pm

Maiden King conquers So. Cal. maiden races

Maiden claiming $40,000, 6-1/2 furlongs, 4 yo’s and up

Median winning Beyer Speed Figure: 71

Possible overlays                                Morning line

#1 Hot Little Honey                                      10/1
#2 Missie Ky I You                                        9/2
#3 Cee’s the Year                                         5/2
#4 Pretty Much                                            8/1
#5 Contstant Saros                                        12/1

The filly with the most potential in here is #3 Cee’s the Year. This Ron Ellis-trained runner showed explosive rallies in her first two races, but was so far behind that she did not hit the board.

In her second race on Oct. 2, I thought it was interesting that Cee’s the Year broke well, but jockey Victor Espinoza then steadied her hard. By the time Cee’s the Year got her stride back she’d lost an estimated eight lengths. After trailing this maiden special weight field by 12 lengths, she ran on well to miss by just 6-1/2 lengths and she still earned a 60 Beyer Speed Figure. If I were to add the eight lengths in Beyer points, Cee’s the Year would get an adjusted Beyer of 80.

Making her 16th start, #2 Missie Ky I You may be able to win this race off her best effort. On Nov. 6, she ran satisfactorily in a 6-1/2 furlong sprint against maiden special weight company. She was four-paths wide on the turn while rallying from sixth to third place. I bumped up her Beyer Speed Figure from 61 to 68 because of the lost ground, however the median winning number for this race is a 71. So even her best effort today may not be enough, however new rider Joel Rosario should help.

After spending her life trying to win a turf race, #4 Pretty Much is entered in her second consecutive start on dirt. She needs to be on the top of her game to win this and the race must come up weak. In her seven grass races, the best Beyer Pretty Much ran was a 66, then she regressed to a 42 on the dirt last time.

I will back either of the two first time starters — #1 Hot Little Honey and #5 Constant Saros — as long as they are between 10-to-1 and 19-to-1. Anything more or anything less then I am not interested. Both of them have a couple of good workouts and they are trained by horsemen who can win at a price. I see no monsters in this race and it wouldn’t take much of a horse to win this thing.

My betting strategy: I will bet $300 to win on #3 Cee’s the Year at odds of 2/1 or higher. If she is less than 2/1, then I want $200 to win on #2 Missie Ky I You at 4/1 or more. Finally, I will put $100 to win on #1 Hot Little Honey and #5 Constant Saros if their odds fall between 10/1 and 19/1.

Thursday, Santa Anita Race 6 — post time 3:36 pm

Maiden King conquers So. Cal. maiden races

Maiden claiming $50,000, 7 furlongs, 3-year-olds

Median winning Beyer Speed Figure: 75

Possible overlays                       Morning line

#1 Midnight Con                             6/1
#2 Cruxus                                   20/1
#3 Towering                                 4/1
#7 Charlie Company                          6/1
#8 Visible Marq                             7/2
#9 Congrats Ski                             4/1

After a slow start to the Santa Anita meet, trainer Mike Mitchell is on fire right now. According to the Daily Racing Form, Mitchell has won with seven of his last 15 runners and he saddles second-time starter #3 Towering in this event.

Mitchell has an outstanding record with maiden claiming second-time starters and he is even better when those horses are running in 6-1/2 and 7 furlong races. Towering, who ran evenly in his Dec. 8 debut at Gulfstream Park, was previously trained by Joseph Catanese III. With the trainer shift, Towering should significantly improve based solely on the colt moving from an 8 percent horseman, Catanese, to Mitchell, who won with 32 percent of his starters in 2011.

Also, Mitchell will leg up Joel Rosario on Towering and this combination his won with 15 of their last 34 runners for a return of $2.49 for every $2 wager.

But, by no means is this a one-horse race. Hard-knockers like #1 Midnight Con and #7 Charlie Company could easily win by merely repeating some of their previous races.

