2104 Santa Anita Stakes Picks, Odds and Expert Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 9/25/2014
Santa Anita will host the Breeders' Cup yet again this year, and on Saturday we get a preview of those two days of racing glory. There are five Grade 1 races on the field, and the winner of each will be guaranteed a spot in their preferred Breeders' Cup outing. That opportunity, plus the chance to run the final prep on the same track, has drawn a deep and impressive field of runners for this card. It has also created some intriguing, albeit often chalky, betting opportunities. Here's how the card breaks down with some picks and expert predictions:
Awesome Again: This race, and really this whole day, is all about Shared Belief. The reigning two-year-old champion has proven to be a super horse. He is unbeaten and unchallenged, and he demolished older horses last time out. With California Chrome losing badly last weekend Shared Belief has the chance to prove he is unquestionably the top three year old in California - and set up a truly epic clash between him, Chrome, and the stunning Bayern in the Breeders' Cup Classic. If Shared Belief wins this one, and he will, then that will be a race for the ages. The price is going to be absolutely ridiculous here because Shared Belief will draw so much action. There will be no value at all as a result, but I just can't find a horse who I think stands a reasonable enough chance of beating him to justify the price. If Shared Belief is ready and feeling good then this race won't be close. Sometimes you make a bet not because it is a great investment but rather because you can say you were part of something big. That is the case here.
Recommended bet: Shared Belief to win.
FrontRunner: One of the joys of this time of year is we get to start to see the top two-year-old colts learning to really run as they start the long march to the Triple Crown. This field features 10 youngsters looking to become a favorite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. The favorite is, not surprisingly, a Bob Baffert trainee. American Pharoah failed to win his first race but bounced back in the Del Mar Futurity last time out to win by five lengths. It was a dominating performance. He's bred to run, and Baffert will have him ready, so he's going to be tough to pick against. Baffert has another interesting one in Lord Nelson, who won his maiden race impressively last time out. Calculator was second in the Del Mar Futurity. He was far behind American Pharoah but well ahead of the rest of the field. He could be a part of things here. Mark Casse has two in here as well. Skyway was disappointing as the favorite in the Del Mar Futurity, but he has a big experience edge as he has already run five times, and he fired a bullet in his last workout. Conquest Panthera won his maiden in a strong showing in his debut and now moves up to stakes company.
Recommended bets: Skyway and American Pharoah to win.
Chandelier: The two-year-old fillies get their time on the big stage on Saturday, too, and it is even more wide open than the FrontRunner. Casse has another of the many Conquest horses he has in his stable running here - Conquest Eclipse. She was third in the Del Mar Debutante last time out in her stakes debut. Beyond her, the story here is the famous fathers represented in the race. Angela Renee, who Todd Pletcher brought west early for the Breeders' Cup after finishing second and third in stakes races in New York, is a daughter of Bernardini. Sharla Rae, who is coming back here just two weeks after her last stakes win, is by Afleet Alex. Curlin is represented by Danette, a horse ridden by Kent Desormeaux and trained by his brother Keith that hasn't won in four tries and is making her stakes debut. Lookin at Lucky's daughter Maybellene is making her stakes debut for Bob Baffert after breaking her maiden in her third try last time out. It's a wide-open field that is very tough to handicap. I'll take a guess, though, that Pletcher had good reason to send his filly out here, so Angela Renee is my choice.
Recommended bet: Angela Renee to win.
Rodeo Drive: From a handicapping perspective this race is just brutal - a mile and a quarter race on turf for fillies and mares that features 14 entrants. Ouch. Miss Serendipity, a six year old who only came to the States from Argentina a year ago, has won graded stakes in two of her last three starts and is the best horse - but not by a wide margin. Parranda was second to Miss Serendipity last time out in the Yellow Ribbon Handicap. Moulin de Mougin beat Miss Serendipity on Aug. 10, but she hasn't run since and is stretching out to this distance for the first time. Emollient lost by just a nose to Miss Serendipity three races back, but she ventured east for her last two outings and was awful. The Desormeaux brothers combine again with Cozze Up Lady, who was third in the Yellow Ribbon last time out but has three stakes wins. I could go on, but you get the point -- this race is wide open. All you can do here is pick a couple of horses and hope for the best.
Recommended bets: Miss Serendipity and Moulin de Mougin to win.
Zenyatta: Beholder has been the champion of her class each of the last two years, and she is using this race to prep for a defense of her Breeders' Cup Distaff title. This is only her third start of the year, though, and she hasn't run since finishing a disappointing fourth on June 7 at Belmont. She also has a new rider - Mike Smith replaces the injured Gary Stevens. She's a great horse, but it is tempting to try to beat her despite her incredible 8-7-1-0 record at Santa Anita. The horse I will go with instead is Iotapa, who has two impressive wins in a row in stakes races, including one at Santa Anita. She will stalk the pace early - a pace likely set by Beholder -- and could be in good position to pull ahead.
Recommended bet: Iotapa to win.
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