by SCOTT SHAPIRO
Santa Anita Park’s New Years’ Day card is headlined by the return of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Arrogate in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes. The San Pasqual is the eighth race on the Sunday afternoon card and drew a compact group of five for the mile and a sixteenth event.
Arrogate drew outside in a race where he will be heavily favored, but still has to run well to get to the wire first. The son of Unbridled’s Song is 3 for 3 over the Santa Anita surface, as well as at the mile and a sixteenth distance and appears poised for an awesome 2017. The major question is how ready to run he will be with the ultimate goal being the $12 million dollar Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park at the end of the month.
If Arrogate runs back to either of his last two performances of 2016 he has no chance of being beaten on Sunday, but the fact the San Pasqual is being treated as a prep for the Pegasus all but guarantees he is nowhere near fully “cranked.” Even at less than 100 percent, he is the likeliest winner. However, one rival on Sunday could get the jump on him and perhaps hold him off late.
Nine-time winner Midnight Storm is coming off of a dominating performance in late November in the Grade 3 Native Diver at Del Mar. That was the Phil D’Amato trainee’s first effort over the main track since he dueled with Bayern and finished last in the 2015 Pacific Classic.
Since that failed try at Del Mar over the dirt, Midnight Storm has rebounded well on the lawn, including a dominant second half of 2016 in which he won four of five with his only loss being a hard trying third in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. His connections have always believed he is very capable over the main track and have stated that he is coming into the San Pasqual well. He will have to put forth a career best effort to beat Arrogate, but doing so is not impossible.
Prospect Park, Accelerate, and Dalmore drew the three inside posts and all appear too slow to compete with Arrogate. If Midnight Storm goes too fast early or regresses off two big efforts in November, perhaps they could “pick up the pieces,” but to me this is a two-horse race between the two top betting options making it tough to endorse wagering on vertically.
The vertical wagers involving the San Pasqual also look like they could be formful, so I will avoid spreading deep and instead try to hit the daily doubles hard and the Pick 4 a couple of times.
Here is a quick analysis of the three races surrounding the San Pasqual and make up the late Pick 4:
The sixth is a $25,000 claimer run at a mile and an eighth over the Santa Anita lawn. I do not have a strong opinion in here, so I will include a few on my Pick 4 tickets, but will not go too deep because of the lack of value elsewhere in the sequence.
#2 Malko moves out of conditional company after a win against non-winners of two at Del Mar on December 1. The presence of jockey Flavien Prat for the first time peaks my interest. I will use him, as well as a few class droppers that should fit better at this level.
#5 Infobedad has had a tough time relaxing in his last two starts, but trainer John Sadler adds blinkers in hopes this will help. #6 Formulate is certain to get his share of attention at the windows for trainer Simon Callaghan and is tough to toss, as is #8 Generoso for trainer Paulo Lobo. This gelding has been gelded since his last start and may be spotted to win off the bench.
I am against #3 Infinite Magic. This seven-year-old gelding is as honest as they come, but is 0 for 20 over the past two years despite 10 in the money finishes.
The seventh is a $75,000 maiden claimer for three-year-olds run at six panels over the main track. My top choice in here is #8 Squared Squared. This Bellamy Road gelding was heavily backed at the windows in his debut at Del Mar in November, but did very little running after a poor start. While his effort was not encouraging, the fact that the shrewd connections of John Sadler and Hronis Racing saw enough to claim him for the hefty price of $62,500 certainly suggests that there is likely something here. They bring him back for $75K and I expect him to run much, much better in this spot.
I also give a look to fellow second-time starter #5 True Appeal. This Successful Appeal colt showed no speed in his debut for trainer Phil D’Amato, but showed some ability in the latter part of the race. With a better break he should be in with a big chance on Sunday.
Finally, first-time starter #10 Pundy is intriguing. The Langfuhr gelding has worked pretty well for his debut and draws the services of jockey Victor Espinoza.
(Race 8 is the San Pasqual)
The finale is a maiden special weight event for three-year-olds run at a mile and an eighth over the grass. #11 Ice Kat is clearly the horse to beat in this one. This three-year-old gelding was a tough luck loser to a stakes placed runner in his most recent start and gets a jockey upgrade to Rafael Bejarano as he stretches out to nine furlongs in his fourth career start. If he avoids trouble or a wide voyage from his outside post he will be very tough to beat.
I also give an outside chance to a horse that is certain to provide better value. #7 Odyssey Explorer has not done much running in his first two starts for trainer Hector Palma, but he had excuses in both. He is bred well for the lawn and should show significant improvement on Sunday.
Here is how I will wager on the late Pick 4 and the Daily Doubles surrounding the San Pasqual:
$1 Pick 4
2+5+6+8 with 5+8+10 with 4+5 with 11= $24
$1 Pick 4
2+5+6+8 with 5+8+10 with 5 with 7+11= $24
$1 Pick 4
2+5+6+8 with 8 with 4+5 with 7+11 = $16
$25 Daily Double
8-5 = $25
$10 Daily Double
8-4 = $10
$40 Daily Double
5-11 = $40
$8 Daily Double
4+5 with 7 = $16
Total Budget: $155