Trainer William Morey is bringing Charlie Company down from Golden Gate where this gelding hit the board in his last three starts. In two of the three, Charlie Company earned a better Beyer Speed Figure than the median winning number of 75 when I adjusted for the ground lost on the turn. Charlie Company’s running style is to break in the middle of the pack, and although Santa Anita favors speed more than Golden Gate, this gelding has a great chance today.

Doug O’Neill claimed #1 Midnight Con away from trainer Jeff Mullins for $30,000 on Jan. 20. Midnight Con’s best race was on Dec. 4 when he came within three-quarters of a length of the winner while running against $50,000 maiden claimers. However, only three horses ran in that race, so he had a perfect trip.

On Jan. 20, Midnight Con had the lead in the stretch, but ran out of gas going a mile. He has an outside chance, but I like Charlie Company better.

Another horse who has run some interesting races is #9 Congrats Ski. In this gelding’s second lifetime start on Dec. 17, Congrats Ski broke in the air and bumped the horse inside of him to lose at least a length. He then lost more ground when circling the field wide on the turn, yet still he ran a 68 Beyer, which I upgraded to 75.

On Jan 7, in Congrats Ski’s first start over the Santa Anita dirt, he pressed the pace chasing Consulado who was motoring through fractions of 21-2/5th seconds for the quarter-mile and 44-seconds flat for the half. Consulado, who is likely a future stakes winner, cruised to a 7-1/4 length victory while Congrats Ski’s jockey saw the chase was futile and breezed him throughout the stretch.

Congrats Ski has early speed, is dropping into maiden claiming for the first time today, and trainer Kathy Walsh does well when employing jockey Rafael Bejarano. Congrats Ski looks solid.

I wouldn’t care too much for #8 Visible Marq, except that his trainer is Bob Baffert, so he must be considered. In his previous race on Jan. 5, Visible Marq ran second to wire-to-wire winner Sir Allison, his barnmate, to complete a Bob Baffert exacta.

In that race, Rosario broke Visible Marq in the middle of the pack, then came with a nice stretch run to earn a 73 Beyer Speed Figure. This colt, who sports several quick workouts, was purchased as a 2-year-old for $50,000 and seems to be placed in the right spot for his third start.

The main knocks on both Congrats Ski and Visible Marq, however, are that they are lightly raced. At 7-furlongs, their lack of experience might be difficult to overcome. It’s true that Towering is also making just his second start, but Mitchell seems to have his second-timers ready to tackle all obstacles.

Finally, #2 Cruxus and #6 Ron Burgandy are both new geldings with good angles in their favor. If their odds stay below 20-to-1, then I’m slightly interested.

My betting strategy: I will be satisfied if at post time I am sitting with win money on #3 Towering at 5/2 and #7 Charlie Company at 9/2. Considering their morning line odds are 4/1 and 6/1 respectively, that doesn’t seem too unreasonable.

Because Mitchell’s horses tend to run better when less than 7/2, I will put $400 to win on #3 Towering at 3/1 or less, but $200 to win at 7/2 or higher. At odds of 5/2 or more, I will put $300 to win on #7 Charlie Company.

If #9 Congrats Ski is 5/1 or more, then I want $50 exactas 9 with 3,7.

If #2 Cruxus and #6 Ron Burgandy are between 10/1 and 19/1, then I want $50 to win on Cruxus and $100 to win on Ron Burgandy. Also, I will take $10 exactas 3,7,9 with 2,6.

Finally, if Charlie Company is 9/2 or more, then I’ll bet $50 exacta 3 with 7; $30 exactas 8, 9 (any odds) with 7; $20 exactas 1 with 7; and $5 exactas 2,6 (if less than 20/1) with 7.

Results, Sunday, Santa Anita Race 9 — won $682

 The ultimate winner, #4 Jim’s Decision, was no surprise as I noted in my race preview that he was one of the three top contenders expected to cross the finish line first.

However, getting the money wasn’t easy, as jockey David Flores was all out through the length of the stretch to outgame #3 Smart Hombre and to hold off the late rally of #1 Crestatorre.

