Thursday February 20 – Santa Anita Top Play
Scheduled local post time 3:03 pm PT
The 5th race at Santa Anita asks some tricky questions. By taking a few educated swipes at them, we may be able to put ourselves in the position to get a bit of value.
The first question is posed by the 9-5 morning line favorite, (6) Acute. We loved Acute in her last start because she epitomized lone speed in an absolutely speedless race. Trying two turns for the first time after getting tired while pushed early in sprints, she found the 1 1/16 miles well within her ken, getting immediately clear of her sluggish competitors and simply laughing her way around the track to an 8 3/4-length win. This showed a couple things: 1) she is not incapable of lasting at a distance when given her way, and 2) her preference for an easy, unpressured lead is unquestionable.
Today, Acute is back on what we can only presume will be another speed mission. But will this one be like the last? Pace Projector does show her out there, cruising along on an easy lead in a race favoring early speed like last time. But not everything is the same.
First of all, the track had a slight speed bias that day, which couldn’t have hurt. But even more importantly, the other horses in there had not even the slightest early challenge to offer. The six-horse field consisted basically of Acute and five plodders. That’s not the case today. (3) Bas switches over from the turf, and while she’s not approaching this race as a one-dimensional speed horse, she does have some natural speed at the distance. At the very least, she’ll keep some attendance with Acute, and that can make a huge difference. Acute probably will stay clear of a duel, but she might have to do a little work, unlike last time. A little extra work early might translate into a far worse finish for Acute. We will risk a little egg on the face if Acute wires them again, and we’ll look elsewhere.
Well, what about the aforementioned (3) Bas? This one is taking a steep drop in claiming price, but the drop doesn’t look all that suspicious. In fact, her last win was for this $10K price, and it seems to be where she belongs. She’ll probably be in a stalking spot right behind Acute. But is she good enough? Sure, she threw in a big effort two starts ago on the grass, against two tough turfsters in Love Tale and Highly Rated, earning a 94. But her dirt form is pitiful. In four lifetime tries on dirt, she has never beaten a 71, and she’ll need to do a lot better here. It’s hard for me to suggest a 5-2 morning line horse who has shown a clear aversion to today’s surface.
(2) Second Time came off a layoff and won (wouldn’t you know it?) the “second time” back. That was, however, a field begging to be beaten. She now moves from $12K non-winner of 2 to $10K off the win. This horse must have issues–she’s been first or second in four of her five lifetime starts, but she’s not being handled like a horse with a future. She could win this, but she’s not an exciting prospect.
(7) Farmers Wife came from far back, picking up the pieces to (just like Second Time) also beat a $12K nw of 2 claiming field last time It is somewhat hard to evaluate that race. On the TimeformUS Race Rating, it looks like a weak field (72), but she was closing against a strong speed bias. And while her final number isn’t that strong (73), many of the horses who came out of that race have come back to run better numbers (you can see this by clicking on the top three finishers and seeing the chart of the race, which indicates how each horse from that race did in previous and succeeding races). If that number turns out to be a little low, this horse might have an impact on the race.
(1) Cee’s the Year and (4) Unkept Rendez Vouz just seem dull and outclassed
Which leaves us with our choice, (5) Primal Desire. This is another horse who tried to close against a strong speed bias at Golden Gate. That was on the synthetic, and she didn’t quite get there, but she had a wide trip throughout, circled everyone except the runaway winner (who has come back to win), getting up for second (over a third-place finisher who has also come back to win), and earning a very respectable 79. While mostly a turf/synthetic horse, she has two dirt races, one a decent second-place finish (albeit with a low number) and one her smashing maiden victory back in September of 2012, which earned a 77. That race alone is enough to indicate that she is not a one-dimensional turf horse who can’t handle the dirt. With that worry out of the way, this horse seems nicely poised in here. She has enough early speed to be within range (look at the exceptional speed she showed back on September 7), without being compromised by a need to sit close to Acute. And on a simple class/form evaluation, she just seems a little classier, a little sharper. You can usually get a bit of value on these Golden Gate horses when they fit well, and this one does.
Play: (5) Primal Desire to Win/Place