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Check out our predictions and odds for the 2020 Desert Stormer at Santa Anita Park!
|D V Dyke
|HANG A STAR
Finally given the much-anticipated go-ahead to resume racing again, Santa Anita Park will host three stakes over the re-opening weekend. The trio of stakes will be topped by Sunday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Desert Stormer Stakes.
The 6-furlong sprint on the main track for older females has attracted a field of eight, led by the familiar name of Bellafina. The three-time Grade 1 winner disappointed when fourth in her seasonal debut three weeks ago at Oaklawn Park, but back at her favorite track, she figures to be tough to beat.
Standing in the way of another victory at Santa Anita for Bellafina will be America’s most recognizable trainer, Bob Baffert, who will saddle the likely second and third choices for the Desert Stormer, in Mother Mother and Fighting Mad.
What: Desert Stormer Stakes (G3)
Where: Santa Anita Park
When: Sunday, May 17 — 4:00 pm Pacific time
How to watch: TVG
The class of the field, this 4-year-old daughter of Quality Road has a lot going for her on Sunday. She has never finished worse than second at Santa Anita in six starts. Four of those were victories and they all came in either Grade 1 or Grade 2 races. She will also have her most regular rider Flavien Prat back in the saddle. When last together, the pair finished a bang-up second in last fall’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. Bellafina also possesses the tactical speed to sit a good trip no matter how fast they run early. It’s been a while since she’s won, which came back last April in the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks, but the company she’s kept far exceeds what she’ll find in the Desert Stormer. Granted her last race was not up to her high standards, but with that race under her belt, and back at her favorite track, she should be ready to outclass this group.
The second most classy horse in the race, this one is very familiar with the favorite. She’s faced Bellafina on four occasions, and although she ran well each time, she finished behind her in all. All in all, a consistent performer on the Southern California circuit, she boasts two solid efforts already in 2020. Most recently she came in second behind the top mare Hard Not to Love in the Grade 2 Santa Monica Stakes on February 15. Before that, she was a sharp winner of the Kalookan Queen Stakes in January. Both of those efforts came at Santa Anita. Like her top rival, she also has good tactical speed. If for whatever reason Bellafina has lost a step this year, Mother Mother becomes the most likely winner while being ridden for the first time by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.
While the top two choices are more of a known commodity, this filly, also trained by Bob Baffert, might have a big upside for 2020. She’s been away since August, but when last seen, the daughter of New Year’s Day looked the part of a serious racehorse when winning the Grade 3 Torrey Pines Stakes at Del Mar by eight lengths. That one came at a flat mile, so she’ll not only be coming in off a 9-month layoff, but she’ll also be cutting back in distance from her best career race. Trained by a legend, and with plenty of speed, there is good reason to expect her to run well off the bench, and with only five-lifetime starts, she could be ready to challenge the big girls this season.
Another relatively inexperienced, but talented filly is this 4-year-old from the barn of Ron Ellis. She didn’t make her debut until last summer and was able to win her first two starts, both at Del Mar. From there she was asked to run against some of the top sprinting fillies in the nation and did not embarrass herself, finishing second in the Grade 2 Raven Run and fourth in the Grade 1 La Brea. Her only race this year was a disappointing runner-up performance, but that came at 8 ½ furlongs. Back at a preferred sprinting distance, she looms the most likely one to threaten the obvious three.
A 5-year-old daughter of Munnings trained by John Sadler, she has had a difficult time making it to the races since debuting nearly three years ago. When she does run, though, she shows a lot of early speed. So much so, that she is the likely pacesetter in the field of eight. How far she can carry that lead is the question, and with all the quality that will be breathing down her neck early, it seems unlikely that she can stick around for anything more than a minor award on Sunday.
Another lightly raced 5-year-old, she has shown flashes of ability for trainer Richard Mandella, twice rolling from well back to win sprint races at Santa Anita. When given the opportunity against stakes competition, she did nothing. That came 13 months ago, and she has not run since. This test looks even tougher.
Pulled off a major surprise when winning last time in an allowance race at Santa Anita in March. It was the first time she actually finished first in a race and came at odds of 21-1. While that was a solid performance and a career-best effort, she now faces much tougher. The very talented Ce Ce beat her by more than 11 lengths two starts back, and she is probably in store for another similar drubbing in here.
One of the most experienced fillies in the race, she actually is one of few in here that can call herself a stakes winner. The problem is that it came against much cheaper two years ago on the synthetic surface at Golden Gate Fields. She had several tries against top fillies last season, including the top two, and was never a match.
$20 Exacta part wheel Bellafina over Mother Mother and Fighting Mad = $40
If you’re playing only to win, go with my top pick, Bellafina.
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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