Day Results 8 / 3-3-1
2020 Overall 1756 1756 / 626-605-766
Win % of Top Pick 35.65%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall 37.91%
2020 Top Pick in the Money –1,137-1,756 64.75%
Top Selection ITM / TP 55-90 61.11%
Top Selections Win / TP 35-90 38.89%
“Key Horses” @ TP 19-7-0-2 36.84% Win / 47.37% ITM
“Key Horses” in 2020 250-91-48-34 36.40% Win / 69.20% ITM

Today we offer some “bonus coverage” and some “value-added” picks for the first day after Christmas. We are hoping that these selections will come gift-wrapped under your tree and served with some love, as well.

But, then again, you just never know about picks and horse racing, right?

Some days are diamonds.

Some days are stones.

Some times the hard times won’t leave me alone.

But today?

We are feeling good. Real good.

Here’s our picks for Santa Anita’s opening day — including 6 Stakes events. What a card. What a bunch of nice races. What a day. Here’s our looks:

1st: 10-8/4-3-7-11/2-1/5-6…This is the first turf race of the day and I will saddle up with Hermaphrodite (10), a 5YO French-bred mare who will be making her 2nd career start in North America and just her 2nd start since August of 2019. Ran well on Nov. 15, but just caught a wide trip that day. Gets a nice rider switch for this one and the barn hits with .18% on the 2nd time with the barn and with .30% when getting the Lasix for the 2nd time. Look for more out of this one today. Could be charging very late. Rocking Redhead (8) moves up after breaking the maiden last time out. Barn wins with a whopping .21% when facing winners for the first time. The toughest condition in the book to win, but this one was so impressive last time out in cruising from gate to wire, you just hate to leave out of the mix. Has speed. Is dangerous. I bet the 10-8 across the board and then box those two in the exacta. I will key the 10-8 over/under the 4-3-7-11-2-1 in two smaller units.

2nd: 1-6-2/5-7/4-3…Barraza (1) is a 2YO son of Into Mischief and comes from the barn of Bob Baffert. Is there much left to write here? Really? This one had all kinds of troubles in the opener. Lucky to finish where he did. No room whatsoever to stretch his legs when the real running began. Gets a huge, huge rider switch here and the extra distance should be no issue. Look out. If the rail is no issue? Then, just look out. My first Key Play of the Day. I bet the 1 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the top 3 numbers over/under the 5-7 in two smaller. I will key the 1 over/under all the numbers in two more.

3rd: 1-2-4/8/6-9/3-7…Defense Wins (1) This one drops all the way from the high-ranking allowance ranks into the modest claiming levels today. Barn wins with .20% in claiming races, and this one broke the maiden just two ago. Has a win over this track and gets a rider who knows his way around here, too. Has won with .16% of the last 19 mounts for this barn. Will have first crack from a nice stalking position. Chance. Hapi Hapi (2) could make you happy, happy with a good run here. Nearly won at this same level last time out at Del Mar on Nov. 14. Has been working good and has a win and two seconds in four previous runs here. Will come from off the pace, but not too far back. Alvaaro (4) will be making the first start after being claimed at this same level last time out. Was third as the beaten favorite that day, and the new barn wins with .25% of beaten favorites returning. This one is 1-1-1 in 4 tries here and could be a tough out with the right trip. I bet the 1-4 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I will key the top 3 over/under the 8 and then key the 1-4 over/under the 2-8-6-9-3-7 in two smaller units.

4th: 5-6-7/1-4/2-3…G2 Mathis Brothers Mile Stakes…The first of 6 Stakes events today and this one is a dandy. To be contested at 1 mile over the turf course. I go with Smooth Like Strait (5), who comes from the barn of talented trainer Michael McCarthy. In 5 starts here, this one has a 2-1-1 mark and in 4 starts at this distance, he is 2-1-0. Comes off a near-miss 2nd in the G1 Hollywood Derby at Del Mar last time out. Nailed at the wire after inching in front. Works are good leading into this one, and returns as the beaten favorite. Barn wins with .21% of those kind. Field Pass (6) ships West for trainer Mike Maker. Won the G3 Ontario Derby at Woodbine last time out and now is 5-0-3 in 9 starts this year. Nice season. Has talent. Can stalk. Gets a rider who won on him in the G3 Transylvania back at KEE in July. Will have to beat him. Scarto (7) ran 6th in the G1 Hollywood Derby last out, but got a very sketchy ride that day from Manny Franco. Gets a new pilot today and one that knows this course very well. In only previous run at this distance, he was a winner . Look for a big late kick and big effort at a very solid price here. I bet the 5-7 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I will key the 5-7 over/under all  the other numbers listed in two smaller units.

5th: 11-10-5/7-6-9/8-1/2-3…Warren’s Memorable (11) moves up in class after running 2nd here in October. Barn wins with .17% when inching up the MCL ranks. Blinkers have seemed to help and the works are good enough to have this one ready. Rider is 0-for-7 for this barn over the last 60 days. Hmmmm. Great Curves (10) comes from a barn operation that is a little on the weak side, as far as winning percentage (.09%). But the class transfer may help some. Not to choose from in here. Half Hoping (5) is a first time starter for a barn that wins with .17% when making the debut in the MCL ranks. Works are modest, but may be good enough here. Wide open as the Pacific Ocean is deep. I bet the 11-10 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I key the 11-10 over/under the 5-7-6-9-8-1 in two smaller units. I hit the “all button” in the horizontals. Could be a whopper here. 

