Simon Clare’s Saturday tips for Santa Anita
Coral’s Simon Clare provides his Santa Anita day 2 tips
Simon has spent the entire week out at the beautiful Santa Anita track in California, getting exclusive interviews with the most in-the-know people in horse racing. Below, he provides his tips for Saturday’s races…
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies
This is one of the most competitive races at this year’s Breeders’ Cup with almost all the field priced between 5/1 and 12/1. Union Strike just about heads the betting following her Del Mar Debutante success where she had Noted And Quoted behind her, and that filly went on to win the Chandelier Stakes here at Santa Anita and is now her main market rival. There is no way that Noted And Quoted ran her race at Del Mar and she should be judged instead on her recent impressive score on this Santa Anita track. I think she rates the most likely winner.
With the winners of the best two year old filly Group Ones running in this race, and relatively little form to go on, it is probably not a race to get too stuck into. The big buzz horse on the track in the mornings was the unexposed American Gal who won a stakes race over six furlongs only two weeks ago. The fact that Bob Baffert has pitched her in here is a big pointer to how highly he rates her and Mike Smith, her jockey, gave her a seriously positive mention, describing her as his best ‘sleeper’ when chatting to a colleague three days ago. She’s been attracting decent money today.
Selection: American Gal
Alternative: Noted And Quoted
Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf
Aidan O’Brien has never won this race, despite having had eight runners in the race over the last thirteen years, with the best finish being the second by L’Ancresse’s back in 2003, with her stable mate Yesterday back in third. O’Brien runs two fillies in the race again this year with Irish Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks heroine, Seventh Heaven, the stable first string ahead of Pretty Perfect. Whilst Seventh Heaven is undoubtedly a high class middle distance filly in Europe all her big race form this year has been over 1m3f or further, and the last time she ran shorter was in a Dundalk maiden back in April. This ten furlong trip is as much a speed test as it is a test of stamina, and invariably the race develops into a sprint for home off the bend. Does Seventh Heaven possess the attributes necessary on this ground, over this trip, at this track? I am very doubtful. She will be a brilliant filly if she proves she can. Pretty Perfect will be sent forward into the lead according to Aidan O’Brien but will face serious pressure for that spot from Catch A Glimpse, as well as Avenge, and with Al’s Gal likely to sit close to it as well.
Lady Eli is seriously well fancied by the local media who say Chad Brown keeps telling them that she is even better than she’s ever been before. She’s only been beaten once in just eight starts in light career so far, but an accomplished one. Four of her seven wins have been at Group 1 level and she loves fast ground and has one mile speed, as well as being two for two over this trip. She looks incredibly solid. The fact that Chad Brown has a really good second string in Sea Calisi, and is only talking about Lady Eli, tells its own story. She is going to run well, but is a short price.
Queen’s Trust is the European horse that I’m most interested in. She has not had the best of luck in several of her runs this season yet has still run a brilliant second to Minding in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood, and finished ahead of Seventh Heaven and Pretty Perfect at Ascot three weeks ago. The most relevant run though in my opinion is her third at York to Seventh Heaven and York where she looked the winner two furlongs out only to be outstayed by the two Irish fillies. Michael Stoute has a great Breeders’ Cup record and clearly has a good idea of which horses and fillies to bring over. She should run well.
The Japanese haven’t taken many horses over to the Breeders’ Cup – Espoir City and Casino Drive, are a couple I recall that came with big hopes but ultimately bombed – but Nuovo Record is another interesting challenger from the East. She ran second to A Shin Hikari beaten just a length in Hong Kong last December and clearly has plenty of ability. However, this looks a strong renewal featuring a star American turf filly in Lady Eli, and three high quality European fillies in Queen’s Trust, Seventh Heaven and Pretty Perfect, and I expect Nuovo Record to run honourably without hitting the placings.
