Twinspires.com Weekend Stakes: Where To Watch 12.24.10
Santa Anita will again open its doors on the day after Christmas, Sunday, December 26. This year, however, the “Great Race Place” will have a new look—after much debate, traditional dirt has been re-installed on the main strip, and in a bit of an ironic twist, Southern California was deluged with a rain storm and training had to be suspended in the days leading up to the opening. The track was reopened Thursday and with some help from above, i.e., no more rain, conditions should be clear and fast for Sunday.
The two traditional opening day stakes will be run—the Malibu and the La Brea, both at 7 furlongs on dirt, and both Grade 1. The Malibu is the first race of the Strub series for 3-year-olds about to embark on their 4-year-old year; the La Brea is the first of the La Canada series for fillies of the same age. The other graded stakes to be run opening day is the G2 Sir Beaufort, for 3-year-olds going a mile on the grass. Trainer John Sadler could be in for a huge day, as he is set to saddle the morning line favorite in all three of the graded stakes.
A contentious field of 11 starters is expected for the Malibu, where Twirling Candy has been made the slight choice at 3-1. The son of Candy Ride has had some time off since his fourth-place finish in the G1 Goodwood on Oct. 2; he makes his dirt debut here after showing his ability on synthetic and turf, with two wins on each surface. Smiling Tiger has had a solid year with wins in the G1 Bing Crosby and G1 Ancient Title before getting the show dough in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Other starters include Noble’s Promise, coming off a win in the Jimmy V on the Breeders’ Cup undercard, and the lightly raced, but undefeated Alcindor.
The La Brea has drawn a large field of 13, led by Switch, last seen in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, finishing second to Dubai Majesty. Previous to that, she was caught late by a fast-finishing Zenyatta (imagine that!) in the G1 Lady’s Secret. Taking her on will be Champagne d’Oro, heroine of the G1 Test at Saratoga. She also competed in the BC Filly and Mare Sprint, finishing fourth. Others to consider are the Bob Baffert-trained pair of Always a Princess and Bonnie Blue Flag, and Malibu Pier, who hails from the Carla Gaines barn.
Sidney’s Candy will probably be out gunning in the Sir Beaufort, sandwiched between the La Brea and the Malibu. He was the pacesetter in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, fading to sixth in the stretch, losing to the incomparable Goldikova. Facing Sidney’s Candy are eight others, including Indian Firewater, who is stepping up into graded competition for the first time, and Sebastian Flyte, exiting a runner-up performance in the G1 Hollywood Derby.
Also coming out of the Breeders’ Cup Mile is The Usual Q.T., entered in Santa Anita’s Monday feature, the G2 San Gabriel. The Usual Q.T. finished third that day, and is among the field of ten in this nine furlong turf test. The Jim Cassidy trainee is a dual Grade 1 winner and sports a perfect three-for-three over Santa Anita’s grass course. He meets another son of Unusual Heat here, Unusual Suspect, a winner last out in the much longer (1 ½ miles) G1 Hollywood Turf Cup. Also entered is two-time winner of the San Gabriel, Proudinsky, whose last out was a second-place effort in the G2 Citation when coming off a long lay-off.