BEST BET: RACE 3, EARRING
Front-runner TO THE BAR and late-runner DUKES UP are the principals in this $16k claiming route, non-winners of three lifetime. The edge goes to the front-runner. The handful of dirt miles this meet have mostly been won from a forward position (three gate-to-wire, one presser, one closer). TO THE BAR has been facing tougher, drops to the lowest level of his career, and if able to avoid a duel with the stretch-out sprinter to his outside, he can win with an up-front trip. If the pace gets hot, DUKES UP could be along in time. Both starts this summer at Del Mar were commendable (win, runner-up); he won on the Santa Anita dirt last summer. Seems like a two-horse race, although SINDYS LUCK has an upset chance stretching back out and returning to the level at which he was claimed two starts back. He can stay two turns. RIM DITCH is the aforementioned sprinter that could make it difficult for the top choice.
After two decent sprints, EXUBERANCE is ready to stretch out and win. The 2yo maiden filly finished a better-than-looked third in her debut, followed by an eventful trip next out finishing third in a restricted stakes. She was in tight quarters coming off the turn, altered course in midstretch to get off the rail, and was in heavy traffic again in deep stretch. Despite all that, she missed by only a length. With a pair of sprints under her belt, she should be set for her best around two turns. OUR SLICK CHICK split the field in a highly rated sprint two months ago at Del Mar. The winner Moonshine Memories won two Grade 1’s since. ‘CHICK is bred to run long, she appears to have trained well for her return, and her pedigree is fine for two turns. SHEZASPANISHDANCER finished a respectable fifth in her debut, a race from which the secondand third-place finishers returned to win. DR. ANN finished in front of OUR SLICK CHICK when third in her only start.
East Coast shipper EARRING faced better than she meets in this California N2X turf route. She was Group 2-placed in Europe prior to her East Coast campaign; her only off-the-board finishes were in graded stakes. The Saratoga race she exits (third place) had a good field. The winner was a stakes winner in France; the runner-up returned to finish second by a nose. EARRING makes her California debut for trainer Tom Proctor, whose East Coast shippers are 4-for-11 since the start of Del Mar. All systems go, first in two months. CORDIALITY wired N1X rivals at Del Mar, and could find herself loose on the lead in this ninefurlong race. She is vastly improved this season (two wins and a second), and will take these as far as she can. The turf course played fair to all running styles the first two weeks of the meet. LASEEN was briefly blocked into the lane, then finished willingly last out in a similar N2X at Del Mar. Her three starts at this level produced three in-the-money finishes. SPACE CADET might be ranked too low by this handicapper. She could get a cozy trip positioned second behind the speed.
STYLITUDE and SAUCE ON SIDE finished twothree in a maiden special-weight route for 2yo fillies at De Mar; they are the logical one-two preferences dropping to maiden-50 in this Santa Anita route. STYLITUDE has more tactical speed than her main rival; forwardly placed runners have held the edge this meet (small sample). SAUCE ON SIDE is the best closer, with two routes under her belt at Del Mar. The past five months, trainer Peter Miller and apprentice Evin Roman have won at a 28-percent clip (19-for-67). UNCHANGED drops from the stakes that race-2 selection Exuberance exits. First
time in for a tag, first time around two turns, UNCHANGED is likely to move forward against this easier cast.
Downhill specialist LITTLE BIT LOVELY returns from a brief freshening. She has won 3 of 8 on the hill, with one second and one third. She has a forwardly placed running style and gets a fivepound weight break (apprentice Roman). She looks like the speed of the field and can be gone. PLEASANT AS PIE also returns from a short freshening, with a history of firing first start back. She won her debut; she won on this course in June returning from an extended break. Proven on the hill, realistically placed at the $40k claiming level, she is the best late threat. GIFT OF A STAR moves up in class and returns to turf following two solid efforts on dirt in summer/fall at Del Mar and Los Alamitos. Trainer Jack Carava has been on a roll the past year, his slow start this meet is only a minor hiccup. Carava won with 5 of his last 15 downhill starters. WEDDING BLUSH finished second on this course in May, at a slightly higher level. Her most recent start was a runner-up finish going five furlongs at Del Mar.
MISS RICOCHET ran a winning race in her comeback at Del Mar, runner-up pressing a strong pace while making her first start in eight months. Blinkers on second start back, drawn outside her pace rivals, logical choice to win with a pressing trip. KENTAN ROAD flashed speed and tired in her debut on turf. It was a useful debut prep for the surfaceswitch filly that will keep the top choice honest on the front end. First-time starter DURANGA arrives from Golden Gate, where she has been training exclusively on synthetic. Interesting move to bring her south and debut on dirt. Slow works difficult to gauge, but winning connections mandate respect. LOVELY LINDA adds more speed, while STARLET STORM is eligible to improve second start back.
DESERT GENERAL ran too good to lose last out, runner-up in a similar starter allowance at Del Mar. After breaking from post 9 of 9, he was caught six-wide into the first turn, dueled three-wide the rest of the way, shook away from his pace rivals, but got collared late by Dukes Up, a contender in race 1. It was a super effort by DESERT GENERAL, who does not require the front end for his best effort. The versatile gelding can set the pace or rally from off. Likely winner if he repeats his most recent effort. SECRET TOUCH finished a halflength behind Dukes Up in August, then sat out the Sept. 3 race the top choice exits. Fresh, proven over the Santa Anita main, logical contender. KONA DREAMS is a comebacker unproven on dirt. But his turf form is solid, his pressing style is the type that normally is effective on dirt. This is just his second try on the main track. Upset candidate. TRAPALANDA stretches out for the first time. The lightly raced gelding lost his chance last time when he broke slowly from an inside post in a sprint. Another upset candidate.
The 5yo maiden MILHAUD ran well both starts on the hill in spring, he drops for the first time to maiden-50, and is simply the fastest in the field. Although he is an older maiden with six starts, this would probably be the first time he will be favored. AWESOME HEIGHTS drops to the maiden-claiming ranks for the first time. He has been backing up in routes; that pattern sometimes leads to improved efforts turning back in distance. BELOVED HOLIDAY drops in class, and switches to turf. MEMBER STATE is a dropper with some speed, while SALDAMENTE has faced good company in most of his starts. He might be ranked too low by this handicapper. The move to turf is a question, but he is facing easier rivals.