Jim’s Decision looked good because he was steadily dropping in class and, in several of his previous six races, he earned Beyer Speed Figures that could win a bottom-level maiden claiming race like this one. I planned to wager $200 on him to win, but it was contingent on his price being longer than that of #14 Salty Robbin.

Salty Robbin showed recent dramatic improvement, but was breaking from post #14 on the far outside. This gelding missed by just a nose last time after going wide on the turn, but was no factor today at 6-to-1. As the 9-to-5 favorite, I couldn’t bet Jim’s Decision to win in this 13-horse field.

But I did combine him with two longshots that I keyed for second in the exacta. Fortunately, one of those runners, a 25-to-1 shot named Crestatorre, came on the outside and hit the wire a neck behind Jim’s Decision. Battling on the inside in this three-horse blanket finish was #3 Smart Hombre, and both he and Crestatorre seemingly hit the wire together. The photo finish showed Crestatorre nailed Smart Hombre by a long nose, keying an exacta that paid $62.60.

In $20 exactas, I used both Crestatorre and #12 Warren’s Tiger — who was 21-to-1 — for second place only underneath Jim’s Decision, #13 Indian Knight and #14 Salty Robbin. The result allowed me to collect $1,252, which gave me a $682 profit on the race after subtracting out my $120 in exacta wagers, a $250 win bet on Indian Knight and another $200 to win on Salty Robbin.

In the running of the race, longshot East Sky knocked heads with Smart Hombre as they led the field down the backstretch. As usual, Indian Knight did not break alertly so jockey Martin Garcia tardily brought his mount into contention as the field swung into the turn.

By the time they hit the bend, Indian Knight was three-wide with Garcia asking the gelding for more run, but the horse wasn’t giving him much of a response. Meanwhile, Jim’s Decision was sitting just behind the leaders while Flores looked for a running lane.

Flores saw his opportunity at the quarter pole and surged to challenge Smart Hombre for the lead as the field entered the top of the stretch. Jim’s Decision looked like he put away Smart Hombre at the eighth pole, but the inside runner was game and Smart Hombre came right back at him. Either horse looked like they could win as the wire approached.

Also, on the outside, Crestatorre rallied to be on even terms with Smart Hombre.

But a few jumps from the finish, Jim’s Decision accelerated for the neck victory.

To watch a replay of this race, go to www.calracing.com.

PGM PP# NAME JOCKEY TRAINER ODDS FN
1 1 Crestatorre (CA) Verenzuela J Periban J 25.60 2
2 2 Gamblin On Jack (CA) Quinonez A Capestro P 23.80 6
3 3 Smart Hombre (KY) Berrios H Jones M 7.50 3
4 4 Jim’s Decision (KY) Flores D Cerin V 1.90 1
5 5 Broken Glass (CA) Santiago Reyes C Bernstein D 6.20 4
6 6 East Sky (CA) Scott J January E 122.20 7
7 7 Sharp Upbeat (CA) Stra K Gallagher P 74.30 11
8 8 Maybe Tuesday (CA) Flores E McCarthy S 19.50 5
9 9 Bluffside (KY) Figueroa O Harris A 70.20 12
10 10 Roheryn Strider (KY) Vergara D Jackson D 14.00 8
12 11 Warren’s Tiger (CA) Krigger K Sherlock G 21.30 10
13 12 Indian Knight (VA) Garcia M Baffert B 4.60 9
14 13 Salty Robbin (CA) Delgadillo A Spawr W 6.00 13
SCR Own It (CA)    
 
Pgm Win Place Show
4 $5.80 $3.60 $2.80
1 $17.40 $10.60
3 $5.00
 
Exotic Payoffs
$0.50 Pick 4 paid $212.50 (1/6-8-6-4)

Sunday, Santa Anita Race 9 — post time 4:38 pm

Maiden King conquers So. Cal. maiden races

Maiden claiming $20,000, 4-yo’s and up, 6-1/2 furlongs

Median winning Beyer Speed Figure for this class: 70

Possible overlays                               Morning line

#1 Crestatorre                                      20/1
#2 Gamblin on Jack                                  15/1
#4 Jim’s Decision                                    7/2
#5 Br0ken Glass                                      5/1
#12 Warren’s Tiger                                  15/1
#13 Indian Knight                                    6/1
#14 Salty Robbin                                     4/1

Although I have seven horses listed as possible overlays, I believe this race will be won by either #4 Jim’s Decision, #13 Indian Knight or #14 Salty Robbin.

