The Santa Ynez (Grade II)

1/8/2017 Santa Anita Park-Race 8

The Santa Ynez-$200,000 Grade II

7 Furlongs on Dirt for 3 Year-Old Fillies

Post Time: 4:00 P.M. PST

Analysis by Michael Patricks

The turn of the calendar brings with it a revitalizing fortress of hope for many horsemen and handicappers alike, and a springboard of optimism begins anew as fresh equine faces begin to assimilate across racing’s landscape.  The most savory of all divisions for many horse players is the three-year-old division.  On each side of the gender spectrum there are burgeoning stars of tomorrow who vividly state their appearances with emphatic graduation efforts, thus stamping themselves as future must-see athletes while garnering the headlines over racing’s marquee in the process.  The sport unquestionably needs more heroes, more stars with staying power, and more legendary tales to tell.  Here’s a toast to the three-year-old class of 2017–and a hope that their division will produce major dividends to reward the racing industry, horse players, and all those that follow the Sport of Kings as we whittle our way towards the Triple Crown season.

With that in mind, let’s analyze the Grade II Santa Ynez from Santa Anita on Sunday:

1-Resilient Humor 30/1 ML- She got the last laugh when she responded quite well when turning for home in her backyard debut at Los Alamitos.  Her effort was professional and showed the marking of a competitive race horse in the making.  Inasmuch as she opened up eyeballs last time out and rang the bell at a price, it will certainly be a new kettle of fish for her on Sunday. The jump from Maiden Special Weight to Grade II is huge especially when it’s obvious she’s facing the talent of a Grade I cast.  Also, she will be shipping from Los Alamitos to Santa Anita for her first try against winners and is spotting the morning line favorites in this spot each a race of experience.   The rail draw is never a bargain in any sprint race with a young filly, but she does land a quality rider for today’s contest and races aren’t run on paper, they are run on racetracks.  We will find out how good this one is on Sunday, but gut instinct tells me to take a wait-and-see approach with her, while targeting her further down the line; for Longshot Larry and his disciples.

2-Sandy’s Surprise 15/1 ML- The third time was the proverbial charm in breaking her maiden while covering a route of ground.  From the graduation effort, Sandy was lobbed into Grade I company and endured a fairly comprehensive pummeling at the hands of Abel Tasman and American Gal, running like you’d expect a 28/1 shot to look.  By Drosselmeyer, you’d figure this one would only appreciate the added distance, and yet here she is on the cutback in distance and stepping down from a Grade I to a Grade II.  The thrust of her problem stems from the fact that this Grade II race may be even tougher than her Grade I was last time.  There are some razor sharp sprinters in this cast and Sandy will have to hit the ground running in this one or risk having far too much to do the final quarter-mile.  Trainer Doug O’Neill is just as potent and formidable as anyone in southern California so she’s not without hope, but in all honesty her form seems to be a bit dull compared to several of these and for that reason I’m throwing her out; will look to meet up with her down the road.

3-Unique Bella 8/5 ML- Interestingly installed as the morning line favorite, Unique Bella enters this fray coming off a double-digit dismantlement of a group of maidens at the beach, stopping the clock for six-and-a-half furlongs in 1:16 flat.  This daughter of Tapit has been odds-on in both her races, and to her credit she has ran quite well each time and Mike Smith has chosen her over Princess Karen and quite possibly It Tiz Well.  There is no doubt in my mind that this gal has the raw talent and ability to take down the Santa Ynez, but to do so she will likely have to outkick and outfinish Shane’s Girlfriend in the process.  Without question she is one of the ones, but I believe Shane’s Girlfriend will go favored and I’d need somewhere between 2/1 and 5/2 before I’d consider running up to the window and backing her in this spot.  She’s got immense talent and an undeniable upside but the price is too short to swallow hard for this horse player.  Mannerly, the runner-up in her last start came back with a rather uninspired showing on Friday; must prove it under the bright lights of the big stage.

4-Carrie 50/1 ML- Morning line pretty much says it all about this one’s chances in a Grade II.  She’s been beaten into submission the last two races at lower levels and now finds her way in here for some unknown reason.  She was 11/1 in a four horse maiden breaker, which is like being 90 to 1 in a race with more runners in the field.  Guess the most eternal of optimists would say that she is 1-for-1 over the Santa Anita main track and she is only facing fillies today instead of taking on the boys.  Also, Blinkers On junkies will note that she adds a hood for this to try and show more speed and she has one of the best gate riders in the business atop her back in Modesto Linares.  However, having said all that, she’s chanceless in this spot.  Much more notable in fact is that Carrie was a 1987 hit single from the band Europe, from their Final Countdown album.  The song peaked at # 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and is still heard from time to time on the radio.  I think it’s safe to say that 30 years from now the equine Carrie will not have as many fond remembrances as the power ballad which she is named after has for itself; wait until a restricted claiming race comes up and demand a nice price at that time; she’s in trouble here–you can note me and quote me on that.

