Analysis: A must play on Day 1 at Santa Anita

Analysis: A must play on Day 1 at Santa Anita
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

Trainer Bob Baffert knows how to win graded stakes races by controlling the lead with speed horses. In the Grade 3, $100,000 Chillingworth Stakes at Santa Anita, he is in a great position to take another one on the front end with Qahira, who also brings a three-race win streak into this 6 1/2-furlong sprint for fillies and mares.

Qahira is a lightly raced 4-year-old filly who disappointed early in her career.

In November 2018 at Del Mar, she broke her maiden by 4 3/4 lengths in a six-furlong sprint with an impressive 106 TimeformUS Speed Figure.

Two months later, she tried to stretch out to one mile in an optional claimer at Santa Anita. Unfortunately, Qahira faded to last at 1/5 after pressing a slow pace. After another two months, she tried a seven-furlong optional claimer over the slop at Santa Anita, but after contesting a fast pace on the inside, she faded to fourth.

Following those two losses, Qahira took a four-month break.

In her return start, Qahira cut back to a six-furlong sprint and won a Los Alamitos optional claimer by 3 1/2 lengths with a 102 on TimeformUS. The following month, Qahira took a seven-furlong optional claimer at Del Mar by 2 1/4 lengths with a career-high 108 on TimeformUS. The runner-up Mo See Cal went on to take an optional claimer at Santa Anita and eventually ran a good sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

Qahira went on another break, signaling probable physical problems. Good horses do not sit on the shelf after two or three starts for no reason. She left for a year.

However, Qahira once again came back in sharp form in August with a win in a Del Mar optional claimer by three lengths over Proud Emma.

Watch Qahira draw clear of Proud Emma in the stretch run under mild handling.

Qahira also shows a 109 on TimeformUS for the return victory, which marks another career-high speed figure. The 109 on TimeformUS puts Qahira in the same league as Amuse, Unique Factor and Hang a Star. In addition, most horses move forward in their second start off the layoff, making it likely she breaks 110 this Friday.

Also, Qahira won by setting the pace in that recent win, but she is also capable of stalking if necessary, as seen by her two summer scores last year. According to TimeformUS Pace Projector, in this spot she is the lone speed in a slow-paced race.  

Who can run with Qahira early on?

Qahira’s stablemate Message set the pace to win the one-mile Tranquility Lake Stakes at Del Mar, but she does not own the same speed at six furlongs. Judging by Message’s overall form, she also looks more comfortable in routes.

Into Chocolate wants to either stalk or sit in midpack.

Mucho Armor wants to stalk as well in most cases. She fell back to sixth in the Rancho Bernardo Handicap (G3) at Del Mar only because of an early stumble.   

Hang a Star owns the least speed in this field. TimeformUS Pace Projector puts this filly in last, and her sprint form backs this up as she closed from second-to-last in the Great Lady M Stakes (G2) three starts ago and in the Desert Stormer Stakes (G3) too.

Similar to Hang a Star, Unique Factor wants to run as a closer. She came from seventh in the Rancho Bernardo to make a mild bid for fourth.

Amuse possesses some speed, but she figures to stalk. In her last two dirt sprints, in the Rancho Bernardo and Great Lady M, she chased the leaders in fourth and third early on. She also had perfect aim at Sneaking Out in the Rancho Bernardo and lost ground late.

In other words, this race has "lone speed winner" written all over it. Given Qahira's sharp form and likely slow pace scenario, she is the choice and usable as a single in multi-race wagers. At 3-1 or higher, Qahira also offers enough value for a win bet.

Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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