6th: 12-1-9/7-2-10/(13)-4/5-6/8…This turf sprint will be contested over the 6.5-furlong course. I love this distance. I love the “Hill Course.” Can’t wait to see what Santa Anita has done with all of its’ work on remodeling the turf course for the sprinters here. I will saddle up with Anaconda (12). This one comes from the barn of HOFer Richard Mandella, and will cut back from the route that he tried last time out. Barn wins with .19% when cutting back and this one was spectacular when breaking the maiden at 5 furlongs at Del Mar in November. Has speed and will try to use it often. Tripoli (1) gets a tough gate assignment from the rail. Will need to break alertly and does have some speed to negotiate the early going. Love this rider choice and the last race was a near-miss 2nd. This one may be a tough out here. One Flew South (9) has just 2 thirds to show for 6 grass races to date, but this one has shown a lot of improvement in the last two races. May be ready for a score at a solid price. I be the 12-1 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta.  I will key the 12-1 over/under the 9-7-2-10-13-4-5-6 in two smaller units.

7th: 8-6/3-4-7-5/2-1…G2 San Antonio Stakes…This is a Classic Stakes event and the quality recruited here is top shelf. I will give a slight edge to the G1 winner Mucho Gusto (8). This 4YO won the G1 Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park last January. Over-powered them that day by nearly 5 lengths. Went to the Middle East for the Saudi Cup and ran 4th behind Maximum Security that day. Has not been seen in the afternoons since then. But? Has been working lights out and has run very good fresh in the past. AT this distance? Has a 2-1-0 record in 3 tries. Here? A perfect 3-for-3. Adds up for me. Midcourt (6) could be a tough customer, too, simply because he has been running of late. Nearly won the G3 Native Diver last time out as the odds-on favorite. Just couldn’t catch a break in that one. Has hit the board in 9 of the last 10 races and will be a tough out here, too. I bet the 8 to win/place/show. I box the 8-6 sternly in one exacta. I will key the 8-6 over/under the 3-4-7-5-2-1 in two smaller units. The 8 could be a horizontal single if you like to gamble.

8th: 5-2/8-4-3-11/9-10-6-7…G1 La Brea Stakes…The G1 for the fillies and mares today and what a nice group for this 7-furlong test over the main track. I go with Finite (5), who is shipping her after a win in the G3 Chilukki Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 21. Two huge efforts in a row for this 3YO daughter of Munnings, after returning to the dirt and following an extended layup. Looks like she is back in fine fiddle for HOF trainer Steve Asmussen. Has the closing style to nab this one. But it is her first try West of the Mississippi River, too. Test. Merneith (2) will stretch out from the 6 furlong distance today. Has never been this 7-furlong length before. She showed a nice closing kick last time out at KEE in a Stakes event. Came from 7th to win by a short neck. Has talent. Will be tough if she breaks well and can throttle back just a hair. Works are spot on. I bet the 5-2 across the board and then box those two in the exacta. I will key the 5-2 over/under the 8-4-3-11-9-10 in two smaller units.

9th: 9-1-10/8-3/4-5/6-7/2…G1 American Oaks Stakes…This is a G1 event to be contested at the 11/4 mile distance over the turf course for the 3YO fillies. I go with the proven commodity — G1 winner Sharing (9). This one threw a bit of a disappointment last time out when she was 4th in the G1 Matriarch at Del Mar. But that was off a bit of a layup, and she was beaten less than a full length. In 8 career starts, she has 5 wins, a second and a third. Never been this long before and that is a true question. Can she sustain her run for 11/4 miles? We shall see. But she does have the class. Lots of that. Red Lark (1) could add some real value to this play. The ran a better-than-looks 4th in the G1 QE II Cup at KEE last time out. Winner that day came back to run lights out in the Breeders’ Cup, too. Before that trip East, this one won the G1 Del Mar Oaks. Has style and stroke. Look for her late. Neige Blanche (10) ships West after running 3rd in the G1 Belmont Oaks last time out. Look for more here. Looks ready for a big effort. I bet the 9-1 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I will key the 9-1 over/under the 10-8-3-4-5-6-7 in two smaller units. Love the 9. Just love the 9.

10th: 4-3/6-2/1-5…G1 Malibu Stakes….What a race and what a way to wrap up the 2020 racing season, with just a week to go. This one has the skill and the depth to be a whirlwind from start to finish. But I like a horse that can finish. And, finish first. That’s the reason I like Charlatan (4). This 3O son of Speightstown comes from one of the most underrated sires of our time. The sire throws winners all over the place, and big time winners, too. This one truly is a perfect 3-for-3. DQ’d after the win in Arkansas and idle since with a tender ankle. Looks poised now. Looks poised and dangerous. I go here. And, I go big. Love this one. Key Play of the Day / Night & Maybe the Year. I bet the 4 to win/place and then key the 4 over/under the rest of the numbers in the exacta. Don’t throw out or under-estimate Thousand Words in here, too. Could add some punch to the exotics. I go strong on Charlatan in the horizontals, too. Will single in some bigger tickets, for sure.

11th: 9-8-10/1-2/3-4/5-7/6…Lady of Shamrock Stakes…The last race of the day and another turf Stakes event. This one to be run at the flat 1-mile distance and for the 3YO fillies, too. Interesting group, but I will give a very slight edge to Warren’s Showtime (9). California-bred won the G3 Autumn Miss here in October against open company. Has 4 wins in 5 tries over this course. Has 5 wins in 8 tries at the distance. Good one. Counterparty Risk (8) is moving up from a MSW win to the Stakes level. But don’t dismiss. Don’t be foolish. Trainer Chad Brown ships West for a reason. He believes. Gets a top rider, to boot. Dangerous. Very dangerous. Annangel (10) won her NA fadeout in October at Del Mar. Spun to the lead early. Never gave it up. Moves up to face Stakes company for the first time here. Look out. Speed can be a tough thing to pass. I bet the 9-8 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exactas. I will key the 9-8 over/under the 10-1-2-3-4-5-7 in two smaller units.

Good Luck & All the Best / Gene