For fans and bettors of top class racing, Christmas comes today and that’s nothing different than in any other year: Boxer Day, December 26; lifting the lid on Santa Anita Park’s prime winter race meet.
And the real Santa brought the Arcadia-California track something special, a new and hopefully improved redesign of its turf course, which rates to be a safe and welcome change.
Evaluations will not come until a few races out of the new turf chute have been run.
But that’s not the story of this meet. Looking to catch a flyer out of the seasonal blocks, the 2020-21 winter meet begins Saturday with five graded stakes events, three at the Grade 1 level, plus a listed stakes for good measure.
Given times zones and workload, we don’t personally emphasize West Coast racing, but we make exceptions when events demand, as it does this weekend. The 1-1/4 mile American Oaks for three year old portends a highly competitive four-year-old season to come.
The Grade 1 La Brea and Malibu sprints are different because sometimes they can decide divisional championship titles. That won’t be the case in the La Brea this year because the division has its leaders, going short and going long. But not definitively so the boys.
Conventionally, BC Sprint winner Whitmore is the leader in the clubhouse. But what if Nashville does to this field what he’s been doing to every group he’s met to date, including his most recent score in the Perryville which came up faster on the day than the Sprint, then what?
Depending on the outcome of the Malibu, my vote will be swayed one way or another. Actually, races like the Malibu and La Brea can break ties or bring clarity to open divisions.
As everyone knows, not all Grade 1s are created equal, and that’s why voters have not received the past performance Eclipse ballot and stats packages until the last championship worthy race has been run.
As stated, this year’s La Brea will not have an effect on seasonal championships. The 2020 renewal features horses that are still finding their level and possibly luck into some serious black type. And the winner’s share of $300,000 pot is a prize worth chasing.
The Malibu has attracted six horses, four of which have demonstrated a measure of high quality. From the inside, out: Thousand Words (8-1), Nashville (6-5), Charlatan (8-5) and Independence Hall (4-1) own credentials as multiple graded stakes winners. The one that doesn’t is the early favorite.
Nashville gives every indication that he could be one of the ones, owning immense speed and talent, a freak, as the racetrackers say. But he hasn’t been tested, certainly not like he will be today. And that’s why they run races.
Grade 2 Mathis Brothers Mile
THE PLAY: Storm the Court to win at 5-1 or greater, or exacta box with Smooth Like Strait (8-5, or 50-Cent Trifecta key with ‘Strait’ and Whisper Not (5-1)
Grade 1 La Brea
THE PLAY: Finite (7-2) to win at 5-2 or greater, or exacta box with Merneith (4-1)
TOTEBUSTER: Provocation (12-1)
Grade 1 Malibu
THE PLAY: Nashville (6-5 to win, no price restrictions, or exacta box with Independence Hall
Lady Shamrock Stakes
THE PLAY: Warren’s Showtime (7-2) to win at 3-1 or greater, or exacta box with On Mars (6-1), or Trifecta Key with ‘Mars’ and Nasty (6-1)
Tropical Park Derby
THE PLAY: Sole Volante (4-1) to win at 3-1 or greater, or exacta box with Colonel Liam (5-2), Trifecta Key with ‘Liam’ and Fancy Liquor (7-2)
TOTEBUSTER: Dack Janiel’s (15-1)
Tropical Park Oaks
THE PLAY: Vigilante’s Way (4-1) at 3-1 or greater, or exacta box with Stunning Sky (5-1), or Trifecta Key with ‘Sky’ and Mo of the West (20-1)
TOTEBUSTER: Windracer (20-1)
All bets are weighted at minimums suggested; the amounts you wager on on you: WIN $2, EXACTA $1, TRIFECTA 50-Cents, SUPERFECTA 10-Cents