Santa Anita Saturday Racing Preview
REDDAM’S MOPOTISM SHOOTS FOR HER SECOND CONSECUTIVE GRADED VICTORY
Unique Bella, America’s reigning Eclipse Champion Female Sprinter, towers over four rivals in Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 Santa Maria Stakes for older fillies and mares at a mile and one sixteenth.
A striking 4-year-old filly by Tapit, Unique Bella comes off one of the best races of her career, a gutty three quarter length win in the Grade I, seven furlong La Brea Stakes here on Dec. 26. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer and owned by Don Alberto Stable, Unique Bella has been favored in seven out of her eight starts and has won six of them.
Fresh off a head victory going a flat mile in the Grade II La Canada Stakes Jan. 13, Reddam Racing’s Mopotism will be tasked with keeping front-running Unique Bella honest in the early stages of the Santa Maria.
Owner: Don Alberto Stable Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer
Although she had a five-game winning streak snapped when well beaten as the even money favorite in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint two starts back on Nov. 4, Unique Bella rebounded with gusto in the La Brea, earning a 98 Beyer Speed figure while likely swaying a good many undecided Eclipse Award voters. Unbeaten in two races going a route of ground, Unique Bella was a virtual gate to wire winner of the Grade III Santa Ysabel Stakes on March 4, 2017–her only try at the Santa Maria distance of 1 1/16 miles. With “Big Money” Mike Smith engaged to ride for the ninth consecutive time, Unique Bella will likely go as the odds-on favorite Saturday.
Owner: Reddam Racing, LLC Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Third, beaten two lengths by Unique Bella in the Grade I La Brea Dec. 26, this 4-year-old daughter of Uncle Mo bounced back while attentive to the pace with a gutty win in the Grade II La Canada Jan. 13, prevailing by a short head in a thrilling three-horse photo. Well traveled, she was fifth in the Grade I, 1 1/8 miles Breeders’ Cup Distaff three starts back and has faced more than her share of adversity over a career that has seen her go 15-3-4-2. Following her exhilarating La Canada win, O’Neill assistant Leandro Mora expressed a measure of vindication in the Winner’s Circle: “This is a good filly,” he said. “She’s always been a good filly and we know she can run with any Grade I horses. She needs to learn how to win and today should be a big step in the right direction. She is more than capable of doing this.”
Owner: Madeline Auerbach, LLC, Ron McCauley and Bardy Farm Trainer: Richard Mandella
An impressive 2 ¾ length winner of the Grade II, 1 1/16 miles Bayakoa Stakes two starts back on Dec. 3, this 6-year-old California-bred mare by Unusual Heat was on a roll going into the Grade II La Canada Stakes Jan. 13, but ran a disappointing fifth as the 6-5 favorite, losing to Mopotism by 2 ¾ lengths. With Flavien Prat aboard on Saturday, she’ll try to rebound as she seeks her eighth win from 18 overall starts.
TALENTED GROUP OF SOPHOMORES TO COMPETE IN TRADITIONAL SANTA ANITA DERBY PREP
A promising pair of homebreds, Hal and Patti Earnhardt’s Ax Man and Kaleem Shah’s All Out Blitz head a field of six sophomores going seven furlongs in Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita. To be run for the 78th time, the San Vicente serves as a traditional prep to the Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 7.
Trained by Bob Baffert, Ax Man, a devastating 9 ½ length first-out maiden winner going six furlongs here on Jan. 1, will hope to lead his connections down the Derby Trail with another impressive score as he approaches a two-turn assignment in the near future.
Trained by Simon Callaghan, All Out Blitz cuts back in distance following a second place finish to Baffert’s highly regarded McKinzie in the Grade III, one mile Sham Stakes on Jan. 6. A gutty nose maiden winner two starts back on Dec. 17 at Los Alamitos, All Out Blitz would appear better suited sprinting.
Owner: Patti and Hal Earnhardt III Trainer: Bob Baffert
By Baffert’s 2010 Santa Anita Handicap winner, Misremembered, Ax Man is out of Earnhardt’s Flying Chevron mare Shameful, and is thus a half brother to two-time Eclipse Champ Indian Blessing. Off at 7-5 versus nine rivals in his debut, Ax Man was further flattered by the fact trainer Mike Pender’s Lombo, who finished third, beaten 10 ½ lengths, came back to easily win this past Saturday’s Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes at a mile and one sixteenth. With Drayden Van Dyke set to ride him back, Ax Man figures to pose an elusive front-running target in the San Vicente.
ALL OUT BLITZ
Owner: Kaleem Shah, Inc. Trainer: Simon Callaghan
Bred in Kentucky by Shah, All Out Blitz is by Concord Point, a son of super-stallion Tapit. Sent to the front in the Lewis, All Out Blitz finished four lengths in front of the third horse, but was no match for McKinzie through the drive, as he was beaten 3 ½ lengths at odds of 14-1. Unlike Ax Man, he is not Triple Crown nominated and may be kept at sprint distances for the time being. With a win, a second and a third place finish from his four starts, All Out Blitz will likely sit second early under Tyler Baze as they try to keep the favorite within their sights.
KRIS’ ROCKET KAT
Owner: JK Racing Stable, LLC or Chandler Trainer: Richard Baltas
Idle since an impressive 3 ¼ length maiden win going six furlongs on Nov. 25 at Del Mar, this chestnut colt by Eskendereya will hope to get on the Derby Trail with a big effort off the bench on Saturday. A well-beaten fifth in his debut here Sept. 30 at odds of 21-1, he was off at 4-1 in a field of 11 for the maiden score. A $105,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase, he’d make that investment look like a bargain should he pull off an upset in the San Vicente.
Trainer Mark Glatt’s Blackjackcat and Phil D’Amato’s Bowies Hero head a field of six older horses going one mile on turf in Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 Thunder Road Stakes at Santa Anita.
A winner of four races in a row prior to running a close third in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Mile (turf) at Del Mar Nov. 4, Al and Sandee Kirkwood’s homebred Blackjackcat has won four of his six races at a mile on turf and rates top billing in the Thunder Road.
A game half length winner of the Grade II Mathis Brothers Mile (turf) here Dec. 26, Agave Stable’s Bowies Hero gets a new rider, as Kent Desormeaux has opted to stick with the top selection.
Owner: Al and Sandee Kirkwood Trainer: Mark Glatt
A Kentucky-bred 5-year-old gelding by Tale of the Cat, he’s out of the Kirkwood’s Go for Gin mare Bootleg Annie. With 2017 proving to be a break-out year for him, Blackjackcat won four of seven races last year and banked $453,660. On or near the lead throughout, Blackjackcat was an impressive 1 ½ length winner of the one mile turf Obviously Stakes two starts back here on Oct. 7 and he’s posted three wins and a pair of thirds from six tries over the Santa Anita turf. With regular rider Desormeaux back aboard, he’ll try to improve upon an overall mark of 15-6-0-5 and career earnings of $580,070.
Owner: Agave Stable Trainer: Phil D’Amato
A 4-year-old Kentucky-bred colt by turf specialist Arte Schiller, Bowie’s Hero comes off the biggest performance of his life in the Grade II Mathis Brothers Mile, posting a career-best 101 Beyer Speed figure in his first graded stakes victory. A stone miler, he’s won five out his seven races at the distance and has proven he can stalk the pace or rally from far back. With Desormeaux opting to stick with the Blackjackcat, Bowies Hero will be ridden for the first time by wily veteran Corey Nakatani.
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