Santa Anita New Year’s Day 2022 Picks and Preview

On Saturday, January 1, Santa Anita will feature four graded stakes races including the Grade II Joe Hernandez Stakes and a trio of Grade III races (The Sham, The Robert J. Frankel, and the La Canada Stakes). I break all the graded stakes races down on The Win Place Show podcast and YouTube channel, so check those out to get more in-depth analysis of the biggest races. Additionally, kick the New Year off right by getting into the games at StableDuel where you can enter a $75 contest with a guaranteed $10,000 payout as well as a $10 contest with a guaranteed $1,500 payout. StableDuel has big money, small money, and free games for every level of handicapper. Get in the action and have some fun! How? Download the StableDuel app and then pick 10 horses with your $50,000 fantasy budget. If your stable comes out on top, you’re a winner! In addition to picking the winners below, I’ll also include the “price” in the StableDuel contest.

Race 1

Post time: 3:00 PM ET

Distance: 6 furlongs

Type: $67,000 Maiden Special Weight

Age: 3-years-old

Surface: Turf

Overview: Okay, let’s start off 2022 with some horses looking for their first career win. It’s important to remember that on January 1, most horses officially become a year older, so races that were for two-year-olds last week are not for three-year-olds this week. So, this is still a young group with a few making their maiden start. Two horses, Jack Sixpack (10-1) and Liberty Forever (5-2) enter the race having recently been gelded. Liberty Forever is the morning line favorite and is returning to turf for the first time since her maiden effort, which was a close third place effort. He should be forwardly placed but tends to lose ground beyond five furlongs, so I’ll look elsewhere for the winner. Who’s Candy (4-1) will also be on, or near, the lead and is coming off a nice maiden effort where he finished second but again lost ground toward the end. His last workout was six-furlongs, which is a throwback training method of working the horse out at the distance of the race he’s going to run. Worse Read Sanchez (8-1) may prefer turf after a poor maiden effort on dirt. His dam never ran on grass, but his siblings have done well in turf sprints and his workouts look fresh. Of the first-time starters, I think Divine Rascal (15-1) and Magnificent Ride (8-1) both offer a lot to like. Both horses have been posting strong workout figures leading into the race and both have solid turf pedigrees, particularly Magnificent Ride who should also embrace distance. Finally, look for Street Humor (4-1) to sit behind the early speed. He demonstrated the ability to run well at a mile on turf and could pick up some pieces given that there are questions of stamina up front.

Win: Magnificent Ride ($3,000)

Place: Worse Read Sanchez ($3,000)

Show: Street Humor ($7,000)

Race 2

Post time: 4:30 PM ET

Distance: 6 furlongs

Type: $67,000 Maiden Special Weight

Age: 3-years-old (fillies)

Surface: Dirt

Overview: We go from a crowed maiden field on dirt to a five-horse maiden field on dirt. Such is life on the west coast. You are not going to find much morning line value in this race as all five horses are bunched between the favorite Queen of Thorns (8-5) and the long shot Distorted Queen (5-1). Only one horse, Manorelli (7-2) has run before where she posted a fourth place finish out of 12 horses at Los Alamitos. Additionally, she had a rough trip that first time out and while her workouts figures look a cut below what they did prior to her maiden, I think there is reason to expect improvement. Additionally, her trainer, Luis Mendez, wins 27% of his maiden second starts, albeit with a small sample size. Speaking of trainers, Jonathan Wong, who trains Distorted Queen and Everystepoftheway (7-2), wins 22% of his first starts. From a pedigree standpoint, Distorted Queen has some nice figures underneath with her dam posting strong dirt route figures while Queen of Thorns siblings have shown a propensity for doing well in dirt sprints. Even after you mix it all together, there are still a lot of unknowns, but I feel like going with the two queens is probably a good starting point and Manorelli offers good value for a horse with a strong trainer and who can clean things up from his maiden effort.

