Awesome Again: Odds and analysis for Saturday's headliner

Awesome Again: Odds and analysis for Saturday's headliner
As pointed out in various posts, trying to play against trainer Bob Baffert when he enters a good speed horse usually results in a loss. On Saturday, Baffert runs two good speed horses in Maximum Security and Improbable in the Grade 1, $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita, with the former the heavy favorite.

Maximum Security stands as the best older dirt router in the nation, making him extra difficult to beat in this race, while Improbable is not too far behind him. 

The Awesome Again is carded as Race 10 with a post time of 5:00 PT. 

1. Take the One O One, 20-1 (Acclamation – Brian Koriner/Jose Valdivia Jr. – 16: 6-1-3 - $429,326): Even though Take the One O One ran well enough to win a high-level optional claimer at Del Mar on Aug. 22, he appears overmatched in this spot. His pacesetting running style does him no favors with each horse in this race possessing speed. How can he take pressure from either Improbable, Sleepy Eyes Todd, Midcourt and/or Maximum Security and still stick around in the end? Only three starts ago, Take The One O One could not even handle the Soi Phet Stakes at Los Alamitos, finishing sixth in an eight-horse field. He is easy to ignore. Toss

2. Improbable, 5/2 (City Zip – Bob Baffert/Drayden Van Dyke – 13: 6-3-0 - $1,529,520): If nothing else, Improbable is in sharp form this year after an excellent runner-up finish in the Oaklawn Mile and wins in the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) and the Whitney Stakes (G1). The former victory came after tracking an overmatched pacesetter in Brown Storm. In the latter, Improbable also took advantage of an overmatched pacesetter in Mr. Buff along with slow fractions. Still, he ran strongly in the lane to finish two lengths ahead of By My Standards, who went on to capture the Alysheba Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs.

Improbable wants to stalk the leaders, which is a perfect running style in a race with Sleepy Eyes Todd, Maximum Security, Take the One O One and Midcourt ensuring a lively tempo throughout the early stages. Given his sharp form and class, Improbable is the only other possible winner besides Maximum Security. But for bettors trying to cut costs, it is understandable if they choose Maximum Security as a single. Win contender.   

3. Sleepy Eyes Todd
, 15-1 (Paddy O’Prado – Miguel Angel Silva/Umberto Rispoli – 12: 6-2-0 - $591,165): This speedy gray colt comes into the race off a 7 1/2-length win in the Charles Town Classic (G2) after setting a comfortable pace. He is not just a "bullring" wonderhorse, though. Two starts ago, he also ran a game second in the Lone Star Mile Stakes. But this race contains a different class of horses, and all four of his opponents here own enough speed to compromise him up front. He remains young with room for improvement, but he also faces some of the best dirt routers in the country with Maximum Security and Improbable lined up. As with Take the One O One, he is simply overmatched against these names. Toss.

4. Midcourt
, 9/2 (Midnight Lute – John Shirreffs/Victor Espinoza – 13: 5-2-3 - $510,695): After a dismal effort in the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1), Midcourt almost stole the San Diego Handicap (G2) at Del Mar from Maximum Security with front-running tactics. Because of his aggressive strategy, he forced Maximum Security into a stalking position and went into the stretch run slightly ahead for a brief time before Maximum Security mowed him down to win by a nose.

Given that run, it is questionable why Victor Espinoza did not employ the same tactics in the Pacific Classic (G1). Midcourt was flat the entire way for an unthreatening third-place finish, 5 3/4 lengths behind Maximum Security. If he reverts back to gunning early though, Take the One O One, Sleepy Eyes Todd and Improbable figure to give him problems -- if not Maximum Security himself.

He gave a nice thrill in the San Diego two starts ago, but this time, Midcourt is not trustworthy enough to bet him. Toss.

5. Maximum Security
, 3/5 (New Year’s Day – Bob Baffert/Luis Saez – 12: 10-1-0 - $12,191,900): Following a successful 3-year-old season with three Grade 1 wins, this son of New Year’s Day began 2020 with a gritty performance in the Saudi Cup. He won by 3/4-lengths over Midnight Bisou, while his future stablemate Mucho Gusto faded in the stretch after attempting to block Maximum Security multiple times.

Upon transfer to trainer Bob Baffert, Maximum Security kept on winning by taking the San Diego Handicap (G2) while overcoming some minor trouble and the Pacific Classic (G1) by three lengths after a comfortable lead. Even if another horse wants the lead in this spot, he is proven capable as a stalker multiple times. He also draws well in post No. 5, allowing Luis Saez to keep an eye on the break and make the proper adjustment pace-wise. With those points in mind, defeating who is the best dirt router in the country will be hard for the others. The pick.  


Maximum Security and Improbable are the two horses capable of winning. For those wishing to save money by choosing just one horse, Maximum Security deserves the nod given his versatility and proven desire to cross the wire first every time.

If a speed duel occurs, Maximum Security can stalk. If the pace is slower than expected, Maximum Security can also press from the outside post. For Improbable to win, he likely needs his stablemate to find some misfortune through a bad trip.

Maximum Security works as a single, but Improbable is usable as a B or C in multi-race wagers, if the budget allows, as he seems the only other possible winner. 

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