Selection: Lady Eli
Alternative: Queen’s Trust
Breeders’ Cup Sprint
The Breeders’ Cup Sprint used to be regarded as one of the marquee races on Breeders’ Cup night, the equivalent of the 100 metre sprint in the Olympics, with the crowd gasping when the commentator shouts out the lightning fast first quarter splits, as the nation’s fastest horses duelled around the track. But the race has lost its lustre in recent years often featuring a single figure field and this year’s renewal is probably its lowest ebb. The defection of Lord Nelson at the final hour didn’t help either but the race still features three high quality sprinters in Drefong, A.P. Indian and Masochistic, and a puzzle that still takes some working out.
Drefong is a lightly raced Bob Baffert speedball that has won all its four starts since finishing 4th in his maiden. His time figures are strong and he’s likely to make the pace from his inside draw, but the advantage will surely be given to Masochistic, another front runner, who breaks outside him and can sit right on his shoulder with the super-cool Mike Smith waiting to pounce. Masochistic has run some seriously fast times in his career and has had a much lighter campaign this year to ensure he is as fresh as paint for this race. His 4 from 6 win record at Santa Anita is a positive too. A. P. Indian has a fine win record this term and is a distance specialist but I prefer the West Coast sprinters to the East Coast equivalents when the Breeders’ Cup is in California, and so favour Masochistic and Drefong, albeit just.
The turf sprint course at Santa Anita is like nothing else in America, and as a result it often pays to give extra consideration to horses with proven form over the course. Ambitious Brew, Calgary Cat, Obviously, and Holy Lute are the four that tick that box. Obviously is a fascinating entry to this race so late in his career, and he has the speed and stamina to run a big race. But he might just find a couple of younger rivals too good. Ambitious Brew drew nicely in 10 and will have the benefit of Mike Smith who won back to back Turf Sprints on Mizdirection a few years ago. He looks a solid each way play.
It’s a race few Europeans have tried over the years which is surprising given the American turf sprint division is not considered particularly high quality. This year Washington DC, Karar and Home of The Brave are better than average contenders and are worth consideration. When the media interviewed Aidan O’Brien the horse he picked out as the one he was most looking forward to seeing run was Washington DC, not Found, not Highland Reel, not Alice Springs, but Washington DC. His last time out second in the Group One Prix De L’Abbaye was his best ever run and it was on the fastest ground he’d ever run on. This track is lightning quick and his blend of speed and stamina makes him a big runner. Karar and Home Of Brave have bits of form to recommend them but I’m less keen on them.
The other horse that interests me greatly is Celestine of Bill Mott’s. Bobby’s Kitten, a high class miler dropping back in trip, won this two years’ ago and Celestine has a similar profile. She was only 10/3 to beat Tepin off levels last time out at Keeneland and finished an ok third, and she won her previous start in fantastic fashion giving weight all round. She has a big chance.
Selection: Washington DC
Alternatives: Ambitious Brew/Celestine
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
As with the female version, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is a brilliant race featuring a classy group of two year old colts. Dale Romans has been shouting loudly about how good Not This Time is and if you watch both his win in the Iroquois at Keeneland and his maiden win, you can appreciate how good a horse he could turn out to be. But he’s going to be tested by some exciting two year olds like Classic Empire who was very impressive winning the Futurity at Keeneland and Gormley who blew away his rivals in the Front Runner here at Santa Anita. Gormley has looked an absolute monster in the mornings at Santa Anita, requiring two ponies, one on either side, to keep the lid on him when walking to and from his barn. In truth this is a difficult race to have a conviction on, but a fun one to have a flutter on. So I’ll take a couple against the field.
Selection: Not This Time
Breeders’ Cup Turf
There have been some high quality runnings of the Breeders’ Cup Turf over the years but this year’s race is up there with the best. Much has been written and spoken about in recent days about the fact that no winner of the Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe has ever won a Breeders’ Cup race but only a few have tried, and Sakhee came so very close to achieving it in the Classic at Belmont. Found is tough as teak, but will have to be in her fourth Group 1 in less than two months, and her third in a month. She is utterly remarkable having only ever finished outside the top three once and that was when she was desperately unlucky in last year’s Arc. She will not be far away but this is an event that is littered with defeats to horses that have not been specifically targeted at the Breeders’ Cup and I fear she will end up on that list. Highland Reel and Flintshire have both been aimed at this race, and I can see them fighting out the finish. Flintshire has dominated the US turf scene since coming over as he loves the fast ground and the opposition just isn’t any good. Highland Reel beat Flintshire in Hong Kong last year, and on that basis, I just favour him to come out on top. He will be sent forward and will have to do it the hard way, and we could well be in for a thriller.
