Not a huge amount of cream for us to savour this weekend with just 5 graded races programmed. We shall start with Santa Anita, which hosts the only Grade 1 race of the day.
Santa Anita, weather mainly sunny with temps up to 80, going firm on turf and fast on dirt
The feature on the card is the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on the main track. Just 6 runners face the starter following the late scratching of Lavender Chrissie. The Morning Line favourite is Taris, who will be ridden today by Gary Stevens, who guided her to victory last time out in the Grade 2 La Canada.
Thought to be a sprinter, indeed she came third in the fillies and mares sprint in the Breeders Cup, she has now shown the ability to go two turns and steps up another sixteenth of a mile today. Her regular recent pilot, Gary Stevens, seems to have learned how to nurse her speed and there is no reason why she couldn’t be seen in a very good light on her bid for her first Grade 1.
This is quite an open looking race with three of the opposition posting recent Beyers in the 90s. Penwith is very interesting with 2 wins from the last two races including an impressive win in the Royal Delta, earning a Beyer of 97.
On an otherwise underwhelming card, the Irish O’Brien Stakes over 6.5 furlongs of the downhill turf course stands out. Velvet Mesquite had not won for some time and a career in the breeding paddocks loomed. However, she recorded he 6th course win in the Sunshine Millions on 30th January and goes for course win number seven today. She has only four rivals but she has to give 5 pounds to all of them.
Over at Oaklawn Park, the $900k Rebel Stakes represents another valuable Kentucky Derby Trial, worth 50 points to the winner. Suffice to say that 50 points will get you to Churchill Downs in May. 14 runners face the starter for this valuable prize and the Morning Line market is headed by Suddenbreakingnews.
The horse is drawn 14 but showed that a wide pitch is no problem when beating a good field in the Southwest Stakes at this track from stall 13. He stalked the pace then and powered home to win by 2 ¾ lengths. That was his first run as a 3 year old so should come on for the run. However, with a stalker in a 14 runner race, some luck will always be needed.
Of the others, Ralis is interesting at a Morning Line price of 12/1. He has Grade 1 form to his name with a win in the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga in September. He then ran two shockers after that but that could well have been down to him not fully recovering after his Saratoga exertions. He has had a good lay off and has been working well so he could well outrun his big odds.
Whitmore is quite short at 7/2 for what he has achieved. The suspicion is that he is something of a “morning glory” and he has to prove he can deliver on the big stage.
The other two graded stakes (Azeri and Razorback Handicap) on the card are worth $350k each and are notable for the seasonal debuts of Untapable and Idolo Porteno respectively.
The other graded stakes race in the US is at Gulfstream, which stages the Grade 2 Inside Information Stakes over 7 furlongs. The ML favorite is horse number 8, Stonetastic. While his form reads well, his runs over a true 7 furlongs (as opposed to 6 ½) give some concern and it may pay to look elsewhere.