Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome to our horse racing newsletter as we see how Santa Anita navigates these critical first weeks.
We couldn’t be happier to announce that veteran racing journalist Ron Flatter is joining the newsletter as a weekly contributor. Ron works for VSiN, the Vegas Stats & Information Network, located in, obviously, Las Vegas. He spent part of his career in New York, working for SiriusXM, CBS Sports Radio, WFAN and 1010 WINS. He spent time as a broadcaster in Australia and did stints at ESPN and Fox News Radio.
At VSiN, he’s both a host and reporter on all aspects of gambling but mostly horse racing. And, he produces the weekly Ron Flatter Racing Pod, which is a wealth of information, and I have repurposed it (with credit) in this newsletter.
As for him being here, I’ve pretty much given him a clean slate when it comes to topics. So, here’s Ron’s initial contribution. Take it away, Ron.
“Whether it is called recency bias or what have you done for me lately, the freshest images are typically what drive the odds in futures betting for the Kentucky Derby.
“There may have been an exception to that rule Wednesday, when undefeated Independence Hall won at Aqueduct in the Jerome Stakes, the first 2020 points prep for the Derby.
“Maybe it was the fact that he was on his toes in the paddock or slow to get out of the gate. Or maybe it was his four-length margin of victory, down from the 12 by which he won the Grade 3 Nashua on the the same course and distance two months ago.
“More likely, though, it was probably the exposure that most futures books already have on trainer Mike Trombetta’s colt that has started three-for-three. William Hill here in Nevada left him as its 8-1 co-favorite with Champagne Stakes winner Tiz The Law in its Derby futures. That has not changed since mid-November.
“William Hill is notoriously quiet about its racing odds, which are reputedly written primarily by media-shy CEO Joe Asher. So, whether they reflect smart money on those two colts or a position taken by the house, the numbers are left to speak for themselves. Frankly, they are not particularly attractive to anyone looking for a meaty price four months before the Derby, so it is no wonder that they did not budge after the Jerome.
“At the off-shore book Bovada, Independence Hall remained 12-1, which is where he has been since early December. Dennis’ Moment, last seen spinning his wheels in the Santa Anita starting gate as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, is still shortest priced at 11-1.
“In Europe, the choices for the Derby are much leaner, but the value is generally better for the 3-year-olds carrying shorter odds. According to Oddschecker.com, which monitors bookmakers based in England and Ireland, there are 43 horses listed vs. 132 at William Hill and 117 at Bovada. But the six favorites – Independence Hall, Tiz The Law, Dennis’ Moment, Breeders’ Futurity winner Maxfield, Los Alamitos Futurity winner Thousand Words and, for some reason, two-time Grade 1 loser By Your Side – are all best-priced at 20-1. Independence Hall actually shortened from 25-1 just before the Jerome.
“Bovada did move Jerome runner-up Prince Of Pharoahs, trainer Linda Rice’s colt by American Pharoah, from 80-1 to 66-1. William Hill kept him at 75-1. But otherwise, the Jerome did not create a ripple.
“It could be very different at Santa Anita with Saturday’s Grade 3 Sham Stakes, which includes three colts that are in the William Hill futures – Authentic (50-1), Azul Coast (75-1) and Scoring (125-1). An impressive performance by any of them promises to shorten the odds. For those not yet listed, an in-the-money finish would vault them into the future books, but not necessarily at the most attractive prices.
“Johnny Avello authored the pre-eminent Derby odds at the Wynn Las Vegas before his move 15 months ago to the DraftKings Sportsbook, which is not yet allowed to post racing futures. By now he would have had longer, more attractive odds for more than 400 horses on his sheets, including some that have yet to see their first races.
“What made Avello different was that he was not afraid to post long odds, and he used to pay for it. Two years ago he absorbed a $150,000 hit, taking a $500 bet in exchange for writing a 300-1 Derby for a horse that had yet to debut. Yes, that horse was Justify.
“Maybe that is why between William Hill, Bovada and the Europeans, no one is offering odds longer than 200-1 on any Derby hopeful.
“Then again, no one said that getting rich by picking the winner of a May 2 horse race was supposed to be easy on Jan. 3.”
Ron Flatter is a host and reporter who covers horse racing for the Vegas Stats & Information Network, which is available at SiriusXM 201 and to subscribers at VSiN.com. His Ron Flatter Racing Pod is available Friday mornings via Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher and at VSiN.com/podcasts.
