Santa Anita Park–The La Canada (Grade II)
1 Mile for Fillies and Mares 4 y/o and Upward
Analysis by Michael Patricks
Two weeks remain until the second running of the Pegasus Word Cup from Gulfstream Park. The race is the richest in the world and offers a $16,000,000 purse to its runners. Last year’s inaugural running was captured by Arrogate in comprehensive fashion, devastating California Chrome and the other “extras” left on the Gulfstream Park casting call couch. With the Australian Open quickly approaching, let’s lift a tennis phrase: The Pegasus World Cup will undoubtedly fall on Gun Runner’s racket to serve out.
Gun Runner will be seeking his fifth straight Grade I victory and seventh win in eight starts overall. He has amassed almost $9,000,000 in earnings from only 18 lifetime starts, and has averaged nearly half a million dollars in earnings per start. He arrives in Hallandale off his brilliant front running score in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar, where he was hooked every step of the way and kept on going.
Out to tackle Gun Runner will be Collected (Second in the BC Classic), West Coast (Third in the BC Classic), Sharp Azteca (Second in the BC Dirt Mile and Winner of Cigar Mile), and Giant Expectations (Winner of Grade II San Antonio). Rest assured they will come from far and wide to tackle Gun Runner with $16 Million on the line. More details regarding the cast of characters to follow as the event looms closer.
A somewhat quiet weekend in racing. A reminder that we will be open for live racing through Monday, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. day. Doors open at 10 a.m. at the Jockey Club all holiday weekend long and admission is free on Monday. Let’s take a look at the La Canada from Santa Anita on Saturday as this weekend’s complimentary preview.
1-La Force (Ger) 12/1 ML– The first three gals to enter the starting gate have combined for 21 wins in 57 starts, the downside for her is that she’s a mere 1-for-15 on her resume. She seems stuck on minor awards even though the move to dirt has given her a jump up on the Beyer scale. German-bred has ground to make up on Resky Business and Sandy’s Surprise who both have their work cut out for them according to the program odds. Best case scenario: she escapes with some well-beaten black type if the top choice dominates and puts a space into them; waiting for an allowance spot.
2-Majestic Heat 9/5 ML– Highly unusual that an Unusual Heat daughter would hold a new lease on life with a transfer in surface from turf to dirt, and yet that is the case here. Majestic Heat was never better than her run in the Bayakoa from Los Alamitos last time but she also got a dream set up from some testing fractions sipped by Champagne Room and Shenandoah Queen on the front end. Mended should play Sherpa for as long as possible and a couple others should push the tempo, but she must step forward again to take down top honors; logical contender.
3-Mended 4/1 ML– Arguably the best claim of 2017, she’s rattled off 10 straight wins and just keeps getting better with time. She’s made her bank roll out on the front end but she figures to be pushed along in here by the fillies and mares drawn to the outside. Ricky Gonzalez will have to conserve everything he can in anticipation of the thrust Mended will face turning for home. The sentimental choice, but I’m siding against the eleven-peat.
4-Mopotism 7/2 ML– Expect her to tighten in near the 5/2 or 3/1 range. She exits four straight Grade 1’s and fruitlessly chased Unique Bella around the track last time. It’s been a long time between drinks but this is big time class relief. Seeing that Gutierrez sticks here over stable mate Sandy’s Surprise off a win in her last start tells me this is a green light special. There are no familiar monsters to deal with on Saturday from her recent company lines and so she gets the “Morning Line Mike” check mark.
5- Union Strike 5/1 ML– Lots of positives: she makes her first start in seven months after stumbling terribly from the rail at Belmont in a complete toss out race. She’s drilled steadily in Arcadia and is a small stakes winner over the track. Just four years of age–and in start number eight–she has plenty of upside and room for improvement. Nakatani coming over to ride should only boost the confidence of her backers; very intriguing indeed.
6-Resky Business 12/1 ML– She’s come to hand quite nicely ever since her connections pulled the rip cord on her turf racing campaign. She likes to be forwardly placed but that could prove to be quite problematic with Mended signed on. Big step up from allowance racing at Los Alamitos and into graded-stakes company at The Great Race Place. The fact she’s been able to win four of six on dirt is a positive, but the reality she’s only run a 78 on the dirt curbs my enthusiasm; passing.
7-Shenandoah Queen 10/1 ML– Another who likes to be involved early. She’s won five out of 13 races but has found only tough sledding at the Grade II level. She raised eyebrows at Del Mar back in August but this is a completely different assignment on paper. She comes from solid connections but it’s hard to say what exactly her game plan ought to be. She’s not out of it but she must show more; minor award looks like her ceiling.
8- Sandy’s Surprise 8/1 ML– Team O’Neill part two. Her best efforts have come being near the front but she’s far from one-dimensional. She’s been unseen since her Zia Park Oaks and this will be her third graded-stakes effort, the past two not going her way at all. She figures to be up close and in a nice striking spot but has to avoid losing precious ground to the better-campaigned runners to her inside. She’s not chanceless, but the fact Gutierrez bails for Mopotism speaks volumes to me; bit role her likely fate.