Santa Anita’s oddsmaker, Jon White, had to do some tap dancing, so to
speak, before he ultimately installed Ultimate Eagle as the 5-2 morning
line favorite for Saturday’s Santa Anita Handicap.
“I kept tinkering around with various Big ’Cap morning lines
because the field kept changing all the way up until entries closed,”
White said. “And then, when entries did close, there was no Game On
Dude, who certainly would have been the morning line favorite. If Game
On Dude had been entered to make it a field of 14, I would have made him
“Without Game On Dude, I don’t think there is any doubt Ultimate
Eagle will be the favorite in the wake of his scintillating dirt debut
in the Strub. He might even be a lot heavier favorite than 5-2. But if I
had made him a lot shorter morning line favorite than 5-2 that would
have meant having to really raise the prices on the other contenders.
And in this particular case, I just didn’t feel that was the way to go.
By the way, just think, as recently as October, Ultimate Eagle was 34-1
in the Oak Tree Derby. Now here he is, the morning line favorite for the
Santa Anita Handicap. And keep in mind his rider (Martin Pedroza) is no
stranger to posing in the winner’s circle after a Big ’Cap. Pedroza won
it in 1989 aboard 50-1 Martial Law.”
White noted that the morning line for this year’s Santa Anita
Handicap pretty much matches up with the weight assignments, with the
exceptions of Setsuko and Holladay Road.
“While it’s true that Setsuko is coming off only an allowance
win, he just missed winning this race last year,” said White, who also
provides TV commentary for Santa Anita’s simulcast network.
“So he has proven that he’s capable of coming up with a strong
performance in this race. And then there is the wrinkle that Setsuko’s
first start of the year was the first time he has raced as a gelding. I
think a lot of people are of the opinion he might be even better now as a
gelding, which could very well translate into a fair amount of support
for him in the betting. Also, his trainer (Richard Mandella) has won the
Big ’Cap not once, not twice, but three times. So even though four
horses in the field of 13 were assigned more weight than Setsuko’s 116, I
think Setsuko deserves to be the second favorite on the morning line.
“I see Holladay Road as very, very dangerous. And I think there
is a possibility quite a few others may feel likewise, hence his 8-1
morning line price when some might have expected him to be higher than
that considering he was assigned only 114 pounds. It appears to me that
Holladay Road is really improving, plus Julio (Canani) is a very good
trainer who pulled off that big upset with Martial Law. How good did
Julio have Martial Law for this race in ’89? Martial Law’s final time
(1:58 4/5) still ranks as second-fastest in Big ’Cap history. Only
Affirmed (1:58 3/5 in 1979) posted a faster final time in the Big ’Cap
than Martial Law. And I’d say another plus for Holladay Road is his
rider, Rafael Bejarano, who does already have a Big ’Cap win to his
credit (Heatseeker in 2008).
“All in all, it’s a very interesting Big ’Cap, as usual.”
BIG ’CAP FIELD WITH ODDS & COMMENTS BY JON WHITE
1. Uh Oh Bango 6-1 Won the San Pasqual
2. Ultimate Eagle 5-2 Super dirt debut in Strub
3. Ron the Greek 6-1 2nd in Sun. Millions Classic
4. Boxeur des Rues 50-1 Making first start on dirt
5. Thirtyfirststreet 30-1 Thirty-to-one-firststreet
6. Twice the Appeal 30-1 Highest Beyer only 90
7. Fiddlers Afleet 50-1 Assigned feathery 110 lbs.
8. Gladding 12-1 Makes first start of 2012
9. Setsuko 4-1 Lost 2011 Big ’Cap by nose
10. Norvsky 6-1 Recorded a 97 Beyer on dirt
11. Prayer for Relief 8-1 Snaps 4-race losing streak?
12. Holladay Road 8-1 Sharp and very dangerous
13. Victory Pete 50-1 Last win ’09, no stakes wins