Before I start the break down of the Santa Anita Handicap, I want to mention the other two Grade 1 races on the card. The first is the Las Virgenes Stakes for three-year old filly’s. The horse to watch here is #5 Eden’s Moon (FL). She won her maiden race at Santa Anita by 11 and 3/4 lengths and is the horse all the handicappers are buzzing about. The other Grade 1 race is the Kilroe Mile Stakes for older males on the turf. This race features #1 Mr. Commons (KY), who has looked flawless on the turf at Santa Anita this year. He’ll be the heavy and deserving favorite in this one. Now, on to the Santa Anita Handicap.
#2 Ultimate Eagle (KY) – This race is pretty simple. If Ultimate Eagle runs like he did in the Strub Stakes, it’s going to be very tough for this group to beat him. With the defection of Game On Dude, Ultimate Eagle stands out as the class of this race and should be able to take it without much problem as long as he fires. If he doesn’t, look out because this race will become wide open.
#11 Prayer for Relief (KY) – If Ultimate Eagle struggles for some reason, look for Prayer for Relief to pick up the pieces and win this one. He hasn’t been in the winners circles in a while, but even in defeat he’s put in some solid efforts. The distance won’t bother him much either so I definitely believe he’s the “best of the rest” once you get past Ultimate Eagle. Plus, you can’t underestimate the Baffert factor at Santa Anita.
#9 Setsuko (KY) – Setsuko was part of the very controversial finish last year when he finished second to Game On Dude. After that race I was looking forward to good things from this horse, but he was unable to find the winners circle last year. This year he won his only start, but it was just an allowance race. He’s a horse that usually hits the board, but it’s hard to think he’ll win this race considering his lifetime win record is two for seventeen.
#1 Uh Oh Bango (AZ) – He’s probably a step below what it takes to win a race like this, but it’s not a stretch to think he could hit the board. His races at Santa Anita have been good this year; he’s finished first and second in a couple of Grade 2 races.
#3 Ron the Greek (FL) – Bill Mott ships this one in from Florida, so that alone makes you have to take a long look at him The question with Ron the Greek is simple…is he classy enough to win this big of race? I’m not sure he can, but I do know he’s running well right now so I wouldn’t leave him off your exotic ticket.
#8 Gladding (FL) – For some reason I think this horse might have an outside chance to upset. He ran pretty well last season, and he’s coming off a layoff that he may have needed. Wouldn’t put much on him, but he might be worth a $2 longshot wager.
#10 Norvsky (CA) – Joe Talamo knows a thing or two about pulling off some longshot wins at Santa Anita, and even though Norvsky has done his best running on turf I still think he may have a shot in this one. He shouldn’t have much trouble getting a mile and one-quarter distance either. If he handles the dirt, he’s got a legit shot.
#4 Boxeur des Rues (KY) – His two other tries against graded company haven’t turned out well, and this looks to be his toughest spot yet.
#5 Thirtyfirststreet (CA) – Just like his stable mate Boxeur des Rues, he hasn’t shown he can compete at a high level against graded company.
#6 Twice the Appeal (KY) – I was very excited with his first race of the year at Oaklawn, but I thought he regressed in his second race. You can make a case if you play the “third off a layoff” angle, but I’ll take my chances and go against him.
#7 Fiddlers Afleet (NY) – He’s just simply out-classed in this spot.
#13 Victory Pete (FL) – You could probably make a case for Victory Pete to be in another category. I just don’t think he’s good enough to hit the board, and just can’t vision him being able to win so he landed here. Out of all the throw outs, I fear he is the one that could make me look dumb come Saturday night.
#12 Holladay Road (CA) – He’s won two races in a row, but both were state bred races. Probably in over his head today.