5-Princess Karen 8/1 ML- Have to admire the fact she took it to the field at odds-on in her debut, noting that two next out winners who are in this event chased her home in the process: Sandy’s Surprise and Go On Mary.  Princess Karen was quite professional and workmanlike in the debut and it appears she hasn’t missed a beat in the mornings given her steady string of drills and a nice :59.4 seconds bullet over the track on January 3rd.  Neigh Sayers will be quick to point out that Mike Smith defects for Unique Bella, and Rafael Bejarano and Jeff Bonde haven’t really hooked up too much in the past, thus lessening her appeal.  My belief is that Bonde believes he has a solid filly here and he’d like to gauge where she’s at against the rest of her division.  What is an unknown about her is just how much she has in the tank when the real running begins.  Also, does she have the ability to pass horses when they turn for home?  She was able to take them gate-to-wire at a high cruising speed in the maiden breaker, but that will not be the case in this spot Sunday.  Would never try to talk you off an 8/1 shot with loads of ability and potential, but this is a very tough spot to debut against winners and so for that reason, I’m siding against this gal; outsider.

6-Noted and Quoted 5/1 ML- Set the pace in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile before being collared in the final quarter mile by Champagne Room and company and giving up the ghost quite hurriedly thereafter. Noted and Quoted has been freshened up for this and the cutback to seven panels makes all the sense in the world for her, especially being by The Factor.  Bob Baffert is on the record as not being too pleased with just how salty this event came up when asked about his filly’s chances.  Noted and Quoted is a Grade I winner and no one else in this field can say the same but she’s facing a couple of upstart fillies who have each been hyped up to seemingly take on the world at this point.  She appears to fire her best efforts every other time and the time off between races will likely do her well.  She was also 6 to 1 last time in a Grade I race and you’re going to get at or near that same price on the cutback in this spot, which presents nice value.  Coming out of her two route races she should have plenty of air in the tires to stalk and pounce when the appropriate time comes and for that reason I’m off the mindset to include her in my plans; logical contender off the bench for Baffert.

7-Go On Mary 20/1 ML- Fourth rider appears in as many races and never been a fan of that handicapping angle.  She was tossed into the Grade I Starlet at Los Alamitos last time and wanted no part of two turns or the company she was keeping in that race, finishing ninth and last.  Her maiden win was respectable but I’m not entirely sure who she was beating in that race.  Connections appear to be rolling the dice with her once again in the hopes that she’ll be able to grab a little black type somehow, some way.  There probably aren’t too many allowance races for the Go On Mary’s of the world to run in, so this may be where she has to run unless they want to sit on her. Trainer O’Neill and jockey Theriot are a combined 0-for-14 the last two years and that’s enough to get me looking in other directions without hesitation; Doug O’Neill can be a bit of a magician at times and has been known to pull a rabbit out of a hat, but this is a Hail Mary for Go On Mary–tab her for races against softer somewhere over the rainbow.

8-Shane’s Girlfriend 9/5 ML- Fairly surprised to not see this one installed as the morning line favorite. Shane’s Girlfriend pulled off a mild surprise in her unveiling at 8 to 1 odds, taking care of business in front running fashion when graduating.  Trainer Doug O’Neill thought enough of her off the debut to ship her to Louisiana for the Delta Downs Princess, a Grade III.  In that race, Shane’s Girlfriend stalked the early pace setters before separating from her rivals on the far turn and running off with a better than 13 length victory in the process.  This filly seems destined for two turn races headed into the spring, so it’s possible she may not be 100 percent air tight headed into this.  She also sports only two works since the Princess yet one was while breezing in 1:12.3, a very nice work to be sure and a breezing tag is something you rarely see in southern California workouts.  If she improves off her last start they will be running for second.  If she regresses, or is not fully cranked for this race, she can be beaten by a number of these promising fillies.  My horse player instinct tells me she really is that good.  A caveat before selecting her: keep in mind that none of these fillies have raced in the slop before.  Trim down the amount of your wagers if the track is drenched on Sunday; the selection.

9-It Tiz Well 6/1 ML- Put it all together in her second start after breaking a bit tardily in her debut.  Given that she was 2/5 in her maiden victory, it’s safe to say she ran to her expectations, and got some nice style points by pouring it on to a double digit margin.  Obviously, the water gets a whole lot deeper today and she will have her hooves full against this cast.  In her corner is King Jerry Hollendorfer and that should provide peace of mind to her backers.  ‘Dorf is known for expertly handling his stock and though she’s flying in well below the radar of Unique Bella, she seems like she has plenty of upside.  When I imagine this race unfolding from the depths of my creative lobe, I see Princess Karen and It Tiz Well hooking up early, setting up a nice closing brigade featuring Unique Bella, Noted and Quoted , and Shane’s Girlfriend when approaching the quarter-mile pole.  These newly minted fillies will no doubt be feeling the burn from the first five furlongs of this race at that point, and the filly with the most amount of quality is likely to capitalize on the embattled leaders.  It Tiz Well may have a bright future ahead of her, but it’s difficult foreseeing a happy afternoon for this one on Sunday, even when I attempt to paint her in the most favorable light possible; ‘Tiz not her day.

Consensus: 8-6-3-5