Santa Anita preview
Remember a few days ago when I was touting Santa Anita’s big fields. Ahhh, hold on as we see just a little bit of shrinking. Friday’s nine-race card begins at noon. There are four races on the turf.
I couldn’t really find a feature but there are two $57,000 purse races, but we’re going to pick the sixth as the feature because the third is Cal-breds, which generally have slightly inflated purses. Plus, the sixth race has five horses, the sure sign of a feature race (except last week.)
It’s a one mile allowance/optional claimer on the turf for 3-year-old fillies, which really means 2-year-olds who are three days into their new age.
The favorite, at 9-5, is Savvy Gal for trainer Richard Baltas and jockey Joel Rosario. She has won one of three and was second last out in an allowance. She was fourth in the Surfer Girl at Santa Anita. The second favorite, at 2-1, is Gingham for Bob Baffert and Drayden Van Dyke. She needed four shots to break her maiden and followed that up with a fourth in the Grade 1 Starlet at Los Alamitos. Post time is 2:38 p.m.
Here are the field sizes in order: 6, 5, 7, 6, 9, 5, 9, 9, 10.
Ciaran Thornton’s SA pick of the day
RACE THREE: No. 3 Avalon Ride (6-1)
Avalon Ride is one for one here at Santa Anita and last out at a mile ran a closing fourth, missing by less than two lengths. On the gallop out the horse moved to the front with ease. Friday she gets a little more real estate to work with. The 6-1 morning line is great value for us. The favorite in this race, Rose Dunn, ran second in the same race. I prefer this price though as well as the five-pound weight break under apprentice jockey J.C. Diaz.
Sunday’s result: Mr Unusual broke alertly and was right in the mix and looked ready to win into the stretch but something happened and the horse was eased to last.
Ciaran Thornton is the handicapper for Californiapick4.com, which offers daily full card picks, longshots of the day, best bets of the day.
Los Alamitos weekend preview
It’s time to turn things over to marketing and meda guru Orlando Gutierrez, who will tell us about the upcoming weekend at Los Alamitos. Orlando, the floor is yours.
“Cesar Franco had an excellent opening week at Los Alamitos Race Course, winning with three of his first seven quarter-horse mounts. His red-hot start landed him at the top of the standings plus his two third-place finishes propelled him to an in-the-money ratio of 71.4%. Franco will look to keep the momentum going when he pilots a pair of talented quarter horses on Friday night.
“His first mount on will be Messanger, an Oregon-bred gelding by Favorite Cartel, looking for his first win in five starts. The Luke Lindsey-trainee will be in the sixth race against a group that includes Vegas Corona, who finished fifth in a trial to the Texas Classic Futurity at Lone Star Park on Oct. 19.
“Franco will then ride Randy Dickerson and CM Whatta About Me, the fourth-place finisher in last year’s Wild West Futurity, in the $11,825 eighth race at 330 yards. The Lindsey-trained gelding made only one start in 2019 and enters after a decent 18.30 second work at 350 yards on Nov. 5. He’ll be facing some solid opponents on Friday including Grade 2 Golden State Derby finalist Jess Motions and the allowance-placed runners El Soverign, The Divas Dynasty, Stel Chancey and Blaze Thru Fire.
“There are three allowance races on Saturday’s racing program beginning with the fifth race, a $12,000 race for quarter horses and thoroughbreds at 870 yards. The field will be led by Goldie’s Hills, who has finished second or better in his last three races at Los Alamitos. Brave Court, a four-length winner on Dec. 7, and local winner Royal Blue Grass will also compete in this event.
“De Capitator Bar, winner of the $75,000 Cherry Creek Futurity at Arapahoe Park, will make his Los Alamitos debut when he headlines the 300-yard allowance in the seventh race. The Colorado-bred colt by Capo De Capi has shown nice quickness in all three of his outings at Arapahoe Park and has two wins in three career starts. He’ll face a solid field featuring Golden State Million Futurity trial winner Royally Significant and Ed Burke Million Futurity finalist Ventura Jess JQM.
“The final allowance is the eighth race and will be headed by Favorite Mongoose, who finished second to Grade 1 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity fastest qualifier Nomadic in the $30,000 Ed Burke Memorial Juvenile Stakes on June 23. Shez Divine, third in the John Deere California Juvenile Stakes, is among the other top contenders in this race.