Many runners in this contentious 13-horse field have earned Beyer Speed Figures that exceed the median of 70. On Oct. 30, which was four races back in his past performance list, Jim’s Decision posted a 79 while pressing the pace against maiden special weight competition. After a couple of sub par performances on Hollywood’s synthetic track, Jim’s Decision ran a 68 Beyer while going three-paths wide on the turn at 5-1/2 furlongs. With a good trip, I see no reason why this Vladimir Cerin-trained horse can’t be right there at the finish.

In these large fields, it’s often a challenge for jockeys breaking from the outside to avoid suffering wide trips. At 6-1/2 furlongs, riders have some extra ground on the backstretch to maneuver their horses into position as the turn approaches. Of course, early speed helps and the two horses breaking from the far outside stalls have demonstrated quickness in their previous races.

Breaking from the 13 gate, but wearing saddle cloth number 14, Salty Robbin seems to be improving. Today will be his ninth start and his last race was his best. On Oct. 28, Salty Robbin pushed the pace down the backstretch in a 6-1/2 furlong race, accelerated 3-wide on the turn, then surged to the lead at the top of the stretch.  This gray gelding battled to the wire, but lost all the money by a nose. He earned a 70 Beyer, which I bumped up to 76 because of the lost ground.

I am aware that Salty Robbin could very well go wide again today, so I will need decent odds to compensate for the risk.

Breaking just to Salty Robbin’s inside will be Indian Knight. This son of Indian Charlie shows a $120,000 Keeneland sale price, which the owners paid in 2009. Obviously, the high hopes the connections had for this runner were never realized, but today he is realistically placed in this bottom-level maiden claimer.  

Two races back on Aug. 3, Indian Knight shot to the lead in a maiden claiming $50,000 sprint, but couldn’t gut out the win. On that day, Indian Knight finished third, however the 73 Beyer figure he received would win most races at this class. In watching some of the replays of this gelding, I noticed that he frequently has trouble at the start. In his last race, jockey Martin Garcia seemed to snatch the reigns at the outset, then Garcia steered Indian Knight into the center of the track.

Around the turn, Garcia took Indian Knight on a 5-wide journey and in the stretch the jockey kept the horse in the center of the track. Indian Knight lost a ton of ground and his 48 Beyer could have easily been a 68 with a clean start and a rail trip. Today might be the day.

Two other horses have run good races, but their running lines are buried deep in their past performances. On the rail, #1 Crestatorre ran a 69 Beyer six races back in a $40,000 maiden claimer on Aug. 11, then in August of 2010 he ran a 77. By the looks of it, this horse may just have one good race a year in him. 

Warren’s Tiger also has potential. He ran a 74 speed figure in March 2011, but virtually all of his other seven races are in the 50s and low 60s. In the 10/1 to 30/1 odds range, I plan to key these horses for second in the exacta .

I’m only interested in first-time starter #2 Gamblin On Jack at odds of 4/1 to 10/1. He stands at 15-to-1 on the morning line, so it’s unlikely I’ll be betting him.

Finally, #5 Broken Glass is making his second lifetime start after a layoff of 11 months. I think his inexperience puts Broken Glass at a disadvantage. But Broken Glass ran well in his debut while earning a 59 Beyer even though he was wide on the turn. After adjusting for the lost ground and his 11 months of development, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see this newly gelded horse finish first with a Beyer in the 70-to-75 range.

My Betting Strategy: At odds of 3/1 or more, I will put $250 to win on #13 Indian Knight. Also, I will put $200 to win on whoever is the longer price between #4 Jim’s Decision and #14 Salty Robbin, as long as they are in the 3/1 to 9/1 odds range.

