Santa Anita Handicap Cheat Sheet


Effinex looks to be the headliner in this weekend's Big 'Cap. (Photos by Eclipse Sportswire unless noted)

As the West Coast’s marquee race for older horses each spring, Saturday’s Santa Anita Handicap brings together some of the country’s top handicap division horses annually and this year is no different. With a $1-million purse and Grade 1 laurels on the line, nine of the best older horses in the country have entered for the 1 ¼-mile contest. In case you’ve been focusing all your attention on the Derby preps this spring, get the rundown on each of the competitors below, in post position order.

1. Point Piper

Photo courtesy of Benoit Photo

Jockey: Drayden Van Dyke
Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer
Owner: Gatto Racing, J. Russo, M. Schlaich, J. Hollendorfer and P. Russo
Career record: 20 starts - 4 wins - 5 seconds - 3 thirds
Career earnings: $172,15
Earnings per start: $8,607
Pedigree: Giant’s Causeway – Imagine, by Sadler’s Wells
Color: Bay
Running style: Stalker
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Point Piper began his career in Ireland before coming stateside as a 3-year-old. Now 6, he made his stakes debut a winning one last year and has a graded stakes placing to his credit, which came in his most recent start in the Mineshaft Handicap on Feb. 20. Point Piper is co-owned by his trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, who also trains Big ‘Cap entrant Cyrus Alexander.

2. Melatonin

Photo courtesy of Benoit Photo

Jockey: Joe Talamo
Trainer: David Hofmans
Owner: Tarabilla Farms
Career record: 10 starts - 3 wins - 2 seconds - 3 thirds
Career earnings: $168,552
Earnings per start: $16,855
Pedigree: Kodiak Kowboy – Yanquee Reign, by Yankee Victor
Color: Bay
Running style: Closer
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Melatonin was winless in his first four starts but has won three of six since. A lightly raced 5-year-old, Melatonin finished second in his only graded stakes start to date, which interestingly came in a turf sprint vs. the dirt route he’ll race here. Since breaking his maiden Melatonin has finished worse than third just once, a fifth place in his stakes debut.

3. Donworth

Jockey: Mario Gutierrez
Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Owner: Reddam Racing
Career record: 5 starts - 2 wins - 1 second - 2 thirds
Career earnings: $164,000
Earnings per start: $32,800
Pedigree: Tiznow – Temple Street, by Street Cry
Color: Dark bay
Running style: Stalker
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Donworth broke his maiden impressively in his first try and headed to the Grade 2 Lexington Stakes for his second start, where he was the runner-up. After another stakes win and third-place finish, the colt was sold at auction as part of a dispersal of his owner’s horses. He was bought by the 2011 Kentucky Derby-winning owner Reddam Racing for $550,000 and is trained and ridden by the same Derby connections (Doug O’Neill and Mario Gutierrez) as well.

4. General a Rod

Jockey: Rafael Bejarano
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Owner: Skychai Racing and Starlight Racing
Career record: 14 starts - 4 wins - 2 seconds - 1 third
Career earnings: $513,570
Earnings per start: $36,684
Pedigree: Roman Ruler – Dynamite Eyes, by Dynaformer
Color: Dark bay
Running style: Stalker
Notable achievements and interesting facts: General a Rod finished second in the 2014 Fountain of Youth Stakes and third in the Florida Derby before finishing unplaced in all three Triple Crown races, with his best effort a fourth-place finish in the 2014 Preakness. He most recently won an allowance race at Gulfstream Park in January and has a pair of stakes wins to his credit.

5. Effinex

Jockey: Mike Smith
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens
Owner: Tri-Bone Stable
Career record: 20 starts - 7 wins - 2 seconds - 3 thirds
Career earnings: $2,112,950
Earnings per start: $105,648
Pedigree: Mineshaft – What a Pear, by E Dubai
Color: Dark bay
Running style: Closer
Notable achievements and interesting facts: The Santa Anita Handicap is Effinex’s season debut after just over three months on the shelf. His last two races were a win in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap and a second-place finish to American Pharoah in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and with more than $2-million in earnings and multiple graded stakes wins to his credit, Effinex appears to be the class of this field. Jockey Mike Smith will be going for his fourth straight Big ‘Cap win, having won the race last year with Shared Belief and in 2013 and 2014 aboard Game On Dude.

6. Cyrus Alexander

Photo courtesy of Benoit Photo

Jockey: Martin Garcia
Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer
Owner: Spendthrift Farm and Stonestreet Stables
Career record: 12 starts - 3 wins - 4 seconds - 2 thirds
Career earnings: $175,090
Earnings per start: $14,591
Pedigree: Medaglia d’Oro – Supercharger, by A.P. Indy
Color: Bay
Running style: Stalker/closer
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Cyrus Alexander was a $1.7-million yearling purchase at Keeneland and is a half-brother to 2010 Kentucky Derby winner and top young sire Super Saver. Leading Kentucky farms Spendthrift and Stonestreet partnered to buy the colt with an eye toward eventual stallion duties. So far he hasn’t quite lived up to the high expectations placed on him but he does have three wins and finished in the top three 75 percent of the time.

7. Hard Aces

Jockey: TBD
Trainer: John Sadler
Owner: Hronis Racing
Career record: 28 starts - 6 wins - 3 seconds - 7 thirds
Career earnings: $619,645
Earnings per start: $22,130
Pedigree: Hard Spun – All in With Aces, by Quiet American
Color: Bay
Running style: Closer
Notable achievements and interesting facts: At 6 years old, Hard Aces is one of the oldest horses in the field and also one of the most experienced, with 28 starts. He didn’t make his stakes debut until age 4 and won the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita in June 2015, but he’s been off-form lately and hasn’t finished in the top three since then.

8. Imperative

Jockey: Santiago Gonzalez
Trainer: Richard Baltas
Owner: KM Racing
Career record: 29 starts - 3 wins - 8 seconds - 3 thirds
Career earnings: $1,833,120
Earnings per start: $63,211
Pedigree: Bernardini – Call Her, by Caller I.D.
Color: Bay
Running style: Stalker/closer
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Millionaire Imperative has only one graded stakes win to his credit but often finishes second, with three straight runner-up efforts heading into this race. Like Hard Aces, Imperative is a 6-year-old with plenty of racing experience in his 29 starts. The Southern California stalwart will have his third jockey in as many starts when Santiago Gonzalez climbs aboard for this race.

9. Class Leader

Jockey: Kent Desormeaux
Trainer: John Sadler
Owner: Lane’s End Racing
Career record: 18 starts - 3 wins - 2 seconds - 4 thirds
Career earnings: $208,689
Earnings per start: $11,594
Pedigree: Smart Strike – Class Kris, by Kris S.
Color: Dark bay
Running style: Closer
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Owned by renowned Thoroughbred operation Lane’s End Racing, Class Leader was a potential Triple Crown horse early in his career before a fourth-place finish in the Illinois Derby lowered expectations. He won the Sir Barton Stakes in his next start and has since done most of his racing at the allowance level. His most recent race was a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 San Marcos Stakes on the grass over the same 1 ¼-mile distance as he’ll race here. Like Hard Aces, Class Leader is trained by John Sadler.

newsletter sign-up

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