Santa Anita: The Grade II, $200,000 Robert Lewis at 1 1/16 miles
Analysis by Brian Nadeau of Horseplayer Now.
#1 Candy Boy: Talented up-and-comer made a stunning, albeit premature, move to the lead in the GI CashCall when last seen over the Cushion surface at Hollywood Park before settling for a well-beaten second to 2yo champion Shared Belief and will look to bridge the gap in his 3yo bow. Sadler charge is bred to run all day with Candy Ride on the top, and there’s no doubt he gives the impression that he’s coming into his own, not to mention that this ground-saving draw is perfect. If you want to nitpick, you can say he’s got to prove it over conventional dirt, but with a modest cast signed on and seemingly a world of talent, you have to think it’s his time to shine; call to post the mild surprise.
#2 Diamond Bachelor: Turf stakes winner didn’t fire in his last dirt start in the BC Juvenile over the track/distance, but he drew the parking lot that day and didn’t break, so with this better draw, there’s a good chance that he’s your pacesetter from the inside. Biancone has said since day 1 that this is a Derby horse, so he gets to prove it today, but on the face of it, he’s just not good enough to challenge the heavyweights here. And that’s before looking at the race flow, which has this son of War Front as the inside speed with the potential for a freaky fast sprinter pressing him to the outside and the favorite sitting just off the proceedings, which isn’t all that appealing; passing.
#3 Midnight Hawk: Undefeated son of Midnight Lute has done little wrong in two starts for Baffert, which includes a local two-turn stakes win in the GIII Sham in his last start January 11. Lightly raced runner didn’t really wow visually that day, beat only three rivals, and was much more workmanlike than brilliant, so there are still some questions to answer. Of course, that was his dirt debut and there’s a ton of room for improvement, which is a little scary, and he should trip out nicely just off a potential speed duel. The horse he beat in the Sham, Kristo, is a nice Sadler prospect but is hardly on top of anyone’s Derby lists, so you really have to question just what was behind him. The tote will tell you that he’s the horse to beat and he just might be, but with more value on the rail, let’s call this dude second-best today; back-wheel time.
#4 Home Run Kitten: Turf runner is by all-world grass/synthetic sire Kitten’s Joy and enters this off a downhill MSW win over the local hill side turf course, so needless to say he’s got his work cut out for him today. On the plus side, he’ll be a big price and Hofmans certainly knows what to do with a good 3yo, so there are a few things in his favor. But yikes, it looks like he’s jumping into the deep end of the pool without a life preserver today; not seeing it.
#5 Cool Samurai: Deep closer got up over an overrated Baffert runner The Admiral last time, and his running style will always leave him at the mercy of the pace, which isn’t ideal over this track. Moss homebred is certainly on the upswing and we’ve mentioned already that this isn’t the deepest event of the year, but when you have no speed, it’s one thing to beat overrated maidens, and completely another thing to get the job done in the GII ranks. Son of First Samurai is in the right hands with Shirreffs calling the shots, but there’s also a chance that he’s the wise guy in here, and anything below his 6-1 ML makes him a huge underlay; using underneath, if at all.
#6 El Nino Terrible: Tactical son of Malibu Moon added blinkers and picked up a maiden win over the track/distance and will now see where he stacks up with some of the better sophomores on the grounds. Miller trainee has progressed nicely in each stateside start and looks to be a useful sort, but he drew poorly and seems destined for a wide, chase-the-pace type of trip, which certainly isn’t ideal. The price will be right if you believe, but this just looks like too much, too soon; playing against.
#7 Chitu: The “other” Baffert is also undefeated in two starts and brings a world of sprint speed to the party, so you have to think a send mission is in line from this wide post, as he has shown only one way to run in his two-race career. Son of Henny Hughes isn’t bred for this and has never gone beyond six furlongs, either, so this is a real step up to be sure. His two sprint wins have tipped his hand as a serious talent, and you have to think he’ll be involved with ‘Bachelor early, but can he duel with that stakes winner, then fend off his stablemate ‘Hawk and the late charge of Candy Boy as well? Seems like it’s asking an awful lot, doesn’t it?
#1 Candy Boy
#3 Midnight Hawk
#5 Cool Samurai