Key Races & Bets for Saturday September 30th, 2023
Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes – Race 6 at Santa Anita – Post Time 6:37 PM Eastern
Win contenders: Visitant, Dr. Schivel
Bob Baffert saddles a trio here in Arabian Lion, Fort Bragg and Speed Boat Beach, the latter coming back off nearly 10 months off, having run on dirt just once, in his debut, and wiring the field in that race. As a horse coming back from a long layoff, and with three sizzling fast workouts in a row, I can’t see how Victor Espinoza can keep the colt from zipping for the lead. The PROBLEM is that Arabian Lion may want the front as well, and no matter Baffert’s instructions, the fact that Arabian Lion gets superb gate jockey Maldonado, and wears blinkers, and earned his only win at this six furlong trip leading from start to finish, the pace could be way too much for either to handle and have energy to hold off stalkers and closers late. This is ESPECIALLY true if Spirit of Makena stalks in second as he has done in a few of his races, or if Sir Atticus does as well.
Visitant cuts back from a mile on turf to this six furlong dirt trip, after missing second by a head in the Grade 2 Del Mar Mile four weeks ago. He had been off for seven months, had moved into the Peter Miller barn, and that mile really helped prep him for this race. Seven of his 11 wins (in 21 races) have come sprinting, and on the cut back in distance, as well as having run the second fastest last race in the field (with a 110 Equibase Speed Figure) he’s going to have a great late kick. For a horse who has earned over $700K, a lot of bettors are going to ignore him because all his races since December, 2021 have been on turf or all-weather and I feel pretty strongly he’s one of two with the bulk of the probability to win, and likely to offer much higher odds than the other.
Dr. Schivel is the other main contender, with a six for 13 overall record, five for eight at this six furlong trip and three for five at Santa Anita. One of those was this race last year, at odds of 9 to 5, with a 113 figure. Dr. Schivel owns the highest last race figure in the field (115), earned when missing by inches in a three horse photo in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes at the end of July. His win last year came off a nearly identical layoff since July and he put in a spectacular five furlong workout as his most recent coming into this race.
Win: Minimum odds for a win bet on both Visitant and on Dr. Schivel are 2 to 1. If Dr. Schivel is below that threshold we can play exactas to make a profit if he wins. If not, and both are above 2 to 1, this is a great race to take advantage of the mathematical edge provided by a “Dutching” tool, which prorates wagers for the best value. There’s a free dutching tool at Amwager.com, where you can set the amount you want to bet in total and the math is done for you to help achieve the best edge. This is just one of many tools, and perks, for bettors at Amwager.com
Exactas: Visitant and Dr. Schivel over Visitant, Dr. Schivel, American Theorem, Arabian Lion and Speed Boat Beach
If Dr. Schivel is less than 2 to 1 near post time and doesn’t meet the threshold for a win bet, then play Dr. Schivel over ALL.
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Awesome Again Stakes – Race 8 at Santa Anita – Post Time 7:41 PM Eastern
Top win contenders: Stilleto Boy, Bye Bye Bobby
“IF” National Treasure should scratch, then Defunded is also a win contender (perhaps even if not but that’s up to you – see below)
Note: Trainer Fincher has stated Senor Buscador will not run in this race.
Defunded won the 2022 Awesome Again in wire-to-wire fashion under Maldonado, who also rode him in his subsequent win in the Native Diver Stakes in November. Maldonado did not ride Defunded in his next six races, but after two bad defeats, one at 4 to 5, Baffert goes back to Maldonado. With Defunded drawing the two post, there is very little doubt the plan is to go for the lead from the start and try to duplicate last year’s effort. The only other horse in the field that has shown he only wins when on the lead is National Treasure, also trained by Baffert as Defunded. National Treasure earned his debut sprint win leading wire to wire, in blinkers, then lost his next four. When blinkers were added for the Preakness, once again National Treasure led from start to finish. His sixth place finish in the Belmont is pretty irrelevant as a mile and one-half was too far for him, and then for inexplicable reasons the horse was not sent for the lead in the Travers, fading to fifth at the end. BLINKERS go back on, suggesting he will go for the lead again, and although Baffert might instruct his jockeys not to get these two to battle for the lead, if they both run, it may be difficult for one to rate off the other, and given that Defunded has a much better draw, National Treasure may have a problem.
Then there’s Slow Down Andy, second in the San Diego and out finished by Senor Buscador after getting to second with a half-mile to run. Similarly he got to second in the Pacific Classic then was out finished for second by Geaux Rocket ride, as Arabian Knight led from start to finish. Just the same, Slow Down Andy adds pace pressure to the leaders, as does Celestial Moon and Piroli.
