Best Horse Racing Picks This Weekend Santa Anita
On the day after Christmas, racing offers its own holiday, with opening day at Santa Anita. The iconic racetrack in Southern California begins the winter season with a bang as it offers up six graded stakes, three on the main track, and three on the dirt. Headlining the great card will be a showdown between the super impressive Flightline, making only his third career start, and Dr. Schivel, who was denied a Breeders’ Cup Sprint victory in the final jump, in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes for 3-year-olds going 7 furlongs.
The filly version of the Malibu, the La Brea Stakes, is led by Private Mission and will be one of two other Grade 1 races on the afternoon. The other is the American Oaks, where the rising turf star Going Global will be in search of her third consecutive graded stakes victory. Leading the way in the Grade 2 races will be Hot Rod Charlie, who is expected to be a heavy favorite in San Antonio. Finally, two turf races for the males, the Mathis Mile, for 3-year-olds, and the San Gabriel, for older males at 9 furlongs, complete the graded stakes bonanza.
This week we will focus on all six graded stakes races from a loaded opening day card at beautiful Santa Anita.
Malibu Stakes (G1), Santa Anita, 7 furlongs (dirt), 3-year-olds
Perfect in two breathtaking starts, the John Sadler trained Flightline squares off against the proven top sprinter Dr. Schivel, and five others, as a field of seven sophomores, are set to do battle in Santa Anita’s Opening Day headliner, the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes on Sunday. A son of Tapit, Flightline made a memorable debut at Santa Anita back on April 24. He won the 6-furlong maiden race by 13 ¼ lengths in sharp time. He returned to rave reviews on September 5 and once again ran away from his competition in a 6-furlong allowance at Del Mar, winning by 12 ¾ lengths in a final time of 1:08 flat.
His top opposition, Dr. Schivel might be one win away from securing the Eclipse Award as America’s top sprinter. A two-time Grade 1 winner, he suffered a heartbreaking loss by a nose last time in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. It was the Mark Glatt-trained colt’s first loss of the season. He had previously been perfect in three starts in 2021, including a win in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby against older runners and an impressive victory in the Grade 2 Santa Anita Sprint Championship after that.
Dr. Schivel (9/5) – Flightline is an up-and-coming star, but it is Dr. Schivel who is already proven as one of America’s best sprinters.
San Antonio Stakes (G2), Santa Anita, 1 1/16 miles (dirt), 3-year-olds and up
Hot Rod Charlie, who has crossed the wire first in three separate million-dollar races this year, looks for one more graded stakes victory before the end of the year, when he headlines a field of seven males entered in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes on opening day at Santa Anita. A 3-year-old son of Oxbow, and trained by Doug O’Neill, he has been a fixture in the biggest races throughout the year, and has continued to compete well against America’s best. A winner of the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby two starts back, he was fourth-best in a showdown with Knicks Go, Medina Spirit and Essential Quality last time in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.
If anyone can pull an upset over the heavily favored Hot Rod Charlie, Express Train might be the best candidate to do it. A 4-year-old son of Union Rags, he has won a pair of Grade 2 stakes in Southern California already this year. Having skipped the difficult Breeders’ Cup Classic, this will be his first race back since finishing third behind Medina Spirit in the Grade 1 Awesome Again at Santa Anita on October 2.
Hot Rod Charlie (4/5) – One of America’s best, I expect the son of Oxbow to handle this bunch.
La Brea Stakes (G1), Santa Anita, 7 furlongs (dirt), 3-year-old fillies
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Bafferts sends out the dynamic duo of Private Mission and Kalypso in search of his eight career victory in the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes on Sunday at Santa Anita. Both fillies are graded stakes winners, but the likely favorite is Private Mission, who looks to bounce back from a disappointing finish in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Cutting back to 7 furlongs, the daughter of Into Mischief looks to have found a more manageable spot in the $300,000 feature. She won the Grade 2 Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita and the Grade 3 Torrey Pines at Del Mar in her previous two starts before the Distaff.
