Best Bets: Santa Anita Opening Day Plays

A scene from Santa Anita Park’s winter-spring meet opening day in 2019. (Eclipse Sportswire)

America’s Best Racing and handicapper (and avid gambler) Monique Vág team up to provide horseplayers with their best bets of the weekend.

Vág will identify her top picks as well as at least one longshot play of the weekend, a nice opportunity to swing for the fences on a win bet or to take a shot with a show bet. She also will occasionally look for strong exacta plays for the weekend or try to spot a nice opportunity for other wagers.

This Weekend’s Bets

Saturday, Dec. 26

Longshot Play

Santa Anita Park, Race 4, $200,000 Mathis Brothers Mile Stakes, 3:36 p.m. ET

#1 Whisper Not: He looked good in his North American debut making his first start off a four-month layoff for new trainer Richard Baltas and also getting Lasix for the first time.

Saturday he meets a smaller field, and tries his luck versus graded stakes company. I’m hoping for this colt to take advantage of the rail draw and save some ground before making a late stretch rally. I expect quite a bit of improvement in his second start here, and he should offer a fair price, higher than his morning line at post.

Longshot Play

Santa Anita Park, Race 6, 4:37 p.m. ET

#9 One Flew South: This colt returned to California in the fall after a brief stint in Dubai and made two starts. He just missed in his most recent try at five furlongs on turf at Del Mar after working out a very nice stalking trip.

Saturday he remains sprinting but gets an added furlong and a half to work with. Look for this colt to be involved early on, hopefully working out a trip similar to his most recent start. If that is the case, he could be able to track down some of the early speed late.

Best Bet

Santa Anita Park, Race 7, $200,000 San Antonio Stakes, 5:09 p.m. ET

#8 Mucho Gusto: Although he has not raced in ten months, if anyone has them good to go and ready off the bench, that would be trainer Bob Baffert, who is clicking at a 26 percent rate on horses racing after 90+ days away.

Saturday he races against an overall easier field than he faced in the Saudi Cup, many of which are moving up in class. He’s very versatile and could win off many different types of trips, although I would expect him to be involved in the pace scenario early. He will be a single in the multi-leg wagers for me.

Best Bet

Santa Anita Park, Race 8, $300,000 La Brea Stakes, 5:43 p.m. ET

#2 Merneith: This filly comes in on a two-race winning streak, both at the sprinting distance. Saturday, she tries her luck once again versus Grade 1 company and faces the toughest test of her career. Look for this filly to take advantage of drawing inside of her main rivals, and to be put into play early, likely working out a stalking trip behind the speed. She’s yet to finish off the board on her dirt tries and will be very tough versus this field.

newsletter sign-up

Stay up-to-date with the best from America's Best Racing!