I'll circle back Saturday morning with my full list of proposed wagers for the card, once I've decided how to allocate my budget (probably $100-$150), but in the meantime offer my top 3 in each race.
Race 4, Filly and Mare Sprint (2:55 p.m. ET)
- #4, Come Dancing (5-2)
- #1, Covfefe (2-1)
- #9, Spiced Perfection (4-1)
- Long Shot Who Can Hit the Board: #7, Selcourt (10-1)
A great way to kick off the card, albeit chalky. I'm sure of my ticket structures, but view Come Dancing as a "strong single" in the first leg of the Pick 4, allowing me to go as far as 6 deep in Race 5 and be alive to prices that I like in Races 6 and 7. In the F&M Sprint, trainer Carlos Martin has a sprint beast in Come Dancing. Finishing second to Midnight Bisou, probably winner of the Distaff (Race 10) and in a June Grade 1 at Belmont, and losing to the likes of Wow Cat showed she can't go beyond a mile, but she was really game in those efforts. And she showed maturity in her last two, proving the ability to sit a bit off the pace and chase down the leaders.
Race 5, Turf Sprint (3:33 p.m.)
- #4, Shekky Shebaz (15-1)
- #11, Om (15-1)
- #5, Stubbins (12-1)
Dismiss painfully slow workout times at your own risk. Trainer Jason Service has the fastest horse from the gate here, and I think Shekky Shebaz is simply the fastest sprinter and can last the 5-furlong distance. If he stumbles I'm cooked, in which case I think Om is second best and will absolutely hit the board, spicing up the exacta, trifecta and superfecta combos, though his long layoff coming into this race was the primary deterrent from making him my win selection.
Race 6, Dirt Mile (4:10 p.m.)
- #4, Mr. Money (6-1) ** BEST BET **
- #5, Omaha Beach (8-5)
- #1, Giant Expectations (12-1)
- Also using #3, Spun to Run (6-1) and #8, Blue Chipper (20-1)
Race 7, Filly and Mare Turf (4:54 p.m.)
- #8, Castle Lady (15-1)
- #2, Sistercharlie (8-5)
- #9, Villa Marina (8-1)
I will use these on all tickets and probably in small exacta and trifecta box plays. It's really tough to gauge the European shippers, but I liked what I saw enough from Castle Lady on her race replays to think she's got a shot here. There's no questioning the class of Sistercharlie, a 10-time winner in just 14 starts and with $3.5 million of winnings at age 5. Yet she's an extremely deep closer -- a style I'm unsure will work well at Santa Anita. As you're watching this race, prepare for #5 Mirth and #6 Thais to set a swift early pace. I expect Castle Lady to sit third or fourth as the pace-setters duke it out, as her effort at Keeneland in October (and prior races) showed she's keen from the starting gate but willing to settle down to conserve energy. That's what I expect here -- sit third off the pace, find a seam and hope to hold off a host of late runners. Jockey Mickael Barzalona has tasted success at the Breeders Cup before, which means he's done this. In 2017 it was piloting Talismanic to a 14-1 win in the 2017 edition of the BC Turf. A ha!
Race 8, Breeders Cup Sprint (5:36 p.m.)
- #2, Hog Creek Hustle (20-1) ** TOP 3 PICK **
- #9, Imperial Hint (4-1)
- #4, Mitole (9-5)
Make no mistake. I will be playing 2-9-ALL and 9-2-ALL combinations for the trifecta and potentially superfecta. I love Hog Creek Hustle. The caveat is that 6 furlongs may not be allow this guy enough time to get into his late burst. I'd back up the Brink's truck were this a 7-furlong race (his preferred distance, IMO), but view the shorter distance more tepidly. I'll still support him and think it's a two-horse race with Imperial Hint. There's a TON of early pace in this race that I think can burn out, setting up Hog Creek Hustle to mow 'em all down late at a big price. If the quarter- and half-mile times are 21 second and 43 seconds as I anticipate, it's game, set and match. Hog Creek Hustle wins.
Race 9, TVG Mile (6:20 p.m.)
- #13, Hey Gaman (12-1)
- #12, Lord Glitters (12-1)
- #9, Circus Maximus (3-1)
Let's be honest. How many U.S. handicappers watch enough European racing to figure this one out? Half of 14 horses are Euro shippers. I'm just not enamored with the U.S.-based entrants, and watched a ton of replays to get a sense of our visitors from across the pond. Betting-wise, I think most will default to the top 3 morning-line choices, but none of them catch my fancy. That brings me to jockey Frankie Dettori on Hey Gaman, a turf sprinter who has shown little in his past 2 but with different riders. Dettori gets back aboard a horse who, from replays, seems to do his best when on or just a shade off the lead. I'm looking for Hey Gaman to attend the pace and hopefully steal this one, held together with bubble gum or Flex Seal. It's a bit of a risk, but aren't all wagers?!
Race 10, Distaff (7 p.m.)
- #4, Midnight Bisou (6-5) ** TOP 3 PICK **
- #3, Street Band (10-1)
- #5, Dunbar Road (6-1)
- Long Shot Who Can Hit the Board: #7, Secret Spice (10-1)
I won't belabor this one. I wanted to pick Street Band, but Midnight Bisou is just the class of the entire Saturday card. Her last two losses (in late 2018; she's 7-for-7 in 2019) were to Monomoy Girl, who readers know I put on a pedestal. And those losses were close. In Saturday's race I think she can do what she wants and can deal with any sort of pace. I sense 3-4 horses will set a blistering early pace, but Midnight Bisou keeps her powder dry, lets them wilt, then holds off a maturing Street Band in what, for me, is a strong straight exacta play and single in late Pick 3 and 4 tickets.
Race 11, Longines Turf (7:40 p.m.)
- #10, Old Persian (4-1)
- #9, Bricks and Mortar (9-5)
- #7, Alounak (20-1)
These are the only 3 horses I'll use. I give Old Persian a slight edge vs. Bricks and Mortar, only for facing seemingly tougher competition in Europe. But I wouldn't be surprised if the latter won -- a stellar horse. I watched many replays on Old Persian, who to me needs to be a bit forwardly placed (preferably third for much of the race) and is a grinder, exactly what's needed at 12 furlongs. A key race for me is the Sheema Classic in Dubai in late March, where Old Persian beat a quality runner named Desert Encounter, who last month was infinitely the best in winning the Grade 1 Canadian International at Woodbine in Toronto, a race where my third choice Alounak was runner-up.
Race 12, Breeders Cup Classic (8:44 p.m.)
- #7, Higher Power (6-1)
- #11, Code of Honor (4-1)
- #5, Yoshida (8-1)
I'm not as jazzed up about this race as many of the earlier ones but am siding with Higher Power, a 4-year-old who did little in 2018 but has taken several steps forward in his last four races, including a dominant win in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic in August. A month later he came back with a decent third-place in the Awesome Again after almost face-planting and tossing jockey Flavien Prat out of the starting gate, but to me he showed guts that afternoon and still battled in a race he didn't need to win. If he gets the jump on #6 Elate from the gate and gets the second spot behind presumed pacesetter War of Wills, Higher Power will have an excellent shot to outlast the rest. And there was no better rider in California this year than Prat -- a big tactical advantage.