The opening day of Santa Anita Park’s winter-spring meet has always been a special day on the racing calendar as it marks the beginning of a new season at the track known as “The Great Race Place”. Southern California horseplayers have been without live racing since Dec. 17, and to me this feels like an eternity, given our year-round calendar. Tuesday’s opening day card features a terrific nine-race program, highlighted by the quartet of graded stakes that includes the San Antonio Stakes, the Mathis Brothers Mile Stakes, the La Brea Stakes and the Malibu Stakes.
Since I think the San Antonio (Race 3) will be dominated by the big favorite Collected, I’m going to focus on an all-stakes Pick-3 wager which includes the Mathis Brothers Mile (Race 6), the La Brea (Race 7) and the Malibu (Race 8).
The Mathis Brothers Mile Stakes appears to lack a need-the-lead horse, and that’s why i think the pace scenario could be a comfortable trip for the runner that decides to go to the lead. I think that horse could be B Squared (#2). He’s stretching back out after two sprints and has shown good speed before. I like that he owns two wins from three turf outings, and I think there’s still room to improve for him. The two best horses and probably two best closers are Bowies Hero (#5) and Big Score (#8). They both have a similar style, and I think they will both appreciate getting back on this turf course.
2- B Squared
8- Big Score
5- Bowies Hero
The La Brea Stakes will probably be sold as a matchup between just Unique Bella (#3) and Paradise Woods (#7), but I think there’s other horses that have the credentials to put up a big effort. In the case of Paradise Woods, her two runaway stakes victories at Santa Anita haven’t really proven anything to me. She was unpressured in both of those starts and went on to easy victories. I don’t think she will be able to make an easy lead today and I’m willing to let her beat me. I think Unique Bella will put forth a better effort than she did last time out when throwing in the towel in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. This will be her third start off the long layoff and she doesn’t need the lead to be effective. If both of the favorites don’t fire, I think Miss Sunset (#1), Faypien (#5) or Mopotism (#4) could win at a price.
3- Unique Bella
1- Miss Sunset
The Malibu Stakes is probably the most competitive race in this Pick-3 sequence. I was a big supporter of City of Light (#1) on the Breeders’ Cup Friday undercard, where he ended up finishing a good second behind fellow rival Dabster (#8) in an allowance optional claiming race that was run at the same seven-furlong distance as the Malibu. I thought Dabster got a great trip, while City of Light really earned his second-place finish on the front end. City of Light dueled through fast fractions with a runner that faded to finish towards the back of the pack. City of Light has been working well here at Santa Anita in preparation for this race, and I think he’s going to run a big one. Another runner I like is Pavel (#6), who is cutting back in distance and getting back to the site of his impressive debut win, where he showed good speed. The two invaders Favorable Outcome (#4) and C Z Rocket (#9) have similar off-the-pace closing styles and they will probably both go off as the favorites in this race. They are both coming out of victories in their respective prep races where they both went off as the betting favorite. I’m going to gamble that the local speed of City of Light and Pavel could be enough to hold them off late.
Race 6: 2,5,8
Race 7: 1,3,4,5
Race 8: 1,6
Total Bet: $24