The Santa Monica – Grade 2 7 Furlongs
Tom Amello betting against the favorite in a contentious Santa Monica.
Projected Running Positions:
E = Early speed/ need the lead
EP = Early Presser/Front-Half Stalker
P = Front –Half Stalker
S = Rear-Half runner/ Closer
Several in here want position among the front pack and are proven early pressers. #2 Ben’s Duchess , #5 Tara’s Tango, #6 Room for Me, and #9 Finest City each have shown enough early speed to gain position pressing or stalking the lead in and among the first flight, with #9 most likely to set the pace depending how jockey Cory Nakatani reads the break. #2 Ben’s Duchess is not a sharp breaker (note 5/5, 7/8, 8/14, 8/9, 5/6 in pps) but will secure mid-pack stalking position. #1 Prize Exhibit and #7 Living The Life will race near the rear.
The Field in Post Position Order:
#1 Prize Exhibit 4-1 (Sustained Presser over Turf)
Solid and speedy Graded Stakes turf and synthetic track performer makes dirt/sprint debut for trainer Cassidy, who wins 13% with this surface move (8-1-1-1). Both the sire and dam were “turf only” competitors and there are no dirt siblings. This runner’s best efforts over turf have come when running from mid-pack or further back off the pace. Not much to be learned about potential dirt efforts from recent slow works over this surface. Meet’s leading rider back in the irons. Might win if handles the switch to dirt and/or the race collapses; more likely limited to exotics. (5-1)
#2 Ben’s Duchess 5-2 (Front-Half Stalker/Presser)
Ben’s Duchess drops in class from the G1 La Brea run at today’s distance, while making her second start following a layoff. She scored an upset win at 8-1 October 4 in the 5-horse G3 LA Woman going shorter. That win was somewhat bias-aided by race dynamics when racing as the lone closer behind a strong 4-horse contested pace that went 43.45 over a track that also played kindly to off-the-pace runners. Favored Taris battled widest throughout before weakening to 3rd but returned to win the G2 La Canada over La Brea winner Birdatthewire. Ben’s Duchess faced quality filly sprinters last out in Birdatthewire (2-2 at 7f), the speedy Hot City Girl, and G1 Test Stakes winner Cavorting. While today’s field is softer, Ben’s Duchess is yet to win beyond 6 ½ furlongs and today’s 7 furlongs remains a question.
Trainer John Sadler won this race back-to-back in 2011 & 2012 and is 4-2-1-0 with all Santa Monica starters. Home Sweet Aspen won this race in 2012 following a 4th place finish in the La Brea racing 3rd after a layoff. Switch followed a win in the La Brea with a win in 2011. Besides the distance question, Ben’s Duchess has tactical speed but is not a sharp gate breaker. A slow break will compromise her chances. This filly might win, is vulnerable at short odds but a “must use” in exotics. (7-2)
#3 Kiss At Midnight 12-1 (Rear-Half Sustained Closer)
Kiss At Midnight won on-debut at 6 furlongs over state bred $50k maiden claimers. It took five starts and $40k Starter Allowance for her to earn a 2nd win, that at today’s distance. She has been competitive in Cal-bred restricted stakes company through late 2015 (3-0-3-0), finishing ahead of today’s rivals Lost Bus and Tara’s Tango. Gets a “power jock switch” to Gary Stevens, who is 8-2-1-3 riding sprints for trainer Richard Baltas. Baltas is 12-2-1-1 in Graded Stakes sprints and 3-0-1-1 running at today’s distance. This is a solid field of proven open company and stakes-competitive sprinters. She races from off-the-pace, looks slow on speed figures and short on class. Unlikely win contender. Limit to deep exotics.