Chief among their competition in the La Brea will be the streaking Livingmybestlife. Trained by John Sadler, who has won this race three times, the speedy daughter of The Big Beast will be making her graded stakes debut after a pair of front-running scores in listed stakes wins. Most recently she won the one mile Seashell Stakes at Del Mar, and before that she won the 6 furlong Lucky Spell Stakes at Los Alamitos.
Canoodling (8/1) – The New Mexico shipper is in great sprinting form and should sit the trip behind the early speed.
American Oaks (G1), Santa Anita, 1 1/4 miles (turf), 3-year-old fillies
The streaking Going Global looks like a standout in a field of 11 sophomore fillies set to run a mile and one quarter on turf in Sunday’s Grade 1 American Oaks at Santa Anita. With six wins and a second in seven starts this year, the Irish bred daughter of Mehmas will look to cap a remarkable year with one of her biggest wins yet. Trained by Phil D’Amato she comes into the American Oaks off two impressive wins at Del Mar. Last time she beat older mares in the Grade 2 Goldikova Stakes, and before that she proved best in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks. Sunday will be her first attempt at the 10 furlong distance.
Trained by Chad Brown, Fluffy Socks gets another shot at the big favorite, and the eastern-based daughter of Slumber might have the best chance at an upset on Sunday. She comes in off a neck victory at Belmont Park in the Grade 2 Sands Point Stakes ten weeks ago. This will be her third trip to Southern California. Last year she won the Grade 3 Jimmy Durante at Del Mar, and two starts back she rallied to be third behind Going Global in the Del Mar Oaks.
Going Global (7/5) – She is going too well right now to pick against as she returns to face 3-year-olds in this Grade 1 spot.
Mathis Mile (G2), Santa Anita, 1 mile (turf), 3-year-olds
Fresh off a hard-fought victory in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby, the John Shirreffs-trained Beyond Brilliant headlines a field of nine sophomores set to traverse one mile on turf in Sunday’s Grade 2 Mathis Mile at Santa Anita. The son of Twirling Candy dictated the pace all the way around in securing his first stakes win one month ago at Del Mar. Before that he was a good third in the Grade 2 Twilight Derby at Santa Anita, which followed an impressive allowance win at Del Mar.
Chief among his competition in the wide open affair is Du Jour from the barn of Bob Baffert. His last race was disappointing when he finished way back as the favorite on yielding turf at Kentucky Downs, but before that he had been a consistent runner from coast to coast. Twice a winner over the Santa Anita turf, the biggest career victory for the son of Temple City came on Kentucky Derby day, when he scored over a big field in the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs.
Flashiest (10/1) – Going with an upset, as this son of Mizzen Mast likes to rally and there is plenty of speed in here to set the table for his late kick.
San Gabriel Stakes (G2), Santa Anita, 1 1/8 miles (turf), 3-year-olds and up
A winner of Santa Anita’s Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile earlier this year, Hit the Road looks for another big win over the turf course when he tops a field of seven older males set for Sunday’s Grade 2 San Gabriel Stakes. a 4-year-old son of More Than Ready and a four-time stakes winner, he has not found the winner’s circle since that Grade 1 score, but has continued to turn in solid efforts. Most recently he was beaten just a half-length by the classy Mo Forza in the Grade 2 City of Hope Mile in early October. A one-mile specialist, he’ll look to stretch out his good form to 9 furlongs here.
Hit the Road’s biggest competition in the San Gabriel is likely to come from Friar’s Road. The talented son of Quality Road only took to the turf three starts back, but he has wasted no time in proving himself an up-and-comer among the West’s turf runners. In his grass debut, he motored by his competition in an 11 furlong allowance race for trainer Michael McCarthy. Off that impressive start to his turf career, he has come back to rally for third in both the Grade 2 John Henry and the Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup in his last two starts. He will be shortening up in distance in the San Gabriel.
Friar’s Road (5/2) – He will be picking them up and laying them down with a ferocious late run on Sunday.
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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.
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