Santa Anita Horse Racing Picks: Best Bets to Win & How to Play the Pick 5 on Saturday, May 16
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Things in the horse racing world are starting to resume, as Churchill, Golden Gate and Santa Anita are all running, albeit without spectators. In addition to racing coming back, Churchill has announced additional Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks prep races throughout the summer. We are going to have a fun filled summer with a lot on the line.
For today, I focused on Santa Anita, as Churchill and Gulfstream are both expected to be wet. (Check out Bryan Patton’s breakdown of the Churchill card here.)
I passed on the first race as it’s a maiden claiming event that I didn’t have an opinion on, so we will start in Race 2 (4:02 p.m. ET).
4:02 p.m. ET
This will be run at 5 ½ furlongs over the main track with a field of 8. I ended up on No. 7 Wishful (5/2) more by process of elimination than anything. She has tactical speed and always seems to be in the mix, but rarely crosses the wire in front. After a six month layoff, her connections tried her on the turf and she probably needed that race. Trainer Leonard Powell is 23% going from turf to dirt, and she will have one of California’s best in Flavien Prat aboard.
The other horse I’m looking to here is No. 2 Songofthedesert (5-1). Her most recent start was first off the claim for trainer Jonathan Wong where she finished fourth by 2 lengths after having the lead in the stretch. That was at 6 ½ furlongs, so she should appreciate shortening up here. Wong wins 26% of the time when it’s his horse’s second race after being claimed and 22% of the time overall in his horse’s second start.
Bet: Pick 4: 2,7/9,3,4,5/1,5/1,2,4
4:33 p.m. ET
Next up we have a competitive maiden special weight race on the turf at the distance of 5 ½ furlongs with a full field of 12.
No. 3 Affianced (4-1) and No. 4 Navetta (7/2) are both coming out of the same race, with Affianced running third and Navetta finishing a closing second. Navetta had some issues coming out of the gate, and if she gets away in good order here, she stands a chance. But trainer John Sadler only win 9% of the time in his horse’s second career starts and her dam hasn’t produced a turf winner yet. Affianced didn’t have any excuses in her first start as she was just hung in the lane. She’s bred up and down for the turf so look for her to improve in her second start.
Just to their outside is No. 5 Himiko (6-1) for trainer Bob Baffert. The connections paid a cool $1 million for this daughter of American Pharoah. While American Pharoah never ran on the grass, his offspring have proven to like the sod, winning 16% of their starts and 18% first time out. Himko has been training well leading up to this spot and at the price, she’s one to include.
For my best bet of the day, I’m eyeing No. 9 Moonhall Milly (6-1). In her most recent start, which was her U.S. debut, she finished a close second, missing by ¾ of a length after only missing by ½ in her debut in Ireland. Trainer Leonard Powell wins 25% of the time when his horse is running its second race on lasix. She gets one of Southern California’s best turf riders in Umberto Rispoli who is winning 26% of his turf starts. Also, Moonhall Milly has a model score of 24%, by far the highest in the race, in Bryan Patton’s model.
Bets: 9 to win (BEST BET OF THE DAY) … Exacta Key Box 9/3,4,5
5:04 p.m. ET
The fourth race is an optional claiming $80K race for three year olds. It’s a small, but competitive field (six hoses). First let’s go to the outside to the morning line favorite No. 6 Multiplier (2-1). I’m betting against him in this spot as he hasn’t won in more than two years and he seems to be a vulnerable favorite.
Just to his inside is No. 5 Route Six Six (6-1). While half the field is stakes placed and he’s not one of them, but he is definitely a horse for the course. Route Six Six has 10 starts at Santa Anita with 3 wins, 2 seconds and 3 thirds. After a six month layoff, he came back and ran a good third in early February and followed up that effort with a win in his most recent start. It looks like he’s back to form and he stands a good chance at a great price in here.
