Santa Anita: The Grade II, $300,000 San Felipe at 1 1/16 miles
#1 Blingo: Stretch runner closed from the clouds to finish a non-threatening sixth to fellow entrant Liaison in his last start, the GI CashCall at Hollywood Park, to end his 2yo campaign and now tries conventional dirt for the first time. With just two lifetime runs, he’s got a ton of upside and has been training up a storm in the AM, but he’s a son of BC Turf Mile winner Artie Schiller, and you have to wonder if dirt will be his calling; tabbing for later.
#2 Bodemeister: Baffert charge looked awesome when trying two turns for the first time in his second career start, a runaway 9 ¼-length win over MSW’s here last month, and now he gets thrown into the deep end to see where he fits with the West Coast’s leaders. Son of Empire Maker owns a ton of zip and should be the inside speed, though there are a few others who want to mix it up early, so a duel is quite possible. His talent is unquestioned but this is asking a lot, all while getting a potentially negative race flow; trying to beat on top at false odds.
#3 American Act: Speaking of speed, this guy has a ton of it and enters off a fine second, when he was beaten just a nose in the local GII San Vicente after setting a sharp pace and just missing in his first try against winners. The fact that he’s drawn outside ‘Bode helps his cause (and hurts the latter’s), but there’s little doubt that this son of Quiet American will be rolling early, especially since this will be his first two-turn start; know him early, not so sure about late.
#4 Midnight Transfer: Local San Pedro winner owns a ton of tactical speed and is another who stretches out for the first time, so you’ve got to think he’ll only add fuel to the early fire. Son of Hard Spun owns two wins over the track and has an abundance of talent, so win or lose, he’s going to prove key to the race in that he’ll be the one nagging the two inside speeds the whole way. Steps up in class and picks a pretty tough spot to make his graded stakes debut, so not sure he’s good enough to win this, but they’ll know he’s in there; figures to make life difficult for the other speed.
#5 Groovin’ Solo: Underrated sort ran well to be third (before being DQ’d to seventh) in the local GII Lewis at two turns in what was his first start against winners, and he’s got every reason to improve off that run as the blinks come off today. That latter nugget could be the key, too; as we’ve mentioned, there’s a ton of pace signed on, so if he can settle and make a run, then just maybe there’s a chance he’s a big, big danger in the lane; intriguing price play.
#6 Liaison: CashCall winner tries to rebound from a nightmare seasonal debut in the Lewis, when he clipped heels late and threw his jock. Blinks come off today (a huge 43% move for Baffert) and he does own a local win, albeit at two turns, so you can surmise his synthetic form will transfer over to going long on the real stuff. The issue is his last and whether he can put it behind him, not to mention that it looked like he wasn’t really going to make a big dent even if Bejarano had stayed aboard; taking a wait and see approach.
#7 Creative Cause: Hotshot 2yo won the local GI Norfolk over the track and distance in October but had chalk players crying in their soup with a meek third at 1-2 in his seasonal debut in the San Vicente. Figures to move forward today with that tightener behind him, and he gets back to his favorite trip to boot, so it’s the old “put up or shut up” time in this GII. Figures to get all the best of it in terms of race flow, and if he’s as big and mean as they say he is, then he’s got to win this to be taken seriously; looks like the one to deny.
#8 Rousing Sermon: Necked out by Liaison in the CashCall to end his 2yo season and enters off a modest fourth (moved up to third) in the Lewis in his 3yo debut; he’ll have to improve a bunch to factor against the toughies in here. He does own a track and distance win (albeit against Cal-breds as a 2yo), so that’s a plus, and he seems to have the right running style in a race loaded with speed, but up to this point he hasn’t been good enough; others entice more.
#9 Tiz Point: Makes his dirt debut after wiring a N1X over the turf when blinkers were added for his last start, but he’s by Tiznow out of a Storm Bird mare, so at least you know he’s bred for the switch. Still, this is a mighty tough spot to try the real stuff for the first time from a really tough post; pop and fade seems likely.
#10 Empire Way: Closed stoutly in the Lewis to run second in his first start over the dirt to stamp himself as one of the West’s leading contenders for the Derby, and that was his first start of the year, so he should be that much tighter today. Lightly raced runner enters with just four career starts and has gotten better and better with each run, so you have the feeling he’s set for a peak performance and that might simply be too much for this crew to handle; gets the call to mow them all down late.
#10 Empire Way
#7 Creative Cause