Santa Anita Park is back to racing for their fall meet after the start was pushed back because of the wildfires. It’s a big day on the west coast at Santa Anita, with 11 races on the schedule for a total of $1,666,000 in available prize money. Bob Baffert is hoping for a big day and an even bigger day next weekend.
Baffert has some entries at his home track of Santa Anita today and then has the favorite for the $1,000,000 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico. The Preakness doesn’t set up a Triple Crowd bid, but we might see a back-to-back winner in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Tiz the Law has officially been ruled out of the event.
Baffert is just looking to cash in on Saturday at Santa Anita Park. It could be a big payday if his horses come through, including two entries in the co-feature $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes (Gr. 1). Baffert also has an entry in the $300,000 American Pharoah Stakes (Gr. 1).
If everything plays out well for Baffert, it would be a nice afternoon at home. There are three $300,000 stakes races on the schedule at Santa Anita today. Head below for our free Santa Anita Park picks for September 26, 2020. TheSportsGeek has you covered at Gulfstream Park on Saturday as well.
Race 8 – American Pharoah Stakes
Post Time: 4:12 p.m. PST
Distance:1 1/16 Miles
The American Pharoah (Gr. 1) will get us started at Santa Anita Park on Saturday. This should be a solid 1 1/16 mile race for a $300,000 purse. Notable Exception and Spielberg are likely going to be tough to beat in this event. Notable Exception will get some attention at the betting window given his recent form. He was a winner in his debut on September 4 at Arlington over Duckdevil by 5 ¼ lengths in a $32,400 event.
This is going to be much tougher than that race. They don’t register on the same scale, but I think Notable Exception could have easily won that outing by more. After going into the stretch with the lead, Notable Exception cruised from there to bounce the competition. His form in the morning has been encouraging, most notably his most recent workout on September 12. Notable Exception completed 5 furlongs in 59.80 seconds in that morning outing.
Baffert’s Spielberg should provide Notable Exception and the rest of the field with a strong challenge. Spielberg placed in his first two starts. 2nd in a maiden event at Del Mar, and then followed up for a bold effort in the $250,000 Runhappy Del Mar Futurity (Gr. 1) on September 7. Spielberg finished 1 ¾ lengths behind the winner, Dr. Schivel in that race. I was on Dr. Schivel, so it was a good day.
Spielberg was able to beat two horses involved in this race, Weston and Dyn O Mite. Spielberg finished a spot ahead of Weston by 3 ¾ lengths. It was a race between Dr. Schivel and Spielberg and it finished that way. Spielberg won’t have to deal with a horse of Dr. Schivel’s level on Saturday, though. Spielberg is a $1,000,000 horse and expected to run well in this class. Expect him to have a good shot at the top prize in the American Pharoah Stakes.
Race 9 – John Henry Turf Championship Stakes
Post Time: 4:43 p.m. PST
Distance:1 ¼ Miles
The $200,000 John Henry Turf Championship is one of the most unique races in the US today. It’s the only downhill turf track with a right turn in the country. It’s a nice change up from the usual at Santa Anita Park.
There are some strong horses in this race, most notably Originaire and United. I’ve backed both of them in the past and was left satisfied. A total of eight horses are scheduled to run 1 ¼ miles on the turf in Race 9.
Originaire is 3 for 19 in his career with finishes of 2nd, 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 5th, 3rd in his previous six outings. While Originaire has been in good form, he’s failed to get over the hump and into the winner’s circle in a stakes race.
His three wins were two allowance outings and a novice race overseas in the UK. Originaire most recently won on February 29 in a $59,000 allowance event. That was a 5 ¼ length win in easy fashion for Originaire.
Despite failing to come up with a stakes win, Originaire has been close and placed in several before. He’s placed 2nd in three Grade 2 stakes races in the past, and showed 3rd in his most recent performance in the $200,000 (Gr. 2) Del Mar Handicap. Originaire finished a half length behind United in that race.
United has finished in the top-3 in nine straight races, which includes four wins and placing four times. Before finishing a half length ahead of Originaire in the Del Mar Handicap, United registered a hat-trick in three Grade 2 events. His last win was in the $200,000 Eddie Read Stakes (Gr. 2) over Sharp Samurai by a half length. United couldn’t get the fourth in a row, but a similar effort from his last race should suffice here for a win.
Race 10 – Awesome Again Stakes
Post Time: 5:14 p.m. PST
Distance:1 1/8 Miles
We will wrap up the day at Santa Anita Park with the most highly anticipated of the race of the day. Or at least, the way I see it, the Awesome Again Stakes is going to make for the most entertaining races.
The fact Baffert trains both Improbable and Maximum Security doesn’t do much for me, but those two should get into a battle in the stretch. Improbable is 6 for 13 in his career and looking for a hat-trick on Saturday.
He won the Hollywood Cup Stakes (Gr. 1) and Whitney Stakes (Gr. 1) by 3 ¼ lengths and 2 lengths. His most recent win was a big score in the $750,000 Whitney Stakes. Tom’s d’Etat was the favorite in that race, and couldn’t keep up with Improbable and By My Standards.
It was a disappointing effort by Tom’s d’Etat, but Improbable was excellent in that outing on August 1. Improbable has been in good form with two 5-furlong workouts of 59.40 seconds and 1:01.00 recently.
Baffert took over the 2019 Kentucky Derby “winner” after Jason Servis was arrested for doping Maximum Security and others. Maximum Security is best known for getting DQ’d because of interference in the Kentucky Derby last year.
He was the favorite, with millions of dollars ultimately changing hands with the disqualification. Maximum Security has won six straight races since placing in the Pegasus on June 16, 2019. His win in the Saudi Cup has been the subject of much discussion because of the drugs.
However, Maximum Security has bounced right back with wins in the $150,000 San Diego Handicap (Gr. 2) by a nose and $300,000 Pacific Classic Stakes (Gr. 1) by 3 lengths. Max is 10 for 12 in his career and still one of the finest active race horses in the world right now. I’m on Maximum Security to get to the winner’s circle once again on Saturday.