Gary Stevens is the key to the Santa Anita Handicap

March 06, 2014 02:59pm
Gary Stevens 615 X 400 MMM
Photo: Don August


As much as I enjoy finding that live longshot that could pop up and shock the world, I see the Santa Anita Handicap as a three-horse race. Run at the classic American conditions of ten furlongs on dirt, I fully suspect that the stretch run of the Big Cap will separate the men from the boys. As you know, there are not many more manly horses currently running in the United States these days than Mucho Macho Man, Will Take Charge, and Game On Dude. Even their names speak to their male prowess.

No offense to the nice group of horses; Blingo, Hear the Ghost, Imperative, Rousing Sermon, and American Blend, but frankly I think their best hope is to snare third if one of the big three throws in a clunker. So, after doing all the heavy lifting in telling you that the biggest race of the winter boils down to the three favorites, (I know, what a huge help I am on this one), let’s take a look at which of the big three is most likely to make it to the winner’s circle on Saturday.

Again, I am going to stray from the way I would normally handicap a race, and look more to the jockey, rather than the horses. The way I see it, the most important facet of this year’s fantastic edition of the Santa Anita Handicap boils down to the 51-year-old Hall of Famer, Gary Stevens. We already know how good Mucho Macho Man, Will Take Charge, and Game On Dude are. This one very well could be decided by the riders.

Stevens has a huge decision to make. On paper, Game On Dude, who will be ridden by Mike Smith, has a tactical advantage in that he is the only true speed horse in the race. Lone speed is one of the most dangerous propositions in racing, especially so when the speed horse is as classy as this one. Mike Smith has no choice but to send Game On Dude right to the lead and see if he can go all the way. Conversely, Luis Saez, aboard Will Take Charge, really doesn’t have too much to decide upon either. His job will be to get Will Take Charge clear running as they turn for home, in hopes that his charge can mow them down in the stretch. Stevens, on the other hand, has the horse, in Mucho Macho Man, to pressure Game On Dude pretty early, if that is what he so chooses. 

Therein lies the dilemma; go after Game On Dude too early, and it can set the table for Will Take Charge; wait too long, and Game On Dude could prove impossible to catch. Luckily for Stevens, he’s as good as any rider, on or near the lead, of the last quarter century. Still, I don’t envy his position on Saturday.

My best guess is that Stevens does not wait too long, and takes the race to the two-time Big Cap champion, Game On Dude, relatively early. In my mind, that gives his excellent charge a better chance than hitting the stretch two lengths behind a strong front runner. Assuming I am right, and Stevens does go after Game On Dude early on the backstretch, I like the chances of Will Take Charge the best.

There you have it, Will Take Charge is my top pick in what should be a fantastic race between three excellent horses. Then again, if Gary decides to ... 


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Older Comments about Gary Stevens is the key to the Santa Anita Handicap...

amdaman and indiancharlie- This just goes to show that you can never write off a good 7 year old gelding. Game On Dude showed the youngsters how to win in impressive record setting style. My GOD/WTC/MMM trifecta was just off, in this strongest Santa Anita Handicap since 1988. Roll on, Dude.
these aren't the same tomato cans god is used to running against, same result today as the breeders cup, he's finished.
I'll go with a WTC/MMM/HTG/RS superfecta. I think GOD will be off the board again.
Odds are against the gelding, but I'd like to see Game On Dude take one more Big 'Cap. Game On Dude/Will Take Charge/Mucho Macho Man.
The Dude leads them into the stretch, MMM pulls along side and the two head-bob each other from the 1/8th pole till 30-yards-out, as WTC grinds on by for the win by a lengthening length.
  • EP Taylor · MMM will have the lead by the 1/8th pole. I can't see him waiting any longer. When that happens he hangs in the stretch. He will over take Dude on the turn and hold off WTC by a length. · 2049 days ago
What a dummy. If he sucks so much, why wouldn't you want him to run in more stakes races, taking more money? Put you in retirement. Retire the monkey.
i hope game on dude takes all betting money because he will be off the board and finally put this guy in retirement.
To me the big question is: how much betting action does Game On Dude take? I think it will be a MMM/WTC or WTC/MMM exacta. Could the Game On Dude action make it a decent exacta?
Let's go GOD..if he gets a solid break and in front...might be hard to get by. He'll be third choice at hopefully at higher than 3-1.
Imperative will have a say in the pace. Blingo will hit the board!
It's not the horse?
Stevens will have to take it to The Dude early as MMM has that quirky love/hate relationship with the magical eighth pole.

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Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His new racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing show, HorseCenter and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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