Stilleto Boy is the best candidate to be sitting in about fourth in the early stages, just as he was in March when winning the Santa Anita handicap over the track under Desormeaux, who rids today. He then went to Oaklawn for the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap and was beaten by a head and a nose. He fared poorly in July in the Stephen Foster then was eased up in the Pacific Classic but is working just fine, and has every right to run back to his March or April efforts, which are good enough to win.
Since Fincher decided earlier this week to announce he was only running Bye Bye Bobby in this race. We must have a close look. Fincher wins a lot of races in the Southwest but has also won in Kentucky, and in California, notably winning the San Diego Handicap with Senor Buscador at 13 to 1in July. This four year old is very interesting, with a 5-4-2 record in 15 races, including when nearly winning the 2022 Sunland Derby, where he made the lead and was just beaten by Slow Down Andy in the final sixteenth. I get the sense Fincher had this race in mind for Bye Bye Bobby when shipping him from New Mexico to California after a six length win on May 21 at this nine furlong trip at Sun Ray Park. He entered the colt in the mile and one-half Cougar II Stakes, where Bye Bye Bobby stalked the leader for the first mile, TOOK THE LEAD, then tired to third. Shortening up to seven furlongs for the Grade 2 Pat O’Brien Stakes at the end of August, Bye Bye Bobby rallied from last of 10, more than 15 lengths back, to end up second and beaten less than a length. That sets him up beautifully to stretch back out and he could be right off the lead, or close from far back, depending on how fast the early pace is.
Win: Stilleto Boy can be considered for a win bet at odds of 3 to 1 or more.
Win: Bye Bye Bobby should be considered for a win bet at odds of 5 to 1 or more.
This is another race where we will likely end up betting two horses to win and in that case the free (and easy to use) Dutching Tool at Amwager provides an edge for our profit potential.
Stilleto Boy and Bye Bye Bobby over Stilleto Boy, Bye Bye Bobby and Slow Down Andy
As mentioned earlier, “IF” Defunded runs and National Treasure does not, then we can change the exacta to:
Defunded, Stilleto Boy and Bye Bye Bobby over Defunded, Stilleto Boy, Bye Bye Bobby and Slow Down Andy
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City of Hope Mile Stakes – Race 10 at Santa Anita – Post Time 8:45 PM Eastern
Top win contenders: Astronomer, Twist
There are a number of horses in this field, which, at one time or another could run well enough to win, but perhaps not today. Examples are Hit the Road (6 for 17, $600 in earnings) who has lost eight in a row since his last win in March, 2021, and not really threatened to win. Hong Kong Harry has won nine of 16 races, including the similar Del Mar Mile in 2022, but is winless in all three starts this year without really threatening to win. Similarly, Irideo hasn’t won since July, 2022, with second to fifth place finishes in all but two of nine races since. War At Sea and Il Bellator appear to be overmatched, while Flavius hasn’t won since the summer of 2021 and even that win came in a restricted stakes. Cathkin Peak finished fast for second in this race last year at 2 to 1 but has only seventh and sixth place finishes this year.
On the other hand, both Astronomer and Twist have recent wins. Astronomer is a lightly raced four year old having won three of five turf races, and he’s on a fantastic pattern to step up and win. He won the third and fourth starts of his career in the fall of 2021, both at a mile on grass, including a stakes for two year olds at Del Mar. Off for 18 months, he returned in July and finished 10th then turned it all around with a visually impressive win at a mile last month. He improved to a 106 Equibase Speed Figure and can take another step forward for a very sharp trainer in Simon Callaghan, who has won with seven of 39 starters in turf route stakes races in the past three years, with a strong 75% profit on win bets.
Twist imported from his native France this past spring and ran well to finish second of eight in his U.S. debut in June. He improve again in July to win with a stakes quality 110 Equibase Speed Figure, then although fifth of 10 in the Del Mar Mile last month, ran as well, also earning a 110 figure. He was only beaten three heads on the wire in that race, after hopping in the air at the start and behind a wall of horses entering the stretch. Getting a jockey change BACK to Berrios, aboard only once, for the win in July, Twist has every right to win if he repeats that July 21 effort.
Win: Both Astronomer and Twist should be considered for win bets at odds of 2 to 1 or more.
Exactas: Astronomer and Twist over Astronomer, Twist, Hong Kong Harry, Cathkin Peak and Irideo