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California-bred or sired horses will be the showcase at Santa Anita as the historic racetrack hosts a Saturday card with five stakes races. Leading the way will be 13-time stakes winner The Chosen Vron and 8-time stakes winner Brickyard Ride, squaring off in the $150,000 Don Valpredo California Cup Sprint at six furlongs.
Other highlights of the strong card of racing include the $200,000 California Chrome Cal Cup Derby for sophomore males on the dirt and the $200,000 California Cup Oaks for 3-year-old fillies on the turf. Without further ado, let’s get to my best bets in four of the strongest races from the solid afternoon of racing.
Named after one of the greatest California-breds in history, Saturday’s $200,000 California Chrome Cal Cup Derby has attracted a compact field of five. Leading the way in the 1 1/16-mile dirt affair will be the Peter Miller-trained Last Call London.
After coming close a pair of times at Del Mar, the son of Stay Thirsty finally broke through with his first stakes win last time out when he gamely scored in the one-mile King Glorious Stakes at Los Alamitos. The victory was his second in eight overall starts as a juvenile. On Saturday, he will return to Santa Anita, where he easily broke his maiden in his third career start.
Chief among his competition will be the Steven Spect-trained Wild Jewels. A son of Tamarando, he has won four of six starts overall, including two straight stakes races. Both of those stakes scores came over the all-weather surface at Golden Gate Fields. The bay gelding will need to prove that he can carry that success over to a traditional dirt surface at Santa Anita.
Another to watch on Saturday will be Stolen Treasure. Competitive in his first four starts, he broke through with an easy maiden win on the grass when stretched out to a mile two starts back. The son of Nyquist battled the length of the stretch, before coming up just short of Last Call London in the King Glorious last time. Last Call London is the top pick.
$20 Exacta Part Wheel - Last Call London over Stolen Treasure and Wild Jewels = $40
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Already a two-time stakes winner at Santa Anita, Grand Slam Smile rates top billing on Saturday as she tops a field of nine sophomore fillies entered going a mile on the grass in the $200,000 California Cup Oaks.
Never worse than second in five career starts, the fleet daughter of Smiling Tiger easily broke her maiden at first asking, while sprinting at Golden Gate Fields. Since then, she has run well in four consecutive stakes races, finishing first or second in each. Clearly the best credentialed filly in the field, she will be making her turf debut here while running farther than she has before.
Another dangerously fast filly in this one is Madison Rae. From the barn of Peter Miller, she has won half of her four career starts. Having broken her maiden while pressing the pace at Santa Anita three starts back. She comes in off a gate to wire stakes victory in the Soviet Pride at Los Alamitos. She will also be trying turf for the first time on Saturday.
Trained by Michael McCarthy, Sushi Sticks is a big threat from off the pace in this one. The daughter of Karakontie got up to win her debut at a mile on the turf in August before a tough trip in the Grade 3 Surfer Girl next out. Most recently, she was a good third against open company in the Gold Rush Stakes on the all-weather track at Golden Gate. She is the top pick.
$20 Win & Place - Sushi Sticks = $40
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A winner of six of seven starts last year, highlighted by a score in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby, The Chosen Vron looms the one to beat among a field of five older males sprinting six furlongs on the main track in the $150,000 California Cup Sprint on Saturday at the Great Race Place.
Trained by Eric Kruljak, the only defeat of his 2023 season came when he finished fifth behind the champion Elite Power in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint two races back. Returning to a little lighter competition last time, the 13-time stakes winner made easy work of Del Mar’s Cary Grant Stakes eight weeks ago. The 6-year-old gelding has won nine of eleven career starts at Santa Anita.
Chief among his competition on Saturday will be another extremely successful California-bred sprinter, Brickyard Ride. A winner of this race two years ago, the speedy son of Clubhouse Ride has won 13 times in his career at Santa Anita. Most recently, the eight-time stakes winner stretched out to 8 1/2 furlongs and finished third in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes on opening day.
The other three in the field all have the credentials to merit consideration here. Principe Carlo has plenty of back class, but more importantly, he has the speed to test Brickyard Ride early, which could set up the race for the favorite and others to run by them in the lane. I find it impossible to look past The Chosen Vron in this spot.
$20 Exacta Part Wheel - The Chosen Vron over Moose Mitchell and Brickyard Ride = $40
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In the final play of the day at Santa Anita on Saturday, I will turn to this 9-furlong turf test for older males. Headlining the field of ten in this $200,000 feature will be the streaking Kings River Knight. From the barn of John Sadler, the 6-year-old son of Acclimation has failed to finish in the top two only once in his 13-race career.
Going better than ever of late, Kings River Knight has won four stakes in his last five starts. Most recently, the speedy gelding accounted for the 6 1/2 furlong California Flag Handicap three months ago. After a short freshening, he will need to prove that he can carry his speed 1 1/8 miles in this one, which could be difficult with other speeds in the race.
Also speedy and a big threat in the race is Bally’s Charm. The stakes winner comes off two sharp races at a mile over the Santa Anita turf course. Two starts back, the Roi Charmant gelding easily wired an allowance field in fast time. He followed that up with a very good second in the Lure Stakes eleven weeks ago.
Considering all the speed entered here, I will look for a late runner to pick up the pieces. The one I like best is the Mark Glatt-trained Aligato. The 7-year-old just missed in this race last year and finished in the top three in all seven starts in 2023. His strong late run should be well suited for this race set-up. He is the top pick.
$20 Win & Place - Aligato = $40
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Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.
Email: [email protected]
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