Sunday plays: Beating chalk at Santa Anita, Gun Runner pick 4

Sunday plays: Beating chalk at Santa Anita, Gun Runner pick 4
Photo: Benoit Photo/Santa Anita

Horse racing goes from zero races on Saturday to plenty of cards and stakes options on Sunday.

On paper Santa Anita Park offers the best stakes-filled card with the featured $300,000 Malibu Stakes (G1) and $200,000 San Antonio Stakes (G2) certain to attract bettors.

The card at Fair Grounds is no slouch either, as it contains a brand new Kentucky Derby prep race in the $100,000 Gun Runner Stakes.

Here is a late Pick 4 ticket for Fair Grounds, as well as select value picks for the dirt graded stakes races at Santa Anita.

Fair Grounds race 10: Untapable Stakes

Cocktail Moments won at first asking in a seven-furlong maiden race at Churchill Downs by 9 1/4 lengths with a magnificent closing move. The only question is whether she can transfer that form to a two-turn route.

North County is the next best option. She broke her maiden in a one and one-sixteenth mile race at Keeneland, giving her successful experience at the distance. The question is whether the slop helped her.

California Angel also deserves a look as a two-time route winner on grass. The closing third-place finish in a Sept. 30 optional claimer at Churchill Downs is forgivable because of the six-furlong distance. This filly looks like a natural router.

If there are any scratches in the ticket, Fannie and Freddie is usable as a substitution after breaking her maiden locally. Lasix-off is a concern. 

Top selection: No. 5 Cocktail Moments (3-1)

Contenders: No. 2 California Angel (4-1), No. 8 North County (9-2)


Pick 4: 2,5,8 / 1,3,4 / 4,6,7,8 / 3,6,8

Fair Grounds race 11: Gun Runner Stakes

Rocket Dawg broke his maiden by 5 1/2 lengths at Churchill Downs with a closing move and could step forward in his second start for trainer Brad Cox. From a pace standpoint, he figures to sit in a perfect spot behind Epicenter and Surfer Dude, the two main speed horses and viable win threats.

Epicenter broke his maiden at Churchill Downs by 3 1/2 lengths after contesting the pace with Surfer Dude and putting him away. From the rail, Epicenter figures to set the pace again and he might prove better than Surfer Dude a second time, while slipping away from Rocket Dawg on the turn before he can catch him.  

The concern for Epicenter is that Surfer Dude comes into this race a stronger horse after breaking his maiden at Churchill Downs on Nov. 28. His 103 TimeformUS Speed Figure for the win matches Rocket Dawg and Epicenter.

Top selection: No. 3 Rocket Dawg (3-1)

Contenders: No. 1 Epicenter (5-2), No. 4 Surfer Dude (5-1)

Fair Grounds race 12: 2-year-old maidens

Peaceful Waters deserves the most respect after setting the pace in a seven-furlong Churchill Downs maiden race and finishing second to the closing Chasing Time by 1 3/4 lengths. On the cutback to six furlongs, he may improve and hold on this time. He holds the advantage as the outside speed.

The inside speed is Tiz of Thee, who contested the pace in a six-furlong Keeneland maiden race before fading to seventh. He might move forward in his second start too. According to TimeformUS, trainer Tom Amoss has won at a 28 percent clip at Fair Grounds out of 129 horses over the past year.

Gilded Ruler might improve for Cox after a mild third-place finish at Churchill Downs. As stated before, Cox does not crank his first-time starters to win.

Inexorable made a notable closing move for third in a Churchill Downs maiden race as well. Although Inexorable still lost by six lengths, like the three names above, he also could step forward in his second career start.

If there are any scratches, Charlemagne works as a substitution. His dam Agave Kiss won her first six starts, although she has not produced a winner.

Top selection: No. 6 Peaceful Waters (3-1)

Contenders: No. 4 Tiz of Thee (5-1), No. 7 Inexorable (10-1)

Live longshot: No. 8 Inexorable (10-1)

Fair Grounds race 13: 2-year-old maidens

Cyberknife technically crossed the wire first in his career debut at Churchill Downs before a disqualification knocked him down. Then he finished second in his next start, also at Churchill Downs, to a tough foe in Classic Moment.

Now, Cyberknife tries a two-turn route for the first time. Based on pedigree, he is supposed to handle the stretch-out. His excellent dam line traces back to Well Dressed, the dam of 2009 Dubai World Cup winner Well Armed.

Art Heist also deserves respect after a runner-up finish at Churchill Downs over the slop at six furlongs. According to TimeformUS Pace Projector, Art Heist figures to set the pace uncontested through moderate fractions. If he can handle the route, Art Heist may hold Cyberknife at bay in the stretch.

For a mild longshot, also check out Jeeper, who closed for third in a Churchill Downs maiden race. He lost second to Grantham by ¾ of a length, while the 5 1/2-length winner Rocket Dawg is one of the favorites in the Gun Runner.  

Top selection: No. 6 Cyberknife (5-2)

Contender: No. 8 Art Heist (7-2)

Live longshot: No. 3 Jeeper (8-1)

Santa Anita race 6: San Antonio Stakes (G2)

Hot Rod Charlie is the clear class horse in the race after his fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic against the best dirt routers and earlier wins in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) and Haskell Stakes (G1).

If Eight Rings breaks well and gets send to the lead under John Velazquez though, he might slip away and win. Two out of his three lifetime wins came while setting the pace, including the 2019 American Pharoah Stakes (G1). Trainer Bob Baffert win many races on the lead. 

Top selection: No. 4 Hot Rod Charlie (6-5)

Best value: No. 5 Eight Rings (4-1)


Win: 5

Santa Anita race 8: La Brea Stakes (G1)

Private Mission helped cause a pace meltdown in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. If the pace is normal in this spot though, she may prove tough to beat. Before the Breeders’ Cup fiasco, Private Mission won the Zenyatta Stakes (G2) on this course, as well as the Torrey Pines Stakes (G3) at Del Mar.

If Private Mission and Livingmybestlife hook up on a speed duel, then Missy P. is capable of taking advantage from a stalking position.

Cross out Missy P.’s failed turf attempt in June. In her first two starts, she broke her maiden by 9 1/2 lengths on this course in March and ran second in the Angels Flight Stakes in May. As seen on XBTV, Missy P. looks good in her recent workouts too. Check out the Dec. 19 work in company with Q B One, where she outworked her famous stablemate. 

Top selection: No. 5 Missy P. (5-2)

Best value: No. 4 Private Mission (8-5)


Win: 5

Santa Anita race 10: Malibu Stakes (G1)

Flightline has broken his maiden by 13 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita and won an optional claiming race by 12 3/4 lengths at Del Mar in his two starts.

Yet, he is an extremely popular favorite who lacks graded stakes experience and gets the Lasix-off treatment in this Grade 1, seven-furlong sprint. Considering almost everyone will single him, it makes sense to either skip the race or look elsewhere to use another horse.

The class option is Dr. Schivel, who ran second by a nose in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and won the Bing Crosby Stakes (G1) and Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G2) before his runner-up to Aloha West. 

Although the huge speed figures favor Flightline, class is not something to underestimate when handicapping graded stakes races.

Top selection: No. 4 Dr. Schivel (5-2)

Contender: No. 5 Flightline (4-5)


Win/place: 4

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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