Saturday Gulfstream Park, Race 9, Local Post Time 4:33pm EST
The G3 Mr. Prospector Stakes, 6F, 3YO & up, Dirt
By Douglas Salvatore
Star Harbor (5/2 morning line) is a rare case of a "quad figure standout." In his last four starts, all of his speed figures are 110 or better. No other horse in this field has a single speed figure that fast in any of his last four starts.
Not only does Star Harbor possess an absolutely monstrous speed figure advantage, but the TimeformUS Pace Projector also indicates he should be on an uncontested early lead in a race that favors horses positioned on or near the early lead.
The Race Ratings indicate that Star Harbor faced better competition in each of his last two starts. He is reunited with jockey Paco Lopez, and Lopez and trainer Bobby Dibona have a 97 rating together.
Almost every relevant factor points at Star Harbor. If there is a knock to be found anywhere, it is that this 5-year-old horse with 20 career starts under his belt has never run on such short rest (20 days) in his entire career, which will be a concern to bounce enthusiasts. However, Star Harbor has fired off of similar layoffs before: one a 22-day layoff, the other a 23-day layoff.
We see absolutely no good reason to oppose Star Harbor. He is a strong selection.
For exotic wagering purposes, #6 Singanothersong (8/1 morning line) goes third off the layoff for trainer Ronald Pellegrini, a man who has a 94 Trainer Rating at Gulfstream Park. Singanothersong projects a perfect stalking trip and is in light at 114 pounds. His speed figures are very competitive with everyone except Star Harbor. He deserves strong underneath consideration in the exotics.
Betting Strategy: Win bet on Star Harbor. Use Singanothersong underneath in a straight exacta.
Thursday Santa Anita, Race 6, Local Post Time 2:47pm PT
The G1 La Brea Stakes, 7F, 3YO Fillies, Dirt
By Robert Finnegan
The TimeformUS Pace Projector suggests that the pace will have a strong influence on the Grade 1 La Brea--with 8-5 morning line favorite Sweet Lulu being shown on a clear early lead in a race labelled as favoring early speed. Her nearest early pursuer, according to the Pace Projector, will be My Happy Face, who is shown in a stalking position at the opening quarter as she shortens up to 7F after forcing the pace in two routes.
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If the Pace Projector proves correct, the other five fillies will find themselves at a pace disadvantage in this race, and we have serious questions as to whether any of them has the talent to beat these two fillies when at such a disadvantage. Indeed, beating them on even terms would be no small task.
Let's look at the field in post position order:
Sweet Lulu (8-5): Has a win and a second from three Grade 1 attempts. Ran an inefficient race in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, as one can see by inspecting her TFUS pace figures from that race: 124 115 107 98. It seems likely that the pace of today's race will allow her to avoid expending so much of her energy early. The race she exits earned a Race Rating of 115, which is 6 points stronger than the second-best in the field. She should enjoy the lower class altitude of today's race. Her last-out speed figure, a 105, is the best in this field. Her trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, is fresh off a memorable Hollywood Park meet. Rafael Bejarano is back aboad today, after the Julien Leparoux interregnum. Bejarano is 2 for 2 on this filly. Hollendorfer gets a Trainer Rating of 100 (the maximum) when using Bejarano, an 86 in dirt stakes, and a 91 when entering stakes races off rest similar to today's. Sweet Lulu brings a boatload of positives into this race. We consider her the most likely winner. But at what price?
Heir Kitty (9-2): Has run one speed figure (a 102) that would threaten in here, and that was in her last start--in which she stalked in the clear against male allowance company. That was 27 days ago. The Pace Projector shows her at the back of the pack at the opening 1/4 today, in a race favoring early speed. We don't like her chances of doing much better than hitting the bottom of the trifecta today.
Miss Lucky Sevens (10-1): Makes her dirt debut today off a Pedigree Rating of only 61 for dirt sprints. Her best speed figure is a 97. We aren't enamored of her chances today.
