The Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap, once known as the hundred grander, is one of the finest races in all of thoroughbred racing. It iscontested at the classic distance of 1 1/4 miles for four-year-olds and upward. Greats like Seabiscuit, Round Table, Ack Ack, Affirmed, Spectacular Bid, John Henry, Alysheba, Tiznow and Lava Man are among those to grace the winners circle after the Big ‘Cap.
Let’s glance over the field and try to find the winner.
#1 Soul Candy- This will be the first time the gelded son of Birdonthewire races on a dirt track. He rallied from 15 lengths back to finish third beaten 2 1/4 lengths in the SunShine Millions Turf last out. Three races back he won the California Cup Classic. I love the way he always comes running even if the pace is slow. He gets in very light at 114 lbs and Garrett Gomez keeps the mount. Distance will be no concern as he won going 1 3/8 miles on the grass. I see a fast pace and if he takes to the dirt he could be tough to hold off in the stretch.
#2 Spurrier- Alonso Quinonez gets aboard for Bob Baffert. The son of Dixieland Band closed into a slow pace to be second behind Gladding last out in the San Antonio Handicap. He will get a much more favorable pace set up today, but I think he is a cut or two below the best horses in this race.
#3 Gladding- Winner of the San Antonio Handicap last out has been a different animal since joining the John Sadler barn. Rafael Bejarano decided to stay on the son of Sarava instead of Game On Dude or Setsuko. Look for him to be on or near the pace. Distance shouldn’t be a problem. He’s got a big shot here.
#4 Pode Ir- Faded last out after pressing the pace in the San Antonio Handicap. Would be a shock to see him win.
#5 Twirling Candy- The rock star of this race is a son of Candy Ride. He took his first Grade 1 event two races back when he nosed out Smiling Tiger in the Malibu. After that he easily won the Grade 2 Strub Stakes. Look for him to stalk the pace. I’m a bit skeptical as he has failed miserably in his only attempt against older horses. That probably wont be a problem here, but I’m willing to take a swing against anyway.
#6 Setsuko- Is he the same horse that finished second in the Santa Anita Derby? I don’t know. If he is, the extra furlong is really going to help him. Things could get heated up front and he comes from off the pace. He would have to run the race of his life to win. I don’t envision that happening, but if he still has some life in his legs he could pick up third.
#7 Quindici Man- His works have been a bit stronger. I like the 1:12 six furlong move on 2/25. He’s an outsider and will have to improve to run third of fourth.
#8 First Dude- This horse really makes me scratch my head. The colt has only won a single race, but has amassed earnings just shy of $900k due to a second place finish in the Preakness and third place finishes in the Belmont and Haskell. Perhaps he needed a race last out, but he really should have handled that field. I love the move to the Bob Baffert barn. Martin Garcia gets a leg up and I think that will work to his advantage. I told myself I wouldn’t bet him again until he gets a win under his belt, but he is definitely a nice colt.
#9 Tweebster- He’s getting better, but Twirling Candy already crushed him once. Of course, the same could have been said for Anthony’s Cross and Tapizar in the Sham, and that didn’t stop Anthony’s Cross from winning. Granted, Tapizar was rank and didn’t finish the race. For Tweebster to win, Twirling Candy would have to just not show up. Others rate higher.
#10 Aggie Engineer- His fan club was really filling up after he won the Native Diver Handicap and San Pasquel, but he failed to fire in the San Antonio last out when third behind Gladding and Spurrier. I’m concerned about the distance. He doesn’t want to go this far.
#11 Game On Dude- Love the name. The gelded son of Awesome Again is lightly raced and has the right to improve after winning off the shelf last out in an optional claiming event. Distance will be no problem. Jesus Velazquez gets the mount. He’s got a big shot here if he can move forward.
I’m going to make Soul Candy my top selection to win the Santa Anita Handicap. I love his closing move and he will get plenty of pace to chase. We know gets stronger as the race gets longer. The best thing about him though is his morning line price is a whopping 30-1. Garrett Gomez at 30-1 in a grade 1 race? Yea, give me some of that.
Who do you like?