Weekend Stakes Preview 12/23

Shared Belief headlines the Malibu as Santa Anita opens on Friday 12/26

Santa Anita will kick off the winter/spring meet on Friday with a huge opening weekend that is loaded with stakes events and top horses. The headliner on opening day is the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at seven furlongs which drew Shared Belief and nine other three year olds. Shared Belief finished fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic after encountering a lot of trouble early on in the race. He’ll cut back to seven furlongs and with his good tactical speed he should be able to sit a good trip early on. Bob Baffert will send out four runners in the Malibu Stakes to take on Shared Belief. The speedy Chitu has drawn post two and figures to be very prominent early on along with one of Baffert’s other runners, Pimpernel. Should those two go too fast they could set it up for their stablemates Midnight Hawk and Indianapolis who could come rolling from off the pace. Shared Belief is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer who will also send out Tamarando in the Malibu. Tamarando is a confirmed closer and is shortening back up to one turn after routing most of his career. He’s one for one at seven furlongs so the distance could be just what he needs to close in.

The Grade 1 La Brea Stakes for three year old fillies features the dominant Taris who has absolutely crushed every sprint field he’s faced. He won the Grade 2 Raven Run at Keeneland last time going away by nine lengths. However he’ll have to face some other quick early runners in here like Awesome Baby and Stonetastic among others. Awesome Baby has won three in a row and is 2 for 3 at Santa Anita for trainer Bob Baffert. Stonetastic was heavily bet in the Filly and Mare Sprint on Breeders’ Cup Day and finished a decent fourth. She has sub :22 speed and will definitely be part of what should be a hot pace in the La Brea.

The Grade 2 Mathis Brothers Mile splits the two Grade 1 races and drew a full field for the grass event. Heart to Heart has gone gate to wire in his last three races and will look to do so once again in the Mathis Brothers Mile. Alert Bay also has three wins in a row and will return to the grass, a surface he’s faired well on before.

Along with the big opening day card, Saturday’s Santa Anita program will feature three stakes events including the Grade 2 Bobby Frankel Stakes on the grass. Selections for the Malibu Stakes

  1. Shared Belief
  2. Tamarando
  3. Chitu

Longshot: Conquest Two Step Selections for the Mathis Brothers Mile

  1. Home Run Kitten
  2. Alert Bay
  3. Heart to Heart

Longshot: Talco Selections for the La Brea Stakes

  1. Jojo Warrior
  2. Taris
  3. Stonetastic

Longshot: Amaranth

Saturday Stakes Trifecta at Gulfstream Park

Gulfstream Park will feature three more big stakes events this weekend with the Grade 3 La Prevoyante, the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector, and the Grade 3 W. McKnight Stakes headlining another Saturday with full fields and great racing. The very talented Irish Mission headlines the La Prevoyante and will be taking a class drop as she’s ran in consecutive Grade 1 events. She was third in the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive at Santa Anita before finishing eleventh in the Filly and Mare Turf on Breeders’ Cup Day. She returns to the Grade 3 level this time out, a level she won at Saratoga this past summer. Chad Brown will send out Cay Dancer who is making her US debut in this race. She’s been running well in Europe and Brown has tabbed Joel Rosario to ride Cay Dancer in the La Prevoyante.

The Grade 3 Mr. Prospector is for older sprinters at six furlongs and sees the red hot Master Blender make his first attempt against stakes runners. The Kirk Zaidie trained Master Blender has won four straight (one was in which he was disqualified) but has been getting better with each start. He’ll have to take on several of the horses coming out of the Kenny Noe Stakes at Gulfstream Park West including the winner of that race Speechify. Speechify crushed the field in the Noe and will face several of those rivals again in the Mr. Prospector. He’s also returning to Gulfstream Park where he’s 3 for 5 in his career.

The Grade 3 W. McKnight Handicap drew a field of fourteen runners at a mile and a half on the grass. North Slope will carry the high weight of 118 pounds and is coming off a win in a $100,000 stakes event at Belmont at a mile and a quarter. Divine Oath won the Grade 3 Kent Stakes at Delaware this summer and ran a good third in the Twilight Derby last time out at Santa Anita. The Todd Pletcher trainee is a multiple graded stakes winner and Pletcher is off course solid with a grass horse. Manchurian High is coming off a 12 furlong win, winning the Laurel Turf Cup in the final strides. He does own a win at Gulfstream and gets the services of jockey Luis Saez. Selections for the La Prevoyante

  1. Irish Mission
  2. Maximova
  3. Always Kitten

Longshot: Auld Alliance Selections for the Mr. Prospector

  1. Speechify
  2. Master Blender
  3. Risk Factor

Longshot: Little Daddy Selections for the W.L. McKnight

  1. Divine Oath
  2. Rapscallion
  3. Manchurian High

Longshot: Calvados

Stakes double at the Fair Grounds

Racing at the Fair Grounds this weekend is topped by Saturday’s card which features the Woodchopper Stakes and Pago Hop Stakes as part of an eleven race card. The $60,000 Woodchopper Stakes is for three year olds on the grass and drew a field of ten runners. Highball has been made the 3/1 favorite and is coming off a fourth place finish in the Commonwealth Turf Stakes at Churchill Downs. He was Grade 3 placed at Arlington and was fifth in the Grade 1 Secretariat. This race appears to be one trying to get him back on track and he figures to be tough in this spot. D’Cajun Cat comes into this race with two straight wins including a score in a state restricted stakes at Delta Downs. He’s in career form and could present a good price option in the Woodchopper.

The Pago Hop Stakes is for the three year old fillies on the grass with thirteen runners entered. Kiss To Remember comes into this race with five straight second place finishes, almost all in stakes events. She’s never been off the board in three turf races and figures to be a big player in this spot. Tom Amoss will send out In My Time who will be making her first try against stakes company. She’s won two races in a row on the grass and should be one of the main pace players in the Pago Hop. Selections for the Woodchopper

  1. Highball
  2. D’Cajun Cat
  3. Grand Isle

Longshot: Aztec Brave Selections for the Pago Hop

  1. In My Time
  2. Kiss To Remember
  3. Divine Beauty

Longshot: Mizzen Moon

Saturday Stakes Action at

Fair Grounds

Race 5                  Woodchopper Stakes                4:21pm EST

Race 7                  Pago Hop Stakes                      5:19pm EST

Gulfstream Park

Race 8                  La Prevoyante Handicap            3:58pm EST

Race 9                  Mr. Prospector Stakes               4:27pm EST

Race 10               WL McKnight Stakes                    4:57pm EST

Laurel Park

Race 8                  Maryland Juvenile Futurity          3:55pm EST

Santa Anita (Friday)

Race 6                  La Brea Stakes                         5:47pm EST

Race 7                  Mathis Brothers Mile                6:20pm EST

Race 8                  Malibu Stakes                           6:52pm EST

Santa Anita (Saturday)

Race 5                  Midnight Lute Stakes                5:30pm EST

Race 6                  Eddie Logan Stakes                    6:00pm EST

Race 8                  Bobby Frankel Stakes                7:00pm EST

Sunland Park

Race 4                  Winter Quarter Horse Derby       3:31pm EST

Race 9                  Red Hedeman Stakes                5:44pm EST

Tampa Bay

Race 7                  Gasparilla Stakes                       3:20pm EST

Race 9                  Pasco Stakes                              4:18pm EST

Turf Paradise

Race 3                  Lost in the Fog Juvenile             4:49pm EST

Race 7                  Arizona Juvenile Fillies                6:41pm EST



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