The first Saturday in March brings along one of the tent poles of the Santa Anita meet, the Grade 1 $750k Santa Anita Handicap going a mile and a 1/4 on the main track. Such superb horses such as John Henry, Alysheba, Affirmed, Seabiscuit and Spectacular Bid. In recent times, horses such as Tiznow and Lava Man have won the race. This is the classic test for older males in the winter, and this year's rendition brings together an interesting lot with a potential superstar in the making in the race. The undercard has two more Grade 1 races, the Frank E. Kilroe Mile at a mile on the grass, and the Santa Anita Oaks going 1m & 1/16th on the main track. Since we touched on the Oaks in the Drought Report, we'll begin the discussion with the Kilroe Mile.
The Frank E. Kilroe Mile is the first Grade 1 on the grass on the west coast, and the field of ten is a competitive lot. The favorite will probably be Caracortado, who last time out won the Sunshine Millions Turf last out. This son of Cat Dreams has transformed from a front-runner earlier on in his career to now a deep-closing type. He is cutting back an 1/8th of a mile today, and brings three swift works in tow. Fluke looks to improve of his narrow loss last year in this race, and looks to maintain his fine form. He won the prep for this race, the Grade 3 Thunder Road. He figures to get a good stalking trip off the leaders. Jeranimo (right) looks to shake off his poor effort in the Sunshine Millions Turf last out. He was found out to be a little sick after the race, and with the additional issue of his sale falling-through, this blog believes that race was just too bad to be true, and he is the selection. With 3 good works since the race, he appears to have bounced back fine. Though he loses his jockey to Fluke, he has a more than adequate replacement in David Flores. Also in the race are graded stakes winners on the grass Liberian Freighter, Acclamation and Gallant Son.
The favorite for the Big 'Cap is Twirling Candy (right). He is trying to join such recent horses such as Rock Hard Ten and Southern Image, who won both the 7 furlong Malibu and the 10 furlong Santa Anita Handicap in the same meet. This son of Candy Ride effortlessly beat his competitors in his prep for the race, the Grade 2 Strub Stakes. He has trained well since the race, with 3 good works. He is facing older for just the second time in his career however, with his first start being a disastrous fourth in the Goodwood Stakes last October. The first half of the powerful Sadler punch will be sitting just off the pace. This blog believes he has matured since that race, and he appears to be ready to take the last step towards his ascent to the top of the older male division.
The Bob Baffert barn has four shots to defeating the favorite. First Dude is the new shooter, having been recently transferred into the barn after a fourth-place finish in the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park. Baffert hopes to shake up him out of his non-winning rut, with this son Stephen Got Even almost earning $900k without winning nothing more than a maiden race. He has three typical snappy works since joining the barn, and with last year's winning jockey Martin Garcia (aboard Misremembered) in the irons, maybe he'll finally get his elusive stakes win. Game On Dude returned off the layoff from his 4th-place finish in the Belmont to win an allowance race last time out, and this blog think he has a big chance to be the "dude" with the best finish behind Twirling Candy. Tweebster finished second behind Twirling Candy in the Strub Stakes last out, but looks to be in tough. Spurrier hopes to be making an effort from the back of the pack, though the track's current nature is against him.
Among the rest, the other half of the strong Sadler two-step is Gladding, who won the Grade 2 San Antonio last out over fellow entrants Spurrier, Pode Ir, Quindici Man and Aggie Engineer and looks to have the best chance among the field to defeat his stablemate with a similar trip to Twirling Candy. The Gallagher barn has two shots with the stretch-running Soul Candy and the multiple graded stakes winning Aggie Engineer, who suffered through a questionable ride in the San Antonio.
Today is a big day for the Southern California racing scene. A strong field in the Kilroe Mile and an interesting field in the Santa Anita Oaks helps support an already great card anchored by the Santa Anita Handicap. Can Fluke avenge his narrow loss, or will Jeranimo jump back into the picture? Will Twirling Candy live up to heavy favoritism and assert his claim to the older male title, or will a Dude upset the plans? We shall see. Good luck everybody!