Key Horse Races & Free Expert Picks for Saturday, December 28Written by Ellis Starr
San Antonio Stakes - Race 5 at Santa Anita - Post Time 4 PM Eastern, 1 PM Pacific
Midcourt appears highly probable to win his third straight stakes race, second graded stakes, following his return from two months off at the end of October. He’s won four in a row, starting in June, the last win on 11/23 his best effort yet when dominating by almost six lengths in the Native Diver Stakes five weeks ago. He’s earned back-to-back 114 Equibase figures, which gives him a “Double Advantage” because those two are better than the last two of any horse in the field. He can win on the lead (as he did in the Native Diver) or he can win from off the pace as he did when rallying from seven lengths back to win the Comma to the Top Stakes in October, so there are no concerns dependent upon various pace scenarios either.
Gift Box is the biggest challenger to Midcourt in my opinion. He’s on a pattern for a big effort, coming back off a six month layoff, considering he came back from a nine month layoff to win this race last year. That followed the trainer change to Sadler (from Chad Brown of all people) and the first time Rosario was in the saddle. Following that big effort with a 117 figure, Gift Box won the Santa Anita Handicap in April, again off a layoff (this time of three months), then he missed by less than a length to eventual Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Vino Rosso. After a poor effort out of his home base in California, when fourth in the Foster in Kentucky in June, Gift Box has been rested again and with Rosario aboard he could be very tough down to the wire.
Gray Magician deserves honorable mention, although I think he’s not as good as the top two, He’s run four “A” races in a row, including a head defeat to eventual Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Spun to Run, the best with a 113 figure. On the other hand, he’s facing older for the first time and I think he’s going to have to step up to a career best effort to beat either Midcourt or Gift Box.
Win: Midcourt at odds of 8 to 5 or more, low odds overlay win bet.
Consider a bet on Gift Box at 9 to 5 or more as well.
When making multiple win bets, use a "Dutching" tool to do the work of allocating your wagering dollars for the best edge. Amwager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.
Exacta: Midcourt and Gift Box over Midcourt, Gift Box and Gray Magician.
Midcourt and Gift Box over Midcourt, Gift Box and Gray Magician over ALL.
Midcourt and Gift Box over Midcourt, Gift Box and Gray Magician over Midcourt, Gift Box and Gray Magician.
Race 5: Midcourt, Gift Box
Race 6: Apache Princess, Mucho Unusual, Lady Prancealot, Giza Goddess
Race 7: First Star, Bellafina, Bell’s The One
Note: You can play the horses above in doubles as well, from race 5 to 6 and from race 6 to 7.
American Oaks Stakes - Race 6 at Santa Anita - Post Time 4:30 PM Eastern, 1:30 PM Pacific
Apache Princess ran the best race of her career off a short rest this past July when rallying from ninth of 10 early, gaining the lead and opening up by a length and one-half at the top of the stretch in the San Clemente Stakes, before gamely fighting to the wire to come up a neck short behind Mucho Unusual. That effort earned a strong 103 Equibase figure, which she nearly duplicated in her most recent race. That was 14 days ago in the Bear Fan Stakes, a sprint, in which she closed strongly from fifth of six to miss by a half-length. Stretching back out to two-turns, Apache Princess gets the services of Javier Castellano, who is in Southern California for the big stakes races on the card. With So Much Happy likely to set a solid pace, Apache Princess may have what it takes to get up in time and win the American Oaks.
Lady Prancealot (IRE) has proven to be a top turf runner in the division many times this year and last. In the fall of 2018 as a two year old, Lady Prancealot (IRE) finished second in a pair of stakes, one of those the Surfer Girl Stakes on the Santa Anita turf course. This year, Lady Prancealot (IRE) has won three of seven races, two of those stakes including the Valley View Stakes at Keeneland when last seen on October 18. That effort earned a career-best 106 figure which is the best last race figure in the field. Joe Bravo, who rode Lady Prancealot (IRE) to her last win when in the saddle for the first time, has the return engagement and we can expect a top effort good enough to win from this very versatile filly.