Win: Manorelli ($7,500)

Place: Queen of Thorns ($9,400)

Show: Distorted Queen ($6,000)

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Race 3

Post time: 5:00 PM ET

Distance: 6 furlongs

Type: $67,000 Maiden Special Weight

Age: 3-years-old 

Surface: Dirt

Overview: Despite over half the field having run previously, the morning line favorite is a horse that is making his debut, Smuggler’s Run (8-5). He does boast some incredibly impressive workout figures and his siblings have had a good amount of success on dirt. Of the horses that have run previously, Heaven’s Music (3-1) is stepping up from maiden claiming races but has shown the propensity to not win as he’s coming in second an amazing four times in six career starts. In his defense, he may have been running at too short of a distance as his best efforts have come when they’ve stretched him out to six furlongs, and he is typically gaining ground at the end. It is also noteworthy that he was gelded on December 3rd. Big Impact (5-1) feels like probably the best bet of the other horse to hit the board given his outside post and that this is his second race back from a brief layoff. If you toss his turf performance, his two dirt races are respectable for this field and should prove enough to hit the board. Bill Buckner (4-1) is the other intriguing first-time runner and while he’s got great pedigree up top (Speightster) he doesn’t have a much-proven dirt sprint pedigree underneath or with his siblings, who prefer turf. Finally, Agador Spartacus (5-1), after a brief foray into turf miles, showed the ability to pass horses last time out on dirt but has only worked out once since, which tends to be a red flag.

Win: Heaven’s Music ($8,000)

Place: Smuggler’s Run ($9,400)

Show: Big Impact ($6,000)

Race 4

Post time: 5:30 PM ET

Distance: 6 furlongs

Type: $25,000 Claiming

Age: 4-years-old (fillies & mares)

Surface: Turf

Overview: After a trio of maiden races, we move to a solid claiming race filled with a lot of familiar names to west coast racing. Early on, the field will be chasing Cheap Cheap Cheap (8-1) and morning line favorite Trickle In (3-1). Trickle In, who regularly fades down the stretch is getting significant class relief and recently beat Invincibella (7-2) in a $40,000 claiming race. Meawhile, Cheap Cheap Cheap is coming off a seven-month layoff and has been working out on synthetic at Golden Gate. The race represents a step up in class, which does not seem like a great combination coming off such a long layoff. Henny’s Crazy Train (5-1) is a filly I really like and it’s an intriguing move to the turf for her as she only has one turf race in her experience, which was a 6th place finish at Colonial Downs back in July but that was also over a mile and at a higher level. Her speed figure from that race wasn’t bad and she’s won multiple sprint claiming races on dirt in recent months. However, the horse I really like in all this is Swirling (5-1) as she clearly prefers turf but gets run on dirt far more than she should. Returning to her preferred surface will be a big positive as she beat second favorite Invicibella two races ago. Too Much Heaven (5-1) may have finally found her preferred race, turf sprinting, based upon her effort last time out. While she finished fifth, she was only a length back from winning and was in contention throughout. She turns in very consistent speed figures on turf and cutting back from a mile might be what she needs. I don’t love the inside post for her, but she usually forwardly placed so I do not think it will be a significant disadvantage. A longer shot to consider is Magical Gray (8-1) as she’s rounding back into form after a long layoff and has been posting strong workouts leading up to the race.

Win: Swirling ($6,000)

Place: Trickle In ($8,000)

Show: Too Much Heaven ($6,000)

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Race 5

Post time: 6:00 PM ET

Distance: 6 furlongs

Type: $40,000 Maiden Claiming

Age: 3-years-old

Surface: Dirt

Overview: One final maiden claimer before we get to four consecutive graded stakes races. Morning line favorite Mad Steven (9-5) gets the inside post and has shown a knack for coming close but not quite winning the last few times out. His speed figures are improving, and he keeps inching closer to winning but he’s only worked out once since his last start, which was a sluggish four-furlong effort in nearly 51 seconds. King Rob (5-2) posted a strong speed figure his first time out while finishing a driving second place. This time out he gets a little more distance, while drawing a more outer post and should have a cleaner trip. Walking Boss (6-1) was recently gelded but I’m always skeptical of a horse running in a claiming race cheaper than it cost to initially purchase him. Fort Bridger (6-1) is making his debut but has shown solid speed in workouts, has good pedigree, and gets the far outside post position. Curly Esa (6-1) showed significant improvement behind his first and second effort and is making a slight cut in competition, but I still have questions about her stamina at six furlongs given that she lost five lengths to the favorites over the last furlong. This feels like a race where King Rob could win going away if he gets the right trip but there is value to be found underneath given the weakness of the morning line favorite.