If #2 Gamblin on Jack is 4/1 to 10/1, then I will bet $100 on him. If #1 Crestatorre and #12 Warren’s Tiger are at least 10/1 but no more than 29/1, then I want $20 exactas 4/13/14 with 1/12.

Results, Sunday, Santa Anita Race 9 — won $530

Looking at the past performances, I noticed that only one of these eight colts and geldings had ever matched the median winning Beyer Speed Figure of 71 — and #8 Nonrefundable did it twice. Of the other runners, the best Beyer they could muster was a 62, which #9 My Top Cat earned back in April.

So, it was easy for me to focus on Nonrefundable as the most likely winner.

All that I was concerned about was whether Nonrefundable’s odds would be high enough for me to wager. I noted in the race preview, that if he was less than 2-to-1 then I planned on passing.

The public made three horses 8-to-1 — #1 Just Jumped In, #2 Husky Glory and #3 Tiz Victorious. I guess whoever supported these three runners hoped that they would improve by the leaps and bounds necessary to win.

But, as the saying goes, hope is not a strategy.

Two others were 7-to-2, #4 G Ten and #6 Knucklebuster. I thought second-time starter G Ten may surprise with a big race only because I know that trainer John Shirreffs’ debuters never do well. G Ten broke slowly in his first race then finished fourth, 13 lengths behind. On Sunday, he was adding blinkers.

But G Ten broke poorly again, rallied into the middle of the pack entering the turn, then faded badly to finished dead last.

Knucklebuster fared better. My guess is that bettors liked Knucklebuster, not because he has a cool name, but because he is trained by the venerable Richard Mandella and he was dropping steeply in class from maiden special weight. Knucklebuster led down the backstretch before being collared on the turn by Nonfundable, who drew off and won by 9-1/4 lengths. Knucklebuster hung on for second.

While distancing this field, Nonrefundable earned a 79 Beyer.

At the windows, I was prepared to bet $500 to win on Nonrefundable if he was 5-to-2 or more. But at 2/1, I still liked him enough to bet $300 to win. In all, I collected $930, yet profited just $530 after subtracting out the $300 I wagered and another $100 I bet on G Ten. 

To watch a replay of this race, go to www.calracing.com.

PGM PP# NAME JOCKEY TRAINER ODDS FN
1 1 Just Jumped In (CA) Smith M Spawr W 8.30 6
2 2 Husky Glory (KY) Flores D Gallagher P 8.00 4
3 3 Tiz Victorious (CA) Santiago Reyes C Moreno H 8.30 7
4 4 G Ten (KY) Talamo J Shirreffs J 3.70 8
5 5 Danceswiththewind (CA) Vergara D Becerra R 14.80 5
6 6 Knucklebuster (KY) Quinonez A Mandella R 3.90 2
8 7 Nonrefundable (KY) Espinoza V Gallagher P 2.10 1
9 8 My Top Cat (KY) Castanon A Heap B 15.90 3
SCR Oneinamillionyou (CA)    
 
Pgm Win Place Show
8 $6.20 $3.60 $3.00
6 $4.80 $3.80
9 $7.80
 
Exotic Payoffs
$0.50 Pick 4 paid $1642.35 (8-5-5-8)
$1.00 Exacta paid $10.90 (8-6)
$1.00 Pick 3 paid $99.60 (5-5-8)
$1.00 Place Pick All paid $1655.60 (9 OF 9)
$1.00 Super High Five paid $2770.00 (8-6-9-2-5)
$1.00 Superfecta paid $447.90 (8-6-9-2)
$1.00 Trifecta paid $105.70 (8-6-9)
$2.00 Daily Double paid $24.20 (5-8)
$2.00 Pick 6 paid $159.60 (2-2/3/8-8-5-5-8)
$2.00 Pick 6 paid $42173.40 (2-2/3/8-8-5-5-8)
Fractional Times
22.77, 45.55, 1:10.08, 1:23.03
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