The Nomination Is In: The Big 'Cap at Santa Anita
By: The Turk
Shared Belief. 2015 Winner of the Santa Anita Handicap, The 4 YO Candy Ride son was as beautiful, as he was impressive as a runner. These horses, so powerful, can also be so fragile. I still mourn the death of Shared Belief this past December, and selfishly I wish he was alive to bring some life to a handicap division that lacks star power and 100+ Beyers. Racing will never escape these deaths, it's a part of the sport. In a game where many people reduce these animals to a number and a price, this handicapper is proud to say I'm a horse racing fan first, and a degenerate gambler second, and The Turk and the Little Turk always remembers the fallen.
Today's version of the Big Cap may not have Shared Belief, but it does boast NY bred Effinex, with Mike Smith up, the winner of the last the three editions of this race. Not too shabby. Let's get it on!
I was never that high on Effinex, perhaps it was the breeding, but $2.0 million dollars in winnings later and the 5 YO son of Mineshaft appears to be peaking. Effinex had a very strong end of 2015, with a win in the G1 Clark, a strong Breeders' Cup Classic Place and a G2 Suburban win. Trainer Jerkens is 23% off the long layoff, and this was a long layoff since The Clark at Churchill the day after Thanksgiving, but he's training well. I think the race is his to loose and he's a candidate to single. Carrying top weight of 123.
Just behind Effinex I see a group of horses blanketed together, all with warts. Cyrus Alexander has been training well for Jerry Hollendorfer. Hollendorfer has worked nicely in a progression of 4f,5f,6f and 7f one week apart for the last month. The 4 YO is 9 of 12 lifetime in the money, 7 of 9 in the money on fast dirt, 7 of 9 in the money at Santa Anita, and trying the distance for the first time. His 98 Beyer lifetime best isn't good enough but something tells me this 4 YO is about to stage a second act to his career. I guess we'll see. This is a good time to take a look at the G2 San Antonio, where Cyrus Alexander had no rally and finished well up the track.
Hard Aces and Donworth are in the mix with Cyrus Alexander. Both horses have run well at Santa Anita, but I don't get the feeling that any of them can win. Donworth has never tried the distance, Hard Aces has one once at the distance, a big Gold Cup win by a nose over Hoppertunity.
The wild card here is Imperative, who I have in the Show and Exotic spot but I'll be covering all the way up to win most likely. 3 of 29 lifetime wins, 1 of 16 lifetime wins on fast dirt, 0 of 6 at the distance and 0 of 11 at Santa Anita. That is an ugly stat line, yet the San Antonio was there for him and he owns the race's second best lifetime Beyer. The 6 YO Bernadini seems to be on the upswing. He's too low on my scale at B- and you have to respect this truly erratic feast or famine runner.
General a Rod isn't that interesting to me except the race is one of the few big Grade 1 races that Trainer Todd Pletcher has never one. I'm not a hater or a fan of Trainer Pletcher and I'm not surprised that this one has eluded him. It's a California thing. The horse is a name, names attract money, and that's good when you don't think much of the chances.
I'm not sure yet what my bet strategy is. The rains are coming and while they are expected to be gone by Saturday, I won't bet if it's anything other than listed as Fast. Most likely I'll look to single Effinex in the Win spot, with 6-7-3-8 covered underneath. Have fun, Turk out!