#4 Lost Bus 20-1 (Front-Half Presser/Stalker)
Lost Bus is 4-2-1-1 over dirt thus far in her 10-race career. She sprinted away from rivals when heavily favored on debut in a 4 ½ furlong dash in May. She was dead game in narrow losses over synthetic at Del Mar before heading to the shelf in March of 2015. Her last four efforts came over turf while in the charge of low percentage trainer Blake Heap (8%). Trainer Gary Sherlock (8%) took her for $32K and immediately switched back to dirt, where she chased the pace, led but had no resistance for the winner at 16-1 Dec 13 at Los Alamitos. He then added blinkers last out where she raced evenly throughout at 39-1 to finish 3rd behind today’s rival Lost Bus. Raced for a $32k tag 3-back; steps way up in class today. Non-contender.
#5 Tara’s Tango 6-1 (Front-Half Presser)
Tactical speed and class are the traits this filly brings to this contest. She won on debut under jockey Mike Smith over synthetic when bet to do so, then raced competitively in two overnight stakes before suffering a narrow photo loss to the 2015 Eclipse Award winner Stellar Wind. Two back in September Tara’s Tango proved a non-factor at 2-turns in the G1 Cotillion at Parx. Freshened off that dismal effort, she returned Dec. 30 to finish a non-threatening 4th behind rivals Kiss At Midnight and Lost Bus.
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer wins 34% with sprinters in Grades Stakes company and is 21-8-2-3 when sending sprinters 7 furlongs at Santa Anita. He won this race with a sharp horse in Scherzinger under Mike Smith in 2014 and with a sharp horse in Sam’s Sister in 2015. Mike Smith is 6-5-0-1 riding Graded Stakes sprinters for Hollendorfer and is back in the saddle today. Needs a top effort and fair odds (5-1) to contend for the win; a must use in exotics.
#6 Room for Me 3-1 (Presser)
Room for Me is a solid and consistent sprinter who showed marked improvement after being claimed for $12,500 by trainer David Jacobson last February; she is 11-5-1-2 since switching to the barn and shipping east. Three of those efforts have been at today’s 7 furlong distance: Room for Me was off poorly from post 1 and a non-threatening 4th in the G3 Bed of Roses, overmatched but held well for 3rd in the G1 Ballerina, and hopelessly overmatched in the Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. Last out she was no match for Eclipse winner La Verdad in the $100k Interborough at Aqueduct.
Trainer David Jacobson is a high percentage trainer on the NYRA circuit where he has won 24% with dirt sprinters over the last five years. Over that same period, he won 18% in Graded Stakes sprints. He is, however, only 24-1-5-5 with domestic shippers in Graded Stakes, including sending his top sprinter Salutos Amigos to a 7th place finish in the Breeders Cup Sprint and, m ore recently, a 2nd in the G3 Midnight Lute under Martin Garcia, named today on Room for Me. Jacobson shipped a string to Santa Anita this year and stands 8-0-1-1 thus far.
Ironically, Room for Me began her career in California at Golden Gate. She owns two wins at 7 and 8 furlongs over the Santa Anita oval. Those efforts occurred in 2014 against lesser. She is a much better horse today. The fact Jacobson is yet to win at Santa Anita is a concern, as is the ship west. Room for Me is a win contender with questions; a “must use” in exotics. (7-2)
#7 Living The Life 6-1 (Rear-Half Sustained Closer)
Living The Life is a synthetic specialist with a solid record at today’s distance (8-3-1-1). Her three races over dirt include a last place finish in the Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Sprint where she was 16-1 to rival Room for Me’s 78-1, an off-the-board finish against a speed favoring surface at 6 furlongs in an overnight stake, and a decent 2nd in the G2 Great Lady M at Los Alamitos behind a good winner in Fantastic Style and ahead of a tough runner in Sunday Rules.
