By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman
The weekend between the
Preakness and Memorial Day is typically a quiet one in U.S. horse racing. The
international stage is considerably richer this year, with spring classics set
to take place in Ireland and Japan.
But the local scene
nevertheless features a handful of graded stakes, including two intriguing
events at Santa Anita: the $200,000 Santa Maria (G2) and the $100,000 Honeymoon
(G3). Let's examine the key contenders and plan out our plays.
Santa Maria (G2)
Just five fillies and mares
have turned out to contest this 1 1/16-mile event, and most bettors figure to
land on #5 As Time Goes By as the
most likely winner.
What's not to like? As Time
Goes By is a beautifully bred daughter of American Pharoah out of three-time
Grade 1 winner Take Charge Lady, whose descendants include champions Will Take
Charge and Take Charge Brandi plus Grade 1 winners Take Charge Indy and Omaha Beach.
As Time Goes By has also made a significant contribution to the family legacy,
dominating the Santa Margarita (G2) at Santa Anita last month by 9 1/4 lengths.
But can As Time Goes By
repeat the feat in the Santa Maria? She benefited from securing an easy lead in
the Santa Margarita, and she didn't beat the toughest field—runner-up #2 This Tea scored her lone victory in
a $50,000 maiden optional claiming race at Santa Anita. Furthermore, As Time Goes
By figures to receive a bit more pace pressure on Saturday from #3 Miss Stormy D, who set the pace when
second in a recent seven-furlong allowance race at Santa Anita.
There's one other
significant obstacle standing between As Time Goes By and the winner's circle: #4 Ce Ce. The Michael McCarthy trainee
was on fire during the first few months of 2020, rattling off victories in the
Beholder Mile (G1) and Apple Blossom Handicap (G1). In the latter race, Ce Ce
overcame a wide trip to rally and defeat Grade 1 winner Ollie's Candy by a
Ce Ce's form deteriorated as
the season wore on, but she made a strong impression when returning from a five-month
layoff in an April 17 allowance race at Santa Anita. Sprinting seven furlongs,
Ce Ce settled off the pace early on, then rallied powerfully up the inside to
defeat Miss Stormy D by 3 1/4 lengths. Next-out Churchill Downs allowance
winner Himiko finished another 2 1/2 lengths back in third place.
Ce Ce was full of run down
the homestretch and has trained strongly in the interim, so I'm optimistic she'll
fire a big shot while stretching back out in distance in the Santa Maria. I'm
willing to bet Ce Ce can spring a mild upset against As Time Goes By, particularly
if the latter winds up tussling with Miss Stormy D for early supremacy.
Talk about talent and
versatility! #6 Going Global has
been unstoppable since arriving in the U.S. from her native Ireland. Under the
care of high-percentage trainer Phil D'Amato, the daughter of Mehmas has
rattled off three victories from as many starts over a wide variety of
Consider the following:
Going Global kicked
off her California campaign with a powerful victory in the six-furlong Sweet
Life (G3), where she gained three lengths in the final furlong to score by half
a length in 1:07.68.
Going Global followed
up with a determined victory in the one-mile China Doll Stakes, where she again
produced a sharp rally to dash the final furlong in :11 3/5 and defeat stakes
winner Closing Remarks by half a length.
continued her winning ways with a triumph in the 1 1/8-mile Providencia (G3),
where she overcame a troubled start, a slow pace, and a wide trip to
tenaciously defeat Closing Remarks (who saved ground throughout) by a neck.
Notably, Going Global dashed the final three furlongs in a swift :34 3/5, and
the final furlong in an excellent :11.48.
Going Global isn't the only
accomplished filly entered in the Honeymoon field—#7 Madone is 4-for-4 on the California circuit and enters off a
sharp win in the one-mile Senorita (G3), her 2021 debut. But Going Global's
turn-of-foot has been faster on the clock, and I suspect the Irish-bred filly
will be tough to deny under Santa Anita's leading jockey, Flavien Prat.
Now it's your turn! Who do
you like in the weekend graded stakes?
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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website www.theturfboard.com.