Santa Anita news: Ace clocker favors Gift Box in Big 'Cap

Ed Golden, Santa Anita
April 05, 2019 04:58pm

Respected private clocker and bloodstock agent Gary Young fancies 6-5 Gift Box over 4-5 morning line choice McKinzie in Saturday's Santa Anita Handicap (G1), citing the distance of a mile and a quarter as reason for the edge.

In the Santa Anita Derby (G1), however, Young is sticking with favored Game Winner.

“I’m always looking to beat the favorite, but I think in Game Winner and Gift Box you have really solid choices,” Young said. “Both have trained well. Obviously, Gift Box has had more works for his race than Game Winner, who ran more recently.”

Young expressed distance reservations about McKinzie, the anticipated Big 'Cap favorite..

"He’s a nice horse, but I don’t know if he’s a mile and a quarter horse,” Young said, “and I feel very confident Gift Box is. On ability, they might be about even, but at the distance, I give a slight nod to Gift Box.”


John Sadler, still smarting from the worst “bad beat” of his exemplary career when Ohio nailed Catapult by the narrowest of noses in last Saturday’s Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1), is focusing now the Santa Anita Handicap and the Santa Anita Derby.

He has second choice Gift Box and outsider Campaign going in the Big ’Cap and Nolo Contesto in the Santa Anita Derby.

“Even though we’ve had disruptions in his training schedule, Gift Box is more than ready to go,” said Sadler, who won his first Big ’Cap last year with Accelerate. “We also have Campaign, who I think is going to love the distance (a mile and a quarter), so we’re excited about that.

“Nolo Contesto was second to Roadster (by 2 ½ lengths in an overnight race at one mile on March 1) and I thought he was uncomfortable with his trip. He was stuck down on the inside, so hopefully things will be more favorable this time.”


After two stylish wins at Santa Anita, Slewgoodtobetrue disappointed in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) on March 23.

The chart reads, “2-wide turns, faded,” but Peter Eurton says there’s more to the story, which is why the daughter of Jimmy Creed will take on 2-5 morning line favorite Bellafina in Saturday's Santa Anita Oaks (G1).

“She wasn’t wide,” the trainer said. “She broke well, was sitting right off the speed, and as soon as (jockey Florent Geroux) turned her head loose, she started a bit of bobbing, like she wasn’t getting a hold of the sandy race track.

“That’s the only excuse we would find. We couldn’t find anything wrong with her at all. She scoped clean and physically she’s been training well, so we thought we’d give it a shot. We just hope she gets to run her race. She always seemed to like this race track.”


It’s been close but no cigar for Ms Bad Behavior against monster mare Vasilika, finishing second and third, respectively, in the Megahertz Stakes (G3) and the Buena Vista Stakes (G2).

Trainer Richard Baltas hopes the third time’s the charm when he sends out Ms Bad Behavior against 3-5 morning line favorite Vasilika in Saturday’s Royal Heroine Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares at a mile on grass.

“It’s hard to say if we can beat her, but that’s what we’re hoping for,” Baltas said. Vasilika has won nine of 10 races with one second over Santa Anita’s turf course.

“We’re trying,” Baltas continued. “Our filly is doing well and Mike (Smith) got to know her a little bit (in her last two races).

“You never know.”

Ms Bad Behavior, an Ontario-bred daughter of Blame, has a 3-7-3 record from 15 starts with earnings of $320,480.


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