“Los Alamitos will host the first open Grade 1 quarter-horse stakes race of 2020 on Sunday night when 10 fillies and mares face off in the $100,000 Charger Bar Handicap. The field will be led by Thermonuclear Energy, who won this race last year, and Tequila Sangria, who defeated older mares when winning the Grade 1 Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap as a 3-year-old last year. As And Js, who finished second in the Mildred Vessels, and multiple stakes winner Tough To Figure are among the other top contenders in the Charger Bar, which is named in honor of the 1973 Champion of Champions winner and this track’s all-time leading mare in stakes wins with 18.”
“Mark Jasso, an up-and-coming jockey who had been riding mostly at Turf Paradise, enjoyed his first ever victory at Los Alamitos when he guided Running Springs to victory last Saturday night. For his career, Jasso has won 49 quarter-horse races from 314 starts with his biggest wins coming with First Lady Perry in the $48,735 Turf Paradise Futurity and with One Famous Icon in the $33,440 AQRA Derby.
“A celebration of life in honor of Barbara Pica, wife of longtime horse owner Bernie Pica, will be held on Saturday at Tustin Ranch Golf Course from noon to 3 p.m. Barbara was an ever present figure in the Vessels Club at Los Alamitos and rarely missed a night of racing. Bernie and Barbara Pica enjoyed their biggest win 1998 when their quarter horse Two Steppin Alibi won the Grade 1 Marathon Handicap at 870 yards.”
Chris Wade’s LA pick of the day
RACE SEVEN: No. 1 Wrong Impression (8-1)
Perennial leading quarter-horse trainer Paul Jones will send out this big-bodied gelding for his first start in 35 nights. In his most recent outing, Wrong Impression became fractious in the gate prior to breaking slow and then losing his racing path to quicker rivals. After the tough start, this entrant finished fairly well while under a hold for a much-better-than-looked fifth-place finish versus slightly tougher rivals. Worth a look at this price and could enjoy a clear path from the rail tonight.
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Now, the star of the show, Friday’s entries.
Santa Anita Entries for Friday, January 3.
Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 4th day of a 60-day meet.
1 Mile. Purse: $18,000. Claiming. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $12,500.
|1||Union Station||J.C. Diaz, Jr.||119||Eoin G. Harty||5-2||12,500|
|2||Gryffindor||Edgar Payeras||124||Richard Rosales||8-1||12,500|
|3||Tiz a Slayer||Brice Blanc||124||Alexis Barba||6-1||12,500|
|4||R B Eye||Evin Roman||124||Vann Belvoir||5-1||12,500|
|5||Norski||Jorge Velez||119||Hector O. Palma||4-1||12,500|
|6||Fast as Cass||Ruben Fuentes||124||Lorenzo Ruiz||8-5||12,500|
6 Furlongs. Purse: $22,000. Claiming. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $16,000.
|1||Imagineiamfastest||Abel Cedillo||124||Jack Carava||5-1||16,000|
|2||Toothless Wonder||Jorge Velez||119||Anna Meah||3-1||16,000|
|3||I Belong to Becky||Ruben Fuentes||124||Peter Miller||9-5||16,000|
|4||Black Storm||Heriberto Figueroa||124||Lloyd C. Wicker||7-2||16,000|
|5||Roaring Fork||Aaron Gryder||124||Sean McCarthy||5-2||16,000|
1 1/8 Mile Turf. Purse: $57,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000. State bred.
|1||Quinnie||Geovanni Franco||122||Carla Gaines||4-1|
|2||Moonless Sky||Drayden Van Dyke||124||Eddie Truman||7-2||20,000|
|3||Avalon Ride||J.C. Diaz, Jr.||117||Craig Anthony Lewis||6-1|
|4||Lucky Ms Jones||Tyler Baze||124||Philip D'Amato||5-1|
|5||Sapphire Kid||Tiago Pereira||124||Steve Knapp||6-1||20,000|
|6||Brahms Command||Edwin Maldonado||122||Richard Rosales||6-1|
|7||Rose Dunn||Flavien Prat||122||Brian J. Koriner||5-2|
6½ Furlongs. Purse: $18,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $12,500.
