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HRN Original Blog:
Toasting with Andrew Champagne

Three Stakes to Set the Stage


Much attention has been paid to the Santa Anita Handicap and San Felipe Stakes, both of which will take place Saturday afternoon at Santa Anita Park. However, the other three stakes races on the power-packed card are no less entertaining to look at, and they feature plenty of accomplished horses.

The Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile, for instance, may be the West Coast's best turf race since last November's Breeders' Cup Mile. Wise Dan won't run, but that race's second and third-place finishers, Za Approval and Silentio, will go postward, and they figure to be two of the affair's betting favorites. Additionally, Arcadia winner Winning Prize will look for his second win in a row, Lochte has shipped east after his huge upset in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, former Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint hero Regally Ready seeks to continue his renaissance as a turf miler, and multiple graded stakes-winner Optimizer makes his first start since last summer's Sword Dancer at Saratoga.

That race is immediately preceded by the Grade 2 San Carlos Stakes, which drew a Grade 1-caliber field. 3-1 morning line favorite Shakin It Up has emerged as one of California's top older horses after wins in the Malibu and Strub Stakes, but he'll have to overcome the far outside post in this 10-horse field. The race also attracted Palos Verdes winner Wild Dude, reigning San Carlos champ Sahara Sky, and Cal Cup Sprint winner Big Macher.

Finally, the ungraded China Doll Stakes drew a massive 13-horse field. On the Backstreets has won two in a row and is the tepid 7/2 choice on the morning line, but she figures to have plenty of competition. Diversy Harbor and Nashoba's Gold both won at first asking in their most recent starts, Full Ransom won the Grade 3 Miesque two back, and the monstrous field could make the the race less about pure talent than sheer racing luck.

Saturday's first post is set for 12 p.m. Pacific time. The day's festivities include a beer festival, and the first 15,000 fans to arrive at the Great Race Place will receive free tickets to this year's Breeders' Cup Friday card.


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Meet Andrew Champagne


A native of upstate New York and a graduate of Ithaca College, Andrew Champagne fell in love with horse racing at a very early age on summer trips to Saratoga. His turf writing credits include time spent as a sportswriter, weekly columnist, and handicapper at The Saratogian, a summer working for The Saratoga Special, and "field research" at OTB facilities in Saratoga Springs and his hometown of Kingston. He also spent two years in the athletic communications office at Siena College, and interned with NBC Olympics at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.

Andrew moved to Pasadena, Calif., in October of 2013, and now serves as an Associate Producer in HRTV's Digital Media department and Horse Racing Nation's Southern California writer. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewChampagne, and email him at andrewdchampagne@gmail.com.