John Henry Turf Championship – Race 11 at Santa Anita – Post Time 8:30PM Eastern (5:30 Pacific)
United is the one to beat but I will not discount the chances of Master Piece to post the mild upset win. For exacta tickets we will add Camino Del Paraiso and Acclimate.
United was unlucky, perhaps very unlucky, six weeks ago in the Del Mar Handicap. Locked in with a quarter mile to go and seventh of 11 after getting shuffled back from fifth, United angled inside with just 110 yards left to go and came charging but too late, ending up a half-length, neck and nose short of winning. In last year’s Del Mar Handicap, United also rallied too late, missing by a neck to Red Lark, who is not in the same kind of form he was at this time last year. Nevertheless, in last year’s John Henry, United put it all together when Prat, sensing no early speed in the race, put him on the lead through fairly slow fractions, from which he showed his usual kick and gave no other horse a shot. In this year’s John Henry, there’s all kinds of “Early” speed horses, starting with Acclimate, who has had the lead through the first mile in each of his last six races. There’s also Neptune’s Storm, Award Winner and Media Blitz, all who are likely to want to press Acclimate in the early stages and perhaps take him on. In any of a number of scenarios, all Prat has to do with United is keep him in the three or four path so he can get to the middle of the track in the stretch and close just as he did winning the San Marcos Stakes at this distance at Santa Anita in 2020, or as he did winning the Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar in July.
That being said, Master Piece, who opens at 5 to 1 compared to 5 to 2 for United, has a shot, particularly if the pace is especially hot. Master Piece comes from much further back than United, as in the Del Mar Handicap when he was 10th of 11 early and still sixth with an eighth of a mile to go before missing the win by a half-length. Considering 13 horses are entered here, that’s a lot of traffic to navigate but it’s not impossible as there were 11 in the Del Mar Handicap. Winner of a Group 2 stakes at 10 furlongs in his native Chile and making his second start in California and second for McCarthy after moving from the Chad Brown barn, it’s logical Master Piece will run another “A” race good enough to win or be part of the exacta.
In spite of all the “early” speed types signed on, Acclimate should be used on exacta tickets as he holds on very well in the final parts of the race. He was second in 2019 after leading the whole way and second in the Charles Whittingham Stakes in May at this distance after leading early. Camino Del Paraiso only ran farther than a mile and one-sixteenth once, but it was a big effort when second in the mile and one-half San Luis Rey Stakes on the SA turf in March, 2020. That effort, his win last September in a stakes at Golden Gate fields on the turf and last November there as well, suggest he could get a piece to add to his record of finishing first or second in 20 of 42 career races, nearly 50% of the time. He came back from nine months off one month ago to win a stakes in Northern California as well and not only should he be physically stronger second off the layoff but he likes to sit in third to fifth early, which is a good place to be when the horses on the lead and pressing the pace get tired from their early efforts.
Win: United to win at 9 to 5 or more AND Master Piece to win at 3 to 1 or more.
I would also make a small win bet on Camino Del Paraiso at 6 to 1 or higher.
When making multiple win bets, use a “Dutching” tool to do the work of allocating your wagering dollars for the best edge. A Dutching tool lets you set the amount you want to bet or the amount you want to win, then based on the odds your bets are proportioned accordingly. Amwager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.
United and Master Piece over United, Master Piece, Acclimate and Camino Del Paraiso
United, Master Piece, Acclimate and Camino Del Paraiso over United and Master Piece
(I would play the top exacta for at least two more units than the second. For example if you play the top exacta for $10 then play the second exacta for $5)