The late pick four is an attractive wager for opening day, and we’ll suggest a $48 ticket for the chance at a pretty big score.
Race 6 -- About 6.5 furlongs (Downhill Turf)
I don’t really trust #5 MR BOSSY PANTS, but he’s one of three choices in a race about which bettors will make more of than really exists.
MR. BOSSY PANTS has all the things I’m looking for in a route-to-sprint play, especially over this particular course. He’s got enough tactical speed in recent routes that plot well at this trip, he’s shown a liking for both the course and the distance and, most important of all, he’s smartly spotted.
All those things aside, he could be a logical single.
For those of you thinking along those same lines, good luck with that. I’ll be cheering right along with you.
Just in case though, here’s a couple alternatives.
#12 LAMM got caught behind a slow pace last time out at Del Mar, and was left with way too much to do at the head of the lane, winding up finishing last in a race that has come back to feature two next-out winners.
LAMM was making his first start that day for trainer Mike Puype, who immediately put this one on the bench for a time, and has since brought back with a series of sharp works. Puype does well with the route-to-sprint types, and this rider/trainer tandem with Garrett Gomez has also proven profitable.
He’ll be coming fast from a bit off the pace and should be a very bettable price on the board.
#3 ACHAK is another one who loves this course, particularly down the tricky hillside, where he has been in the money in 5 of 7 attempts.
Look for the Doug O’Neill trainee to be pressing a moderate pace under Rafael Bejarano.
Race 7 -- 7 furlongs
#7 STONEY FLEECE turns back in distance for trainer John Sadler after a sharp looking score across town on the Hollywood Turf in the Grade 3 Generous.
Back in with state-breds today, he appears to have a major class edge in this spot and will be a short price to pick up his fifth win from seven lifetime starts.
One caveat about STONEY FLEECE. As impressive as he has been, he was a well-beaten third in his only start on traditional dirt, two starts back over this course in a Cal-bred stakes route.
I’m sure he’s strictly the one to beat, but again, I’m going to make sure I’m covered in the worst event.
#2 PASSSING GAME has never raced on traditional dirt, but there’s no reason he won’t handle it. Unbeaten in two starts for trainer Gary Sherlock, he broke his maiden on the synthetic at Hollywood last May before stepping away from the track for nearly six months. He resurfaced at Golden Gate and determinedly took down an overnight stakes.
He’s reunited with David Flores and finds a field with plenty of speed to his outside, which could enable him to find a rail sitting trip. If the traditional dirt doesn’t mess with him, he could get brave in the stretch.
Race 8 -- 8 furlongs (Turf)
#1 COZY KITTEN may not have the accomplishments of some of his rivals in today’s Grade 2 Sir Beaufort, but I’m willing to overlook what appears to be a class cloud in favor of what could be a very strong betting number.
COZY KITTEN broke from an outside post in the 10-furlong Hollywood Derby, was allowed to lag behind a slow pace, drift to the rail and take the worst of things in the lane when he was a close seventh in a blanket finish.
In fact, in each of his last three starts, the son of Kitten’s Joy has drawn outside posts. He ran well when winning from the 9 hole on the tricky Kentucky Downs course, then he was beaten an unlucky length when third in the Oak Tree Derby after breaking from the 11 post.
The Wesley Ward trainee has two fast drills since his off-the-board effort at Hollywood Park, gets a much more favorable draw today and will likely be aided by what could be a healthy pace battle up front.
#4 MR. COMMONS almost certainly has to be used. The Bob Baffert trainee is back with 3-year-olds only today, comes off a better-than-looked effort when fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile last out, and like the top choice, will definitely approve of the anticipated speed duel.
That said, the number of horses who made their most recent start on Breeders’ Cup weekend that have come back to lose their next race is staggering. He’s gotta be used, but you should be careful if considering him a single.
#8 ULTIMATE EAGLE will be looking for his fifth straight win today for trainer Mike Pender. The quick-running son of Mizzen Mast gets his toughest test with the turn back in distance and what appears to be an equally fast competitor to his inside in Thirtyfirststreet. If he can put away the other speed, and then hold off the likely rally from the closers, then he may be something really special.
#2 VENOMOUS hasn’t been in the winners’ circle since April, and he has taken a lot of support in both of his starts since shipping overseas for trainer Leonard Powell. This may be exactly what he wants to do, but we will take just this one more chance with him before we vow never to use him again in stakes company.
Race 9 -- 7 furlongs
To suggest trainer Bob Baffert has a strong hand in this year’s renewal of the Malibu Stakes would be a bit of an understatement.
With four of the 11 horses in the Grade 1 sprint hailing from the Baffert shedrow, he will be a very busy man.
#8 SMASH could be ready to break through today and establish himself a very strong sprint/middle distance specialist for the next few months.
The son of Smart Strike, a winner in three of five starts already, has been no worse than second in his two losses, but his losses have also come to fairly strong company, including stakes winners Coil and Indiano.
SMASH came back to the races off a 4½ month layoff at Hollywood Park and finished strongly to beat allowance runners under Rafael Bejarano.
Despite what appears to be a rather ambitious spot today, he’s worked brilliantly since the comebacker and the timing couldn’t be better to take a shot in a race of this type. He’s a must-use in a very wide open edition of this classy affair.
#4 ROTHKO has more than earned his frequent flier mileage for trainer Steve Asmussen. With prior stops at Churchill, Monmouth and Saratoga this year, he makes his return to Santa Anita where he ran second in his career debut last February.
He’s looking for his fourth straight win today, and while his lone start at 7 furlongs was a well-beaten effort at Churchill Downs, it should be noted that was off a long layoff over a track that played favorably to late running types. Another must-use.
#10 WINE POLICE is another Asmussen trainee that merits a great deal of respect. Like his aforementioned stablemate, the son of Speightstown has logged more than his share of traveling time, but he fits well in here coming off a second place on a muddy track at in a small stakes race at Churchill Downs on Breeders’ Cup weekend. He gets the services of one of the leading riders on the grounds and will get a bit of pace at which to run.
#2 CENTRALINTELIGENCE only lost by a half-length to the top choice when they met at Hollywood last month. The Ron Ellis trainee hadn’t been out in nearly three months coming into that race, and he has worked quite well since the outing and cannot be ignored.
You’ll note I am leaving #11 The Factor off my tickets.
After having no excuse in both the Ancient Title Handicap last fall over this course, and then in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile last time out, he’s worth taking a stand against here. His win in the Pat O’Brien Handicap at Del Mar last summer came over a less than stellar cast, and he will take a ton of money based on the connections and the record over the course. If he beats me, he beats me. But I won’t take him at what will surely be a much lesser price than the lukewarm number he’s been established on the morning line.
The ticket (in post position order)
R6 -- 3,5,12
R7 -- 2,7
R8 -- 1,2,4,8
R9 -- 2,4,8,10
Good luck at the races.