Friday, April 7, 2017

Handicapper's Corner: Santa Anita Oaks (G1)

Seven Fillies Vie in Santa Anita Oaks

By: Laurie Ross, Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds

The Santa Anita Oaks (G1) is California’s final prep race for the Kentucky Oaks. The prestigious race has a spectacular roll call. Superstars who have stood in the winner’s circle include Songbird, Beholder, Stellar Wind, Stardom Bound, Rags to Riches, Balance, Sweet Catomine, Excellent Meeting, Serena’s Song and Winning Colors.

This year, a competitive field of seven three-year-old fillies will travel 1 1/16 miles. Six of them won or placed in their last race.

Classy Lassies
ABEL TASMAN (Quality Road - Vargas Girl, by Deputy Minister) made her three-year-old debut in the Santa Ysabel (G3). Unhurried early, the Bob Baffert trainee settled three wide, twelve lengths off this year’s superstar, Unique Bella. Abel Tasman got within a length of her foe, but settled for second place, eight lengths ahead of the rest of the field. Abel Tasman should improve in her second start off the layoff and she’s the one of two stalkers in a race filled with speed.

IT TIZ WELL (Arch - It Tiz, by Tiznow) is looking for her third straight victory. She has won three of four races since December. Her sole loss was to her stablemate of Unique Bella. It Tiz Well won the Honeybee Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn Park in her last start. She’s been breezing well and her speed figures are improving.

Worth a Look
MOPOTISM (Uncle Mo - Peppy Rafaela, by Bernardini) has won or placed in five of six starts. She was best of the rest in the Las Virgenes (G2) when facing Unique Bella, and bested BC Juvinile Fillies heroine Champagne Room by 1 ¼ lengths. Mopotism returned with a workmanlike win in the Island Fashion Stakes as her Oaks tune-up. She’s been breezing well and out-worked Santa Anita Derby entrant Milton Freewater in their last breeze. Mopotism has speed and will get an inside trip.

Needs Best Effort
MAJESTIC QUALITY (Quality Road - She Nuit All, by Lost Soldier) is still a maiden after eight attempts. However, she placed second in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G3) at the Fair Grounds after an eventful wide trip. The Keith Desormeaux trainee is one of those hard luck types. You know the kind, off slow, bumped, shuffled wide, checked. You name it.  She tries hard and hopefully, in a smaller field, won’t find as much trouble. Majestic Quality will have to overcome a pace bias and will likely get another wide trip.

It's rare for a venerated trainer like Richard Mandella to enter a last out maiden winner in a Grade 1 Stakes, yet here’s PARADISE WOODS (Union Rags - Wild Forest, by Forest Wildcat). The promising youngster showed improved speed figures in her first two starts. The drawback is that she’s jumping from 5 ½ furlongs to 1 1/16 miles and taking on lofty company. Paradise Woods worked an easy seven furlongs in company on March 30 and returned with an easy three-furlong freshener on April 5. Paradise Woods is a half-sister to the stakes winning turf sprinter Forest Chatter. Her unraced dam is half to the G3 stakes winning turf router Tajaaweed.  Have to consider that Papa Mandella knows something the rest of us don’t.

PRINCESS KAREN (Stay Thirsty - Chitka, by Jade Hunter) will give it her best shot from the outside post. She’s won sprinting against maidens and optional claimers, but couldn’t keep up with the swift pace in the Santa Ynez (G2) and faded to finish a dozen lengths behind Unique Bella. Princess Karen is also stretching to two turns and appears up against it.

BERNINA STAR (Harlan's Holiday - Date to Remember, by Bernardini) needed seven starts to find the winner’s circle. After plenty of second and third placed finishes, James Cassidy’s charge put it all together for a nine length score two starts ago. She was inexplicably switched to turf for her next outing in the China Doll Stakes and was beaten only 3 ¼ lengths. The filly’s speed figures are improving but she be mixing it up early with Princess Karen, Mopotism and possibly Paradise Woods.

Only seven entrants and this race looks chalky.  ABEL TASMAN and IT TIZ WELL are the ones to beat. IT TIZ WELL is a pace presser/setter and will likely get the jump on her rival. MOPOTISM and with a good trip, MAJESTIC QUALITY could figure.

#2 IT TIZ WELL (5-2)
#4 ABEL TASMAN (6-5)
#1 MOPOTISM (6-1)

In “real life” I would avoid playing this race due to the short field and presence of two heavy favorites. The ROI will offer little more than the cost of the bet. Best case scenario is a few WP bets on longshots in hopes of an upset. 

$4 Super Box: #2, #4, #1, #6 = $48
$4 W/P at 4-1 or greater odds: #6, #1, #3 = $24
$28 for lunch or to bet on the Santa Anita Derby.

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