The second major graded stakes for 3-year-olds looking to blaze the Kentucky Derby trail is this weekend at Santa Anita.
The $100,000 San Rafael has been won by the likes of A.P. Indy, Tabasco Cat and Brother Derek in years past. This year, Square Eddie looms the largest and is the one to beat.
For more analysis on the race watch That Handicapping Show, where I break down the race with co-hosts Tom LaMarra and professional handicapper, The Wizard. Also, courtesy of Brisnet.com, here is a link to the Ultimate PPs for the race.
(1) The Pamplemousse - Was impressive when breaking maiden by 2 3/4 last out while going 1 1/16 miles at Hollywood. Has also thrown in three good works since then. Trainer Julio Canani is 5-1-2 from 10 starters at the current meet. Big step up here for this son of Kafwain, but may be in line for a piece of the money.
(2) Fiddlers Afleet - Second to Asmussen's Derby hopeful Haynesfield in Dec. 7 Damon Runyen Stakes at Aqueduct, but was beaten five lengths. He did earn a 101 Bris speed number for that effort, but has just one win in seven starts so far. Trainer change from Tom Bush to John O'Hara too. Pass.
(3) Brother Keith - Owner Ken Ramsey has been touting this horse since he was a young 2-year-old. Broke his maiden by three at Churchill in November and was sent to California with Bobby Frankel. The thinking there is that he is a son of 2003 BC Turf winner Johar and will take to the Pro-Ride. His Jan. 10 move (five furlongs in :59-flat) seems to have confirmed that. This is only his second start and will be coming back after more than nine weeks off; both concerns. But if the connections are right, he's an improving colt with legit Derby talent. Gets Garrett Gomez for the first time too. I give him a decent chance to upset Square Eddie and will use in all my tickets.
(4) Ryehill Dreamer - Makes U.S. debut after two wins in five turf starts in Europe. John Shirreffs takes over training. Turned in a sharp four-furlong move Jan. 13. Makes first non-turf start and hasn't started since August. Won't know what kind of talent he has until we see him. May be worth using underneath.
(5) Papa Clem - Broke maiden while going gate-to-wire last out at Santa Anita at the same distance, but had everything his own way with slow fractions. Seems to really enjoy the course, as he also has turned in three bullet works at Santa Anita this winter. Bejarano leaves for Square Eddie and Tyler Baze gets back on. Should be a big price if you want to take a chance.
(6) Square Eddie - Has to be on everyone's top 10 early Derby favorites list based on huge Breeders' Futurity performance and good, runner-up effort in BC Juvenile. A big run here might vault him to the top of the list. Certainly the class of this field. Major question mark is that he hasn't raced since Oct. 25, but O'Neill is usually good with horses coming off the shelf. Will probably be odds-on, so no real value. But if he's on his game, he's the winner. The pick.
(7) Charlie's Moment - Third to Chocolate Candy in Real Quiet Stakes. Was close to the pace in that one, but has shown ability to come from off it, which may be the way to go here with lots of early speed. Had a good run on this surface two starts back when getting nosed in a stakes test. Also graded stakes placed when taking third in grade II Best Pal back in August. May be a good horse to consider for exotics.
(8) Feisty Suances - Won an allowance by nearly six lengths at Santa Anita back in October while going a mile. Has looked good while facing Cal-bred company in last two, but this is a big step. Has shown good early speed and should be a pace factor. Hasn't done much wrong but may be in over his head.
The Pick: No point of playing win ticket on Square Eddie since price will be too low. I think trifectas are the way to go in this one. I'll play a $5 trifecta with (6) Square Eddie over (1) The Pamplemousse, (3) Brother Keith, (5) Ryehill Dreamer and (7) Charlie's Moment. It's a $60 ticket.
Who do you like?