Executiveprivilege (4-1): Enters off a freshening for Bob Baffert, who gets a 91 rating off of comparable freshenings. Has a top speed figure of 102, the repeat of which would figure to play well in here. Bejarano gets off and blinkers go back on. Has a puncher's chance, since Baffert is always capable of getting big efforts off freshenings and his filly has a big effort to get back to, but looks like an underlay to us at 4-1.
Journey On (12-1): If she wins, we lose.
My Happy Face (7-2): Has the best lifetime speed figure of any horse in the field: the 116 she ran at Saratoga in a 9F race five months ago. Lost to Sweet Lulu by a neck in the Grade 1 Test four months ago, a race in which Sweet Lulu survived a speed duel (see pace figures color-coded in red) and My Happy Face could not quite overcome a very wide trip. Trainer Pete Miller is a supremely formidable speed trainer whose horses often produce more early speed than the past performances would suggest, and he is superb with route-to-sprint moves (rating of 98). If, as seems likely, My Happy Face is able to secure a trip in which she is stalking Sweet Lulu from second place, we don't believe any of her opponents will be able to pass her, which makes her a strong contender and, at a minimum, a good bet to finish in the exacta. At her morning line odds, My Happy Face looks like an overlay to us.
Madame Cactus (9-2): Lifetime-top figure of 98 came over this surface when she broke her maiden. Won the Grade 2 Raven Run last time, over Keeneland Poly, after making an extremely wide run around the turn. Got a friendly pace setup in that race. Today's pace does not figure to be as accomodating. Useable underneath.
Thursday Santa Anita, Race 8, Local Post Time 3:52pm PT
The G1 Malibu Stakes, 7F, 3YO, Dirt
By Robert Finnegan
Boxing Day at Santa Anita features a loaded field of almost-four-year-old colts squaring off in the $300,000 Grade 1 Malibu Stakes.
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Flashback, the 7-2 morning line favorite, has burned a lot of money in his last three starts, finishing second each time at odds of even money, 11-10, and 3-10. However, these were all strong efforts, and the colt has never been worse than second in his five career starts, often racing against top company. In his most recent start, off a 210-day layoff, he had a slow break and was parked very wide at the top of the lane, yet he still ran on nicely to lose a close decision to Zeewat (9-2 ML). Despite losing, Flashback looked like the superior animal, and Baffert has a 94 trainer rating with horses returning on this type of rest. Prior to going on the shelf in early spring, Flashback posted 114 and 117 figures. His last race was a 109, which should provide a perfect tee-up for today’s effort. He also proved again, as he did in his crushing maiden victory, that he can come from off the pace in a one-turn race, which should suit him quite well in the Malibu.
On that note, it is interesting that the Pace Projector does not predict a fast pace, as there are a number of loose-cannon types in the field who should make this race very difficult to steal on the front end. What the Pace Projector does show is that the pace should be contested by Zee Bros (10-1), Bakken (6-1) and Distinctiv Passion (6-1), all of whom will be breaking from outside post positions. Heir of Storm (6-1) and Our Double Play (15-1) also like to contest the early pace. It sure feels like a closer’s race on paper.
Flashback offers good value in the win pool at his 7-2 morning line. We will temper our enthusiasm in the likely event that this colt gets bet down to 2-1. However, since this is a big field with a number of interesting contenders, Flashback is certain to go to post at longer odds than in his recent races . It’s possible he’s simply too good for these.
In terms of the others, good luck to those playing the exotics. Virtually any of them can hit the board. So I will take only a moderate stab at the exacta. Holy Lute (12-1) has a back number (a 109 in the Indiana Derby) that makes him an upset candidate. Shakin It Up (15-1) was a very fast two year old (ran a 112) and is coming in off a long layoff. He offers value at the morning line but is likely to be bet down. Demonic (12-1) sports a Pedigree Rating of 100 (the maximum) for dirt sprints and has upside. There’s nothing wrong with Zeewat other than the odds.
The Wager: Flashback to win at 5-2+. Flashback in exacta boxes with Holy Lute, Shakin It Up, and Demonic.