Trainer Gary Mandella gave her rest, and then made a smart ship to run over the synthetic Tapeta surface at Presque Isle Downs to get a repeat win in the G2 Masters. That win makes her co-high weight with #1 Prize Exhibit, conceding weight to rivals. When last seen in November, Living The Life raced close-up to a modest pace while uncomfortable in the vice between rivals early, took back, then was both boxed in and out brushed to a lane by a rallying rival when attempting to angle out for running room leaving the turn. From there she lost momentum when squeezed back a bit, never getting a fair chance to run under jockey Joe Bravo. From there she finished with interest and galloped out well. That was a two-turn route, not this filly’s best distance. Today, Living The Life returns fresh from an 83-day layoff to race at a better distance and reunites with winning jockey Flavien Prat. She is proven capable of racing well off works having won off an April-August layoff when first switched into Mandella’s barn, as well as one from a November-March vacation. She has the class and solid efforts over dirt to argue the outcome if her off-the-pace running style is not compromised by what projects to be a moderate but crowded early pace. She will be the one to deny in the race to the wire. Win contender and “must use” in exotics. (4-1)
#8 Kyriaki 12-1 (Mid-Pack Stalker)
Kyriaki broke her maiden 2nd-out at a turf route after a decent debut effort in a 6 ½ furlong sprint rained off-the-turf, then kept turf stakes company throughout her 3-year old season. Trainer Eureton kept her on turf until April of 2014, where she showed tactical speed trailing at the back of the pace pack from where she made a mild bid when angled widest into the lane in a decent field of dirt routers. Freshened after a dull turf effort and switching to jockey Mario Gutierrez, Kyriaki showed good tactical speed to score twice at the OC$40k/N1X & N$Y conditions going one-mile. Eureton next opted for the G1 Zenyatta where Kyriaki was hopelessly overmatched and outrun behind Eclipse winner Beholder and a few proven Graded Stakes routers. Last out at Delta Downs in the Treasure Chest, Kyriaki’s lone wet track race boded well for success over a muddy surface. This will be the strongest field of filly & mare sprinters Kayriaki has faced. She is an unlikely win contender but can be used on deep exotics.
#9 Finest City 10-1 (Front-Half Presser/ Stalker)
Finest City has but six career starts and brings a 6-2-2-0 record to this event. On debut, after breaking from post 12 to set the pace at 33-1, Finest City was caught late by Gloryzappper in a “key” race that produced five next-out winners and three place runners. Connections knew what they had, kept it quiet and almost got the goods. Next out, she crushed nine special weight rivals at Del Mar at 3-5. It was no surprise when trainer Ian Kruljak tried this daughter of the speedy City Zip, out of a Lemon Drop Kid mare, down the hill in a turf sprint stake. Dam Be Envied raced primarily at turf routes, and sire City Zip carried his speed up to a mile. But Finest City could do no better that day than fourth. After a 5-week rest it was back to Del Mar’s dirt and another solid short odds win over a prolific sprint winner in Stealth Drone. Holding form, she managed another placing as the heavy favorite versus Optional Claiming/N$Y company. Last out, Kruljak sent her into G1 company in the La Brea at today’s 7 furlong distance where, breaking from post 9, she was outgunned for the lead and forced to chase proven stakes sprinters while widest, succumbing to their class, the effort, and the extra panel to finish an indistinct ninth.
Speed is always dangerous, and Finest City might be the speed of speeds. Given the circumstances, the fade in the G1 La Brea is understandable. She drops into a softer but strong competitive field today while reuniting with winning jockey Cory Nakatani (Stevens moves to #3). Finest City is most likely to benefit from scratches of other front-running rivals, has a modest chance to win if able to control the pace but would require odds in excess of 8-1. She, too, can be used in exotics.
#7 Living The Life (“Key” horse)
#6 Room for Me
#2 Ben’s Duchess
#9 Finest City
#1 Prize Exhibit
$25 Win 7
$12 Exacta 7/2,6
$ 8 Exacta 7/1,9
$ 5 Exacta 1,2,6,9/7
$ 1 Trifecta 1,2,6,9 / 1,2,6,9 / 7
$97 total wagers