5 value plays for Santa Anita's opening day stakes races

December 25, 2018 01:23pm
While the Grade 1, $300,000 Malibu Stakes is the rightful headliner on Wednesday's opening day card at Santa Anita, the card also also includes interesting races such as the La Brea (G1), Mathis Brothers Mile (G2) and San Antonio Stakes (G2). To add, there's the ungraded Lady of Shamrock Stakes and a 2-year-old maiden race featuring an $850,000 Bob Baffert first-time starter.   

For each of those five races, here's a value play to consider:

Race 4 – X S Gold (8-1)

The Lady of Shamrock Stakes features a powerful looking closer in Amandine, who won her North American debut on Nov. 22 at Del Mar with little urging. Unfortunately, the public will love her, and getting the 2-1 morning line price does not seem likely. She might fall to even.

One interesting alternative is X S Gold, who comes into this race off an improved run on Nov. 9 at Del Mar. She ran outside initially and appeared eager to go on before Kent Desormeaux let her go early and rode around the turn with a ton of confidence.  

X S Gold earned a 115 TimeformUS Speed Figure for the win, higher than the 110 Amandine picked up in her optional claiming score. Maybe the softer competition made X S Gold look better than reality, but in watching her Aug. 17 race at Del Mar, she did not move like the same filly when settling for a runner-up finish to A Walk in the Park. 

Maybe normal growth and maturity helped this 3-year-old filly.

Race 5 – Big Scott Daddy (10-1)

In this difficult 2-year-old maiden race, the Scat Daddy colt drawn outside sticks out for one reason – Mike Smith. Why is Smith riding this first-timer starter for trainer Mike Puype? This combination has only worked together once over the past year. At this stage of his career, Smith does not need to accept random maiden mounts.

Of course, this race also includes Scalper, the aforementioned expensive Baffert first-timer. As a son of Uncle Mo, precociousness is probably in his blood.

Another promising first-time starter is Jumpin Thru Hoops, a son of Yes It’s True who cost $190k only last April. Trained by Peter Miller, he is likely to show speed.

The experienced starters in this race do not look that great.

Big Scott Daddy’s overall pedigree tilts toward routing, but his sibling Shut The Box ran fine sprinting. Expect this one to hit the board under Smith, if not win.

Race 6 – Mo See Cal (12-1)

The reason for selecting this filly in the La Brea Stakes also involves Smith, who actually piloted the expected favorite Dream Tree to victory in the Prioress Stakes (G2) at Saratoga. Now Smith decides to keep the mount on Mo See Cal instead -- either that or Drayden Van Dyke always has first call on Dream Tree given he rode her before.  

Regardless, Mo See Cal is interesting on her own merits, as she took a one-mile Nov. 15 optional claimer at Del Mar easily. Smith only hit her once in midstretch.

Visually, it looked impressive, although the softer competition is noted.

Cutting back to seven furlongs, Mo See Cal might find herself in a stalker role, as she came from behind to finish second in her last sprint attempt (albeit on turf). Dream Tree will prove a tough challenge, but maybe Smith can work his magic.

Race 7 – Hardboot (30-1)

This turf closer returns in the Mathis Brothers Mile after a layoff since June, when he finished a closing sixth in the Mystic Lake Derby at Canterbury Downs. His previous races are not terrible, given he finished a closing second in the local Snow Chief Stakes and first in the Silky Sullivan Stakes up north at Golden Gate Fields.

For those two races, Hardboot earned a 105 TimeformUS Speed Figure, and with normal growth and maturity as a 3-year-old colt, his top number can improve.

With Gidu, Gemonteer and Snazzy Dresser set to show blazing speed, the race certainly sets up well for Hardboot, whether or not he wins. If not Hardboot, Fight On (20-1) is another interesting closer who might enjoy the cutback to one mile.

Race 8 – Gift Box (4-1)

Pegasus World Cup hopeful Battle of Midway and Dabster are set to attract the most money in the San Antonio Stakes, and they deserve the attention after finishing 1-2 in the Native Diver Stakes (G3). Both horses earned a 123 TimeformUS Speed Figure.

Gift Box also shows a 123 on TimeformUS for his March 24 romp at Aqueduct in an optional claimer. He showed promise early in his career by finishing third in the 2015 Remsen Stakes (G2) and second in the 2016 Curlin Stakes to Connect, who won the Pennsylvania Derby (G2) later on. Moving west to John Sadler’s barn could wake him up.


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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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