The other horse I looked at was the horse on the rail No. 1 Law Abidin Citizen (4-1). After winning a G3 event at Emerald Downs last summer, he went to the sidelines until early March. His connections thought enough of him to put him in the G2 San Carlos off the six-month layoff, where he ran a respectable fourth after dueling a contested pace. While this is an easier race on paper, there is still some stiff competition, but if he’s able to move forward from his last, he’s a major player.
Bet: 5 to win
5:35 p.m. ET
A $25K claiming event for three year olds and up who have never won two races. There are a lot of question marks in this race, but I ended up on No. 1 Worthy Tuck (5/2). He’s dropping in class for trainer Peter Miller, who wins claiming races 28% of the time. Miller and jockey Abel Cedillo have teamed up 32 times at Santa Anita and win at 28% clip. Between the drop in class and the trainer-jockey combo, that’s enough in this field to make him my top and only pick.
Bet: No standalone bets … use the 1 in Pick 4 starting with Race 2
6:06 p.m. ET
Next we have the first of two statebred, non graded stakes races on the card today. The Echo Eddie Stakes is for 3 year olds who were bred in California. A field of nine will enter the starting gate.
All the way to the outside is No. 9 Phantom Boss (4-1), the only graded stakes winner in this field. (The win came 11 months ago at Churchill.) He came back to run in a non graded stakes event at Del Mar later in the summer, finishing a disappointing seventh as the favorite. He had a number of excuses in that race with a bad break and then not switching leads in the stretch. While he has the skills to beat this field, the biggest question is the layoff. His outside post position should help him as he won’t have to worry about traffic. He’s one to use, but I’m not making him my top pick.
Just to his inside is the lone filly in the race, No. 8 Big Sweep (5/2) for trainer Mark Glatt and jockey Flavien Prat. She won her debut in a professional manner, going gate to wire and was in hand late. Not only is she stepping up in class, but also will be facing the boys for the first time. Seeing as the other non-graded stakes event later in the card is for statebred fillies, her connections must think highly of her to put her in this field. In Bryan’s model she has a score of 33% which is the highest in the race. For all of these reasons, I’m making her my top pick.
Bets: 8 to win … Exacta box: 8,9 … Pick 5: 8,9/1,5,7/2,4,9/1,4,13/5,6,11
6:37 p.m. ET
We go back to the turf for the seventh race in a $62.5K optional claiming event for non-winners.
We will start to the outside with the class of the race No. 7 Dogtag (5/2). After being in Chad Brown’s barn for the first six starts of her career, she moved over to Richard Mandella’s barn for her four year old season. She had one win as a two year old and one win as a three year old, both in non-graded stakes events. Dogtag made her first start for the Mandella barn in March against similar company, finishing second by 1 ½ lengths after having the lead at the 1/16th pole. Mandella only win 14% of the time when the horse is in its second start with a trainer, and while Dogtag is one that you have to include in multi-race exotics, she’s not a win bet contender for me.
My top pick is No. 5 Desert Oasis (4-1) who is coming in on a two-race win streak for trainer Neil Drysdale. After shipping over from France last summer, she finished fourth by only 1 ¼ lengths in her U.S. debut. She followed up that effort with a maiden breaking score at Del Mar to finish her four-year-old season. After a six-plus-month layoff, she came back and won by ¾ of a length. Drysdale wins 26% of the time with last-out winners, and jockey Flavien Prat wins at 24% on the turf. Desert Oasis has improved her Beyer speed figure in each of her three U.S. starts and has been training well leading up to this spot.
The other horse I looked at was No. 1 Don’t Blame Judy (6-1). She is always seems to be in the mix late, but rarely gets it done. She has 15 starts at the Santa Anita turf course with 1 win, 5 seconds and 1 third. She has the highest score in Bryan’s model and one that you can’t leave off at the price.
Bet: 5 to win … Exacta Key Box: 5/1,7 … Pick 3: 5/4,9/1,4,13
7:08 p.m. ET
Race 8 is the other statebred, non-graded stakes race of the day. The Evening Jewel Stakes will be run at 6 furlongs and is for three-year-old fillies who were bred in California. There will be 10 fillies entering the starting gate.