Win: King Rob ($8,500)

Place: Fort Bridger ($5,000)

Show: Curly Esa ($5,000)

Race 6

Post time: 6:30 PM ET

Distance: 6 ½ furlongs

Type: Joe Hernandez Stakes – Grade II

Age: 4-years-old and up

Surface: Downhill Turf

Overview: Let’s kick off the graded stakes action with a fun race on the downhill turf course. Generally, due to the undulating nature of the downhill course, you like to see horses who have a little more heft and distance in their past performances since it can tax a horse more than a traditional 6 ½ furlong race. In this particular race, it’s hard to look past the two favorites, Beer Can Man (5-2) and Commander (3-1), who raced against each other last time out in a $100,000 race and were separated by only a head. Beer Can Man has only been running five-furlongs since coming back from a six-month layoff but he’s shown a lot of class in those three races with two victories and a second at the Grade III Turf Monster. Despite the short sprints he’s been running lately, he has run, and won, at over a mile in the past which gives me faith in his ability on this course. He should have an ideal trip sitting behind Momos (4-1) reasonable pace. He’s broke well from the inside post position in his last two efforts, so I’m not concerned about post position. Meanwhile, Commander looks equally strong entering the race and has won at this distance at Santa Anita before. He’s a remarkably consistent horse who is always in the money but where Beer Can Man has won 50% of his career races, Commander has only won 25% of his and seems to always come up just short in the stakes races. Momos should not be dismissed simply because he’s a frontrunner as he is likely to set a very reasonable pace and doesn’t fade too much. However, he is stepping up in distance, which is a slight cause for concern. Beyond those three there are some issues with many of the others. Cupid’s Claws (8-1) is taking a massive cutback in distance having run over 1 ½ miles the last two times out and I’m not confident in his tactical sprint speed. Delaware (6-1) is coming off a five-month layoff and has switched trainers and coasts while cutting back from routes to sprints. Chewing Gum is the most intriguing of the non-favorites since he’s posted solid speed figures, run in big races, and showed he can run the distances, but his running style is a little concerning given that he’s a deep closer in a field that won’t have much speed for him to run into. That said, the last half furlong might just give him the distance to overtake Momos and add a little value to the board.

Win: Beer Can Man ($8,500)

Place: Commander ($8,000)

Show: Chewing Gum ($6,000)

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Race 7

Post time: 7:00 PM ET

Distance: 1 mile

Type: Sham Stakes – Grade III

Age: 3-years-old

Surface: Dirt

Overview: A very small field for this Kentucky Derby prep race. I do not see long shot Degree of Risk (12-1) making an impact on the race and there is a chance that he’s a morning scratch and we end up with the always dreaded four-horse stakes race. The remaining four horses are tightly bunched in the odds and ability with all posting comparable speed figures and all coming into the race with legitimate questions. Mackinnon (3-1) hasn’t run on dirt since his poor maiden effort and is coming off a 3rd– place finish at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. That said, he has decent dirt pedigree, particularly underneath, and his workouts on the dirt are tremendous so I’m optimistic he’ll perform well. The other major question in this race will be the pace. Both Newgrange (2-1) and Rockefeller (8-5) are the obvious early speed horses but they are also both Bob Baffert horses, which means they won’t push each other for an unreasonable pace. Given the size of the field and the likely pedestrian pace, it makes this a hard spot for Oviatt Class (7-2), which is a horse I absolutely love, but he needs more distance, or a hot pace and he won’t get either here. The positive for Oviatt Class is that because it’s such a small field, he should be much closer to the lead than normal, and his closing kick is impressive, but we’ll see who has enough in the tank turning for home. Newgrange is stepping up in distance but ran a beautiful maiden against a solid field and has emerged from that race working out beautifully. Rockefeller seems like a vulnerable favorite given his performance at the Grade I American Pharoah where he faded mightly down the stretch and was overtaken by Oviatt Class. His most recent race was a victory at the Grade III Nashua Stakes, but the field was weak and I’m not sure he’s a two-turn horse. At least, not yet.  