Giza Goddess comes into the American Oaks off a disappointing eighth place effort in the tougher Matriarch Stakes, in which Mucho Unusual finished ninth. Both fillies ran well enough prior to that to be a strong factor in the American Oaks if they rebound to that kind of form. Giza Goddess earned a 106 figure when second in the Autumn Miss Stakes at Santa Anita in late October and she has a tactical style which likely puts her in second place in the early stages behind likely leader So Much Happy. As such, Giza Goddess could get the lead in the stretch before the closers like Apache Princess and Lady Prancealot (IRE) get into high gear.
Mucho Unusual was the five-to-two favorite when winning the San Clemente Stakes in July with a 104 figure, rallying from last of 10 in the field and still sixth with an eighth of a mile to go. She hasn’t run nearly as well in three races since including when beaten for second by Giza Goddess with no excuse in the Autumn Miss. However, Mucho Unusual gets a change in jockey to Joel Rosario, who has been aboard for her last two victories including in the San Clemente, and who has not ridden her in three defeats since then.
Win: Apache Princess at odds of 5 to 2 or more, adding a place bet at 4 to 1 or higher.
Lady Prancealot at odds of 5 to 2 or more.
For perspective, Mucho Unusual and Giza Goddess have minimum odds for win bets of 7 to 2.
Exacta: Apache Princess over ALL, then also the opposite, which is ALL over Apache Princess.
Apache Princess and Lady Prancealot over Apache Princess, Lady Prancealot, Mucho Unusual and Giza Goddess over So Much Happy, Apache Princess, Lady Prancealot, Mucho Unusual, Giza Goddess and Vibrance.
Optionally: Apache Princess and Lady Prancealot over Apache Princess and Lady Prancealot over ALL, then also Apache Princess and Lady Prancealot over ALL over Apache Princess and Lady Prancealot.
Pick 3: (very optional)
Race 6: Apache Princess, Lady Prancealot, Mucho Unusual, Giza Goddess
Race 7: First Star, Bellafina, Bell’s The One
Race 8: All (eight horses)
You can also play a double from race six to seven with the horses from the pick 3 above.
La Brea Handicap - Race 7 at Santa Anita - Post Time 5 PM Eastern, 2 PM Pacific
Bell’s the One ran the equivalent of a winning race when second to eventual Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint winner Covfefe in the Dogwood Stakes in September then followed that up with a very strong win in the Raven Run Stakes in October when rallying from last of 10 to draw off. Rested since then, she could follow in the footsteps of just a couple of the horses to come out of that race who won their next starts and she shipped into Santa Anita for a local workout, as well as gets Castellano to ride. She gets pace to run at and is on top of her game so could be very tough to beat.
Similar to Bell’s the One, Bellafina ran the equivalent of a winning race when second to Covfefe in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint last month, missing by three-quarters of a length while seven and three-quarter lengths clear of the next horse. She moves back from older to just three year olds and really likes this track where previous to the Breeders’ Cup was a perfect four-for-four. She will be the lower odds of the two evenly matched win contenders and may be a poor win bet but is a MUST to use on any other bets we make involving this race.
First Star gets a slight look here as well as she ran a big race in the Raven Run when last seen, rallying from fourth and although out finished by Bell’s the One clearly second. That was only the third start of her career and she’s improved nicely in each start since the debut. As with Bell’s the One, the race First Star comes out of was a KEY RACE. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd horses have not run, but the 4th and 7th have come back and won since, the latter in a stakes race.
Win Bets: Bell’s the One at 9 to 5 or higher.
Minimum odds on Bellafina are the same 9 to 5 but it’s unlikely she will go to post at those odds or higher.
Exacta: Box Bell’s the One, Bellafina and First Star.
Trifecta: Bell’s the One, Bellafina and First Star over Bell’s the One, Bellafina and First Star over ALL.