I’m betting against the favorite No. 5 Bulletproof One (5/2). She’s another one that is going to be gunning for the lead and I’m not convinced that she’s good enough to go gate to wire against this field. She’s coming in on a two-race win streak and has the highest score in Bryan’s model, but she’s stepping up in class in this spot. At the price, I’m looking elsewhere.
Toward the outside is No. 9 Warren’s Showtime (3-1). She has run over both the dirt and the turf for trainer Craig Lewis, with more success coming on the turf, where she has four wins in five starts. She has only run over the dirt twice and finished third both times. The pace seems like it will be fast, which should set up nicely for her stalking style. Lewis wins 24% of the time in non-graded stakes races, and Warren’s Showtime is coming in on a two-race win streak. She’s my top pick.
My longshot play in here is No. 4 Dim Lights (15-1). After breaking her maiden last time out, she steps up to face stakes company and switches over to the dirt. The switch shouldn’t be a problem as she’s bred to be a versatile horse. Trainer Steve Miyadi wins 30% of the time with last-out maiden winners. She’s going to be a part of the fast early pace; the question will be can she hang on. Worth a shot at the price.
Bet: No standalone bets … use the 2,4,9 in Pick 5 starting with Race 6 and the 4,9 in Pick 3 starting with Race 7
7:38 p.m. ET
The ninth is a maiden special weight for three year olds. It’s up on the turf with a full field of 12 and two also eligibles.
I wanted to make No. 1 Heywoods Beach (7/2) my top pick in this spot, but I don’t like his post position. While I trust jockey Umberto Rispoli to get him into a good position, he could easily get covered up and trapped down on the rail. He finished second by a neck in his most recent start, and he’s bred for the turf. I’m using him in exotics.
No. 4 Leprino (5-1) is my top pick. He is sent out by trainer Richard Mandella. This three-year-old son of Medaglia d’Oro was purchased for $700K in the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2018. His tactical speed should put him in a good position here. Plus, he fits one of my favorite angles in horse racing: Find a horse who has a start under his belt and is getting lasix for the first time, — and that’s exactly what we have here with Leprino.
If No. 13 Frasad (4-1) draws into this field he would become my top pick. He will be the pace setting here and has posted consistent Beyer speed figures in all five of his U.S. starts. After setting the pace last time out, he finished fourth, but he will be cutting back to a mile here.
Bet: 4 to win … but don’t lock it in until we find out if No. 13 Frasad draws into this field. If the 13 is running, he’s the bet to win.
8:08 p.m. ET
The nightcap is a statebred maiden claiming race at 5½ furlongs over the main track for three year olds and up. I don’t have any strong opinions in here, but will give you my thoughts on a couple of horses.
No. 5 Sorriso (7/2) is dropping in class and switching over from turf to dirt. He showed some early speed and held on for third in his lone career start. Trainer Mark Glatt wins 27% of the time when going from turf to dirt and a whopping 50% going from maiden special weight to maiden claiming.
Another maiden-special-weight-to-maiden-claiming and turf-to-dirt horse is No. 11 Desert Swarm (4-1). Trainer Brian Koriner wins 28% of the time when going from maiden special weight to maiden claiming and 16% of the time when moving from turf to dirt.
No. 6 War Maker (8-1) is getting blinkers on for the first time after finishing third in his career debut. Clearly they want him to be most focused and forwardly placed in this spot. Trainer Dean Pederson wins 33% of the time in his horse’s first race using blinkers, 31% of the time in dirt starts and 32% of the time in sprint races.
Bet: No standalone bets … use the 5,6,11 in Pick 5 starting with Race 6
Full Betting Card for Santa Anita
- Pick 4: 2,7/9,3,4,5/1,5/1,2,4
- Win: 9 (BEST BET OF THE DAY)
- Exacta Key Box: 9/3,4,5
- Win: 5
- Win: 8
- Exacta box: 8,9
- Pick 5: 8,9/1,5,7/2,4,9/1,4,13/5,6,11
- Win: 5
- Exacta key box: 5/1,7
- Pick 3: 5/4,9/1,4,13
- Win: 4