The 11-race Santa Anita Handicap Day card on Saturday features 5 stakes, including Grade 1 fixtures in the Big ‚Cap and the Kilroe Mile. Six straight winners of the Kilroe Mile have paid $12-plus and we haven’t a Grade 1-winning turf mile favorite at Santa Anita in more than 6 years. Let’s get to work!
Smooth Like Strait is a Grade 2 winner and Grade 1-placed. Casa Creed, Count Again and Ride A Comet have scored at the Grade 2 level. Social Paranoia owns a Grade 3 win and is Grade 1-placed. Hit The Road and Flying Scotsman have won at the Grade 3 level. This is a pretty evenly matched field on class, though Casa Creed may have kept the strongest company lines over the longest span.
For a Southern California turf mile, this sure is light on early jazz. Smooth Like Strait may be quickest of the locals from the rail, but has been more of a first-over type in his last 6 starts. Casa Creed made the front in the Shadwell Mile, but typically also is in more of a spying position. Widest-drawn Flying Scotsman wired his last at Gulfstream and from the 10-hole likely will be sent to the front by Tyler Baze. Expect him to be the target. Hit The Road is well-drawn and has an aggressive early new pilot in Florent Geroux and should be in close proximity to the front.
#1 Smooth Like Strait – Ridden by Umberto Rispoli and trained by Michael McCarthy. Draws the rail, and has good early foot so Rispoli should have him in a good spot early in this race just off the pace. He has been running in graded stakes in his last 5 races so this is no different than what he has been facing. He has won 3 of those 5 races as well. Another thing to consider here is Rispoli is the best jockey at Santa Anita, and when teaming up with Mike McCarthy they win at a 30% rate. He’ll be right there all the way around the track.
#2 Hit The Road – Ridden by Florent Geroux and trained by Dan Blacker. Last 2 races have been very impressive when coming from just off the pace, and then rolling home for victories. The most recent came in the Grade 3 Thunder Road at Santa Anita. He will certainly get a similar trip here so he’ll be one to watch for. One knock against this one is Umberto Rispoli was riding this horse for his last 3 victories, and now Rispoli jumps to the #1 horse for this race.
#3 Social Paranoia – Ridden by Abel Cedillo and trained by Todd Pletcher. Well, if you think the race falls apart up front and a closer wins this race, then this is the horse for you. He is going to be absolutely flying late, but with a lack of likely pace I don’t think there will be enough time for this one for the amount of ground he’ll have to make up. It’s tough to take horses like these who are at the mercy of the pace, and I will be passing on this one.
#4 Royal Ship – Ridden by Mike Smith and trained by Richard Mandella. This one had won 5 in a row in Brazil before shipping into the states. They have tried him in graded stakes company, but he has just failed to do anything as of yet. I don’t think this is the right spot for that to change, either. He was racing against top of the line competition in Mo Forza, and Midcourt but he was beaten by plenty of others as well.
#5 Spirit Animal – Ridden by Joel Rosario and trained by Chad Brown. Has only tried graded stakes twice previously, and neither time it went well. The first try was back in 2018, and was a well beaten 5th. They tried again last time out at Del Mar and finished 6th this time. This is a nice horse, but is up against too much competition here. He will likely sit mid-pack, but I doubt he has the kick to stick with these in the stretch.
#6 Flavius – Ridden by Flavian Prat and trained by Chad Brown. The better of the 2 Chad Brown trainees in here. Flavius has a very impressive closing kick, but like Social Paranoia will likely be sitting too far back to make much of an impact on this race. Finished 2nd last time out in the Grade 2 Seabiscuit where he just couldn’t collar the leader after flying from 9th. He’ll need to make that same move, but against better competition as he lost to #8 Count Again who seems to be lesser than some of these on paper.
#7 Casa Creed – Ridden by John Velazquez and trained by William Mott. He has shown speed in the past, and will likely show some early speed here. He might not make the lead, but Casa Creed will certainly be sitting in the ideal position out of the gate. Just missed last time out in a Grade 3 at Gulfstream Park when sitting 3rd just off the pace. I expect the same type of ride here and once again will have a chance to run down the leader in the stretch.
#8 Count Again – Ridden by Juan Hernandez and trained by Phil D’Amato. Ran an absolute monster race in the Grade 2 Seasbiscuit when the pace absolutely fell apart and came backwards. He was 12th of 12 early in that race, and ran right by Flavius in the stretch. The next time out it didn’t go so well in the San Gabriel when he finished 7th beaten by 20 lengths as the favorite. I have a feeling that race is sort of an anomaly, and will likely be bet in this race, however I still don’t like the trip he has to have so I will likely pass. He is not as bad as his previous race, and likely not as good as the Grade 2 Seabiscuit. If he lands somewhere in the middle of those 2 races, he will likely land somewhere in the middle of this field at the finish line.
#9 Ride A Comet – Ridden by Drayden Van Dyke and trained by Mark Casse. Winner of his last 3 races including a Grade 2 and a Grade 3. He is coming into this race in perfect form, and looks to sit a really good trip here. The #10 Flying Scotsman will likely go right to the front, and I believe that Ride A Comet is going to draft in behind and sit mid-pack. This will really depend on how wide Ride A Comet is around the first turn. If Drayden Van Dyke can find a nice spot then he’ll be ready to roll turning for home.
#10 Flying Scotsman – Ridden by Tyler Baze and trained by Jack Sisterson. I believe this horse will wind up on the front end of this race by almost default. He went wire-to-wire last time out, and drawing the 10 hole is going to leave Tyler Baze little options other than to hurry this horse out. Now, that is not a bad thing because with the exception of the #1 Smooth Like Strait I don’t see anyone leaving with him to keep him wide. He should be able to get out and cross over pretty easily. I am not sure if he can hold on against a field of this caliber, but he is certainly going to take them a very long way.
1: #1 Smooth Like Strait
2: #9 Ride A Comet
3: #8 Count Again
4: #10 Flying Scotsman