Santa Anita Handicap (Santa Anita Park) Predictions, Odds & Picks

If you're playing only to win, go with my top pick Maxfield (6/5)

Post Position and Odds – Santa Anita Handicap

Check out our predictions and odds for the 2021 Santa Anita Handicap at Santa Anita Park!

PP Horse Odds Jockey Trainer
F Prat M McCarthy
F Geroux B Walsh
M Smith J Kruljac
J Velazquez D Romans
J J Hernandez J Shirreffs
6 IDOL 8/1
J Rosario R Baltas
D Van Dyke R Mandella
A Cedillo J Avila

Best Bets for the Santa Anita Handicap

Here are my plays ($40 in total)

$20 Exacta – Maxfield over Idol = $20

$10 Exacta – Idol over Maxfield = $10

$5 Trifecta Key – Maxfield over Idol and Express Train = $10

Top Pick:

Maxfield (6/5)

Perfect in five starts, including four stakes victories, Maxfield will take his show on the road as the 124-pound highweight and clear favorite in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap on Saturday at Santa Anita Park.

Known as the Big ‘Cap, Saturday’s 1 ¼ mile test will be Maxfield’s most important race to date. A Grade 1 winner as a juvenile back in 2019, he will be making his second start at the highest level as he runs in Southern California for the first time. Trained by Brendan Walsh, the 4-year-old son of Street Sense comes in off a stylish, rallying victory in the Grade 3 Mineshaft Stakes three weeks ago at Fair Grounds.

Chief among his rivals in the $400,000 feature will be Express Train from the barn of trainer John Shirreffs. Also, a 4-year-old, the improving son of Union Rags also lost some time as a 3-year-old, much like the race favorite. In his last two races, he finished second behind the highly regarded Charlatan in the Grade 1 Malibu, before a clear-cut victory in the Grade 2 San Pasqual on January 30.

Saturday’s Big ’Cap will kick off the brand new $1 Million Wild West Bonus, which also includes the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup May 31 at Santa Anita and the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 21.

How to Watch the Santa Anita Handicap

Santa Anita Handicap Stakes Information
What Santa Anita Handicap (Grade 1)
Where Santa Anita Park
When Saturday, March 6 — 8:00 pm Eastern time
How to Watch TVG
Purse $400,000

Race Analysis


To say Maxfield has done nothing wrong in his career would be an understatement. The talented, late-running son of Street Sense has proven to be a horse of rare ability in his five-race career. A few minor injuries have prevented the Godolphin homebred from running more, but right from the beginning of his career, he has looked like a good one for trainer Brendan Walsh. Since his most recent return to the races, he toyed with his opposition in New Orleans, and Saturday’s Big ‘Cap will be his third race back. He’s never run in Southern California before, nor has he been the 1 ¼ mile trip, but neither should present much of a problem. He’ll have the speed to run at, and the 10 furlongs should suit him just fine. He is a strong top pick.

Express Train

After the favorite, this John Shirreffs-trainee comes in with the best form. He sat a nice stalking trip last time in the San Pasqual and took full advantage, running on strongly to a 3 ¼-length victory as the second choice. The 10-furlong trip will also be new to him, but it certainly would not have been a problem last time. If he can reproduce that effort he will be the most dangerous competition for Maxfield on Saturday, but as the clear second choice, and tougher competition, I will take a shot against him underneath the top pick.

Independence Hall

This one’s last effort was arguably his best yet, although he did win the Grade 3 Nashua as a 2-year-old by a pole. Still, I wonder if the third-place effort behind Knicks Go really is enough to seriously threaten Maxfield on Saturday. Maybe it is, but I also question his ability to excel at the 10-furlong distance. He is still a bit of an enigma to me, as I see enough talent to run well in this type of race, but his inconsistency and his lack of ability to finish two-turn races off strongly don’t lend to a good deal of confidence. As the most likely third choice in here, I will be happy to lay off and see if he can beat me.


The beaten favorite in the San Pasqual, he certainly did not threaten the winner Express Train on that afternoon. Still, I believe he has a good chance to turn the tables this time around. First, he gets a nice jockey change to Joel Rosario, who should suit his grinding style well. Next, he was making only the fifth start of his life in San Pasqual, so I do believe there is still plenty of room for improvement for the son of Curlin. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, he looks to be a colt who will love the added distance that he will find in the Big ‘Cap. With speed in front of him, I look for the well-bred colt to be finishing off the demanding distance strongly on Saturday. He is the one I like next best after Maxfield.

Kiss Today Goodbye

After an unsuccessful trip to the Pegasus World Cup, this late runner returns to Southern California where all of his previous success has come. Two races back, he finished with a flourish to edge Idol in the San Antonio. A similar effort on Saturday puts him in with a chance in the Big ‘Cap, but the fact that both Idol and Maxfield will likely be ahead of him early gives me pause here. I guess the question is, will his rally be as effective as the distances increase? If so, he is a viable candidate, but I am not going to pick him to run down Maxfield and Idol in this one.


Speed is always dangerous, and this son of Tiznow looks to be the most likely to be on the early lead on Saturday. If they leave him alone for too long, he could prove pesky down the lane at attractive odds. My feeling is that King Guillermo, or one of the others, will make his life tough enough early in this very prestigious race, that a strong finish is unlikely. Having said that, he is rounding into career-best form, and I cannot discount him entirely.

Coastal Defense

This is one which I previously looked for a breakthrough performance, and I have been left wanting more. He does add blinkers for Saturday’s race, which could help with focus. If he does run big in here, I believe the equipment change will be a reason why. Still, he just didn’t do enough in three straight graded stakes performances, including a sixth-place finish last time in the Pegasus World Cup, to be excited for his chances against this field.

King Guilermo

A winner of the Tampa Bay Derby last year at huge odds, he comes into the Big ‘Cap off three straight defeats. The runner-up effort in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby certainly wasn’t bad, but the last two performances in a sloppy Cigar Mile, and then the San Pasqual make me question if he is ever again going to win another big race. Perhaps I am giving up on him a bit soon, but it is hard to be optimistic for his chances, considering how poorly he finished in his first try at Santa Anita.

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Brian Zipse

Expert on Horse Racing

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]