Mondialiste is hard to fancy trying the trip for the first time and the vibes around Ulysses have been a bit negative during the mornings. Talk of “getting a good experience” and a focus on next year, suggest he isn’t going to beat three of the best turf horses in the world. If there is to be a big price surprise it might come from Ectot. Everyone credited his win over Flintshire on the ground, and while that might be true, Flintshire has plenty of high class form on softer surfaces so perhaps Ectot just improved, and to some extent returned to his best form. Ectot has some decent form on fast ground so if it was more a case of him finding his feet since his move to the States then he might be more capable in this race than people think.
Selection: Highland Reel
Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint
It caused some surprise when the Breeders’ Cup made the decision to move this race up to the third last spot, but you can’t argue with how competitive it looks on paper. Carina Mae will start favourite having run two massive races in defeat against the mighty Songbird, but she was beaten over this trip by Haveyougoneaway in her penultimate start. That five year old mare is on an absolute purple streak and has dished out beatings to several of this field. Her Yorkshire-born trainer, Tom Morley, has wisely given her a couple of months break to keep her fresh for this race and that decision can pay off with a landmark victory.
Last year’s winner Wavell Heroine hasn’t been in the same form this year so the danger might come from Tara’s Tango who is returning to a sprint trip after being outclassed over further behind Beholder and Stellar Wind. She loves Santa Anita and can run a big race at decent odds.
Alternative: Tara’s Tango
Breeders’ Cup Mile
There’s no two ways about it Limato is the one for me here. Anyone who watched the two turf races on Friday will know how fast the mile is here at Santa Anita, and the perfect horse is a seven furlong specialist who has the speed to sprint and the stamina to last home. Limato may not have tried a mile since the Lockinge but his 4th place that day, on good ground, on a much stiffer course than Santa Anita, proved he will stay this mile. Since then he has won Group One races over six furlongs and seven furlongs, and can end a great season with is biggest win of them all.
Tepin is a brilliant race mare. She won last year’s Mile and then came over to England and won the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot. She will be a popular choice in this but her latest defeat was mildly concerning even if Photo Call did steal the race. That mare runs again and will no doubt go crazy up front again.
This is a race that has thrown up some shocks over the years and often turns into a sprint off the bend. Spectre has attracted lots of attention for the way she’s trained and her career best latest second in the Moulin. I’m not sure she’s good enough. Dutch Connection probably isn’t either, and the same applies to Cougar Mountain and Hit It A Bomb. Alice Springs has a clear form chance and will relish the ground but she has had a long season. So if there is to be a shock I think Miss Temple City might be the one. Graham Motion is a very shrewd trainer and excels with fillies. He thinks this filly is the best he’s ever trained and is expecting a huge effort. Her win in the Shadwell Mile was courageous as well as a being a fast time and she could go well at a price.
Alternative: Miss Temple City
Breeders’ Cup Classic
Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic was an exhibition, and the culmination of a great season for American Pharoah. This year’s race is everything you’d want from a heavyweight clash of epic proportions. The proven great, California Chrome, versus the young flashy pretender, Arrogate. For all the quality and competitiveness of the previous twelve Breeders’ Cup races, this is the contest that matters most. You can make strong cases for both leading contenders. California Chrome has been there, seen it, and done it. He won the Kentucky Derby, won and finished second in two Dubai World Cups, and has looked better than ever in this unbeaten season. Arrogate is lightly raced three year old who suddenly produced the most devastating, record breaking performance winning the Travers Stakes by a street. Can that run be believed? The clock surely doesn’t lie?
I have come down firmly in the California Chrome corner. He is my kind of horse, he fights every fight, travels the continent and the world, and never shirks a battle. He genuinely seems to be peaking at five years old, and a victory in this race would be a deserved crowning glory. If Arrogate really is the superstar that the clock suggests he is, then he can win this race, but I will oppose him. Seeing is believing as they say.
Selection: California Chrome
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