|1||Laker Jet||Jorge Velez||119||Robert A. Bean||5-1||12,500|
|2||Diosa||Abel Cedillo||124||Robert B. Hess, Jr.||8-5||12,500|
|3||Bellazano||Assael Espinoza||124||Shelbe Ruis||5-2||12,500|
|4||Queen Carmelita||Heriberto Figueroa||124||Rafael DeLeon||6-1||12,500|
|5||Jabber Now||Tiago Pereira||124||Gary Stute||5-1||12,500|
|6||At the Margin||Fernandez Rojas||124||Jairo B. Monascal||5-1||12,500|
1 Mile Turf. Purse: $25,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $25,000.
|1||Greater Glory||Mauro Donoe||114||Neil A. Koch||20-1||25,000|
|2||Harper's Gallop||Ignacio Puglisi||124||Jack Carava||8-1||25,000|
|3||Diamond of Value||Ruben Fuentes||124||Alfredo Marquez||8-1||25,000|
|4||Tinnie||Flavien Prat||124||Richard E. Mandella||3-1||25,000|
|5||Dairy Kid||Edgar Payeras||124||Robert J. Lucas||20-1||25,000|
|6||Daddy's Melody||Abel Cedillo||124||Craig Dollase||8-1||25,000|
|7||Shelbydoodle||Joseph Talamo||124||Aggie Ordonez||8-1||25,000|
|8||Invincibella||Tyler Baze||124||Hector O. Palma||7-2||25,000|
|9||Point Hope||Drayden Van Dyke||124||Ronald W. Ellis||5-2||25,000|
1 Mile. Purse: $57,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $80,000.
|1||Gingham||Drayden Van Dyke||122||Bob Baffert||2-1|
|2||Navy Queen||Tiago Pereira||122||Scott Rollins||12-1|
|3||Shanghai Keely||Tyler Baze||120||Ari Herbertson||3-1|
|4||Rare Find||Abel Cedillo||122||Richard E. Mandella||3-1|
|5||Savvy Gal||Joel Rosario||122||Richard Baltas||9-5|
5½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. 3 year olds. State bred.
|1||Coalinga Road||Drayden Van Dyke||122||Carla Gaines||3-1|
|2||Austin's Boy||Efrain Hernandez||122||J. Eric Kruljac||6-1|
|3||Big Billy||Abel Cedillo||122||Daniel Dunham||15-1|
|4||George Herman Ruth||Joseph Talamo||122||Philip D'Amato||6-1|
|5||World O Luck||Agapito Delgadillo||122||Mike Puype||8-1|
|6||Bernie's Big Boy||Evin Roman||122||Marcia Stortz||30-1|
|7||El Diablo Rojo||Jorge Velez||117||Craig Anthony Lewis||8-1|
|8||Luvluv||Tyler Baze||122||John W. Sadler||5-1|
|9||Rookie Mistake||Mario Gutierrez||122||Doug F. O'Neill||5-2|
6½ Furlongs. Purse: $20,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000.
|1||Osteria||J.C. Diaz, Jr.||119||Clifford W. Sise, Jr.||15-1||20,000|
|2||Vidalia||Tiago Pereira||124||Bruce Headley||20-1||20,000|
|3||Chirp||Jorge Velez||119||Leonard Powell||8-1||20,000|
|4||Manresa||Brice Blanc||124||Thomas Ray Bell, II||4-1||20,000|
|5||Buyback||Edwin Maldonado||124||Jeff Bonde||7-2||20,000|
|6||Info's Treasure||Tyler Baze||124||Ian Kruljac||10-1||20,000|
|7||Suezaaana||Frank Johnson||124||Jesus Mendoza||10-1||20,000|
|8||Root Beer Rag||Agapito Delgadillo||124||William Spawr||6-1||20,000|
|9||Katsaros||Cerapio Figueroa||124||John W. Sadler||2-1||20,000|
1 Mile Turf. Purse: $33,000. Starter Allowance. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up.
|1||Red Bunting||Drayden Van Dyke||122||Ronald W. Ellis||8-1|
|2||Querelle||Joel Rosario||122||Peter Miller||3-1|
|3||Untouched Elegance||Brice Blanc||122||Richard Baltas||6-1|
|4||Bella Figura||Jorge Velez||119||Alfredo Marquez||8-1|
|5||Shanghai Truffles||Rafael Bejarano||122||Patrick Gallagher||12-1|
|6||Persephone||Flavien Prat||122||Peter Eurton||6-1|
|7||Trust Fund Kitty||Abel Cedillo||122||Val Brinkerhoff||4-1|
|8||Dulverton Darling||Ruben Fuentes||124||Andrew Lerner||8-1|
|9||Flying to the Line||J.C. Diaz, Jr.||117||Adam Kitchingman||8-1|
|10||Samandah||Mario Gutierrez||122||George Papaprodromou||20-1|