Santa Anita, Race 4, 5:10pm ET
The Santa Maria, Grade 2, Fillies and Mares, Four Years Old and Up, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt
The result of this year’s Santa Maria seems to hinge on Snow Fall, or more exactly the answer to the following question: how close can Snow Fall get to the lifetime-top speed figure that she earned in her most recent start?
Snow Fall’s performance last time out, over this track and distance, yielded a speed figure of 118. If she repeats that figure in this race, she will almost certainly win. Yet she’s not even the morning line favorite. That honor goes to the Bob Baffert-trained filly Book Review, even though her recent speed figures have typically been 10-20 points lower than Snow Fall’s best. And the close third choice on the morning line, Lady of Fifty, has a lifetime-top speed figure of 103, earned on a synthetic surface, and a top dirt speed figure of 99.
Snow Fall figures to get a comfortable trip on Saturday. Given her outside draw, her rider can choose either to tuck in just off the pace or go ahead and take the early lead. Snow Fall’s trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, is a Hall of Famer who is enjoying a fine meet and who improved this mare almost as soon as he got his hands on her. Snow Fall has had over a month’s rest since her big effort. She has been training regularly in a tight pattern (a Hollendorfer trademark). Her regular rider is aboard. She is the selection.
Should Snow Fall stumble, the aforementioned Book Review would seem the most likely candidate to win the race, albeit at an unappetizing price. As for horses to use underneath in exotics, there’s not a lot to work with, but Great Hot could find her way to a minor award at a bit of a price, while Lady of Fifty is difficult to ignore but won’t make you rich at a stroke.
Tampa Bay Downs, Race 9, 4:25pm ET
The Tampa Bay Stakes, Grade 3, Four-year-olds and up, 1 1/16 miles, Turf
The Tampa Bay is a reunion of sorts, with the top four finishers from the 2012 edition (as well as the 2011 winner) entered again this time around. However, the best value in the race appears to be a newcomer, Za Approval, who is making his stakes debut.
Za Approval was tremendously impressive two starts back over a mile when he so nearly overcame a wide trip, finishing powerfully but ultimately a nose short of catching Big Blue Kitten. Both horses carried the same weight that day, but this time Za Approval receives 6 lb from that rival.
In his most recent start, Za Approval ran an excellent speed figure of 113 when he nabbed former graded stakes winner Joe’s Blazing Aaron in the final strides. Although Za Approval has never raced at Tampa Bay Downs, everything looks in place for him to run a breakthrough race today, while his trainer, Christophe Clement, has always been dangerous when he ships horses there.
The two obvious contenders whom Za Approval must deal with are Swift Warrior and Doubles Partner. Swift Warrior took advantage of a paceless race last time out yet ran a supersonic 119 speed figure, humbling a good field that included former Grade 1 winner King David as well as Willcox Inn, who was second to Wise Dan in a Grade 1 last October. Swift Warrior will not get that ideal trip today because of the presence of the speedy El Commadore.
The classy Doubles Partner has run back-to-back speed figures of 115 and projects to get an ideal trip.
For exotic wagering purposes, both Swift Warrior and Doubles Partner are must-use horses in combination with main selection Za Approval.