Win: Mackinnon ($8,000)

Place: Oviatt Class ($7,500)

Show: Newgrange ($9,000)

Race 8

Post time: 7:30 PM ET

Distance: 1 1/8 miles

Type: Robert J. Frankel Stakes – Grade III

Age: 4-years-old and up (filles & mares)

Surface: Turf

Overview: This is a really fun race with the largest field of the graded stakes race for the day and has a lot of strong contenders. Luck (8-5) is the appropriate morning line favorite given her great performances in her three races in North America. If there is a knock on Luck, it’s that she’s been denied the last two times out by a narrow margin. However, she’s stepping down in distance and her previous efforts were also against good competition in Neige Blanche and Going to Vegas. The horse that intrigues me is Bodhicitta (8-1) who will be getting blinkers and is breaking from the inside post. Bodhicitta is getting class relief coming into this Grade III race as she ran an aggressive 2021 campaign that features all Grade I and Grade II races. She held her own in most of those. The last two efforts do not look great on paper, but one of those was coming off a two-month layoff and then the other came three weeks later in a Grade I. Entering this race, she has about five weeks rest, her workouts look fresh, and she’s got one of the hottest turf jockeys, Kent Desormeaux, riding her. Add to that she’s always performed well at this distance, and I feel like this is a horse you can get behind that will offer good value. Mucho Unusual (5-2) is the second favorite but has some red flags. Let’s start with the positive, the horse has never finished off the board at Santa Anita. A perfect 12-12 finishing in the money. That’s the sort of reliability you crave when betting on races. On the flip side, she came off a 7-month layoff to win by a nose in an allowance race and then promptly got another two-month layoff coming into this effort. Her workouts look fine but she’s going to have to contend with Bodhicitta on her inside who will likely try to sit second behind the presumptive frontrunner Moraz (6-1). Speaking of Moraz, she’s an interesting horse in that she does not run on turf often but does well when she does. This is a huge step up in class but at the price she’s not a bad horse to look at in deeper exotics. Finally, England’s Rose (5-1) is the other horse to consider in this spot to round out a trifecta. She’s always been a little behind Luck in their previous two races but never too far off and she’s remarkably consistent with her speed figures and efforts. 

Win: Luck ($9,400)

Place: Bodhicitta ($3,000)

Show: England’s Rose ($6,000)

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Race 9

Post time: 8:00 PM ET

Distance: 1 1/16 miles

Type: La Canada Stakes – Grade III

Age: 4-years-old and up (fillies & mares)

Surface: Dirt

Overview: The final stakes race of the day might bring the best performance. I’m really excited to watch As Time Goes By (8-5) as she’s a filly that really impressed me last time out when she turned in a gutsy effort at the Grade III Bayakoa. She went into that race on a month’s rest after the blistering pace of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and she held up beautifully. She was under constant pressure on the lead from Warren’s Showtime and others and despite never getting much of a chance to get a breather, she kicked for home, dug in, and put away Warren’s Showtime while running away from the rest of the field. Moonlight d’Oro (3-1) was in the same race and finished a distant third, which was her second race after a 9-month layoff. She’s a consistent horse but hasn’t been able to post speed figures comparable to what she had prior to the layoff. Perhaps she needs more time to round into form but I’m not sure I think she’ll be able to make up the 6-length distance between her and As Time Goes By from their last effort. There are two ascending horses in the race, Velvet Slippers (5-2) and Park Avenue (3-1). I’m higher on Park Avenue because she’s shown some versatility in winning while on the pace to winning while coming from behind. Velvet Slippers beat Park Avenue three races ago but I’m worried that Velvet Slippers might get worn out by the pace As Time Goes By sets upfront since Velvet Slippers is likely going to be sitting second and I could see a scenario where she started to drop out around the fourth turn. Park Avenue has been working out great and while she’s stepping up in distance, I think she’s primed for a big effort coming off consecutive five-length victories. If you’re looking for a long shot, Cowboys Daughter (10-1) is the horse to go with as she’s run nicely on dirt in lower-level races and would be well-served to sit off the early speed.

Win: As Time Goes By ($9,400)

Place: Park Avenue ($8,000)

Show: Moonlight d’Oro ($8,000)

Race 10

Post time: 8:30 PM ET

Distance: 6 furlongs

Type: $20,000 Allowance

Age: 4-years-old and up

Surface: Turf

Overview: Closing out the card with a competitive turf sprint that features quite a few nice horses looking to start 2022 off with a win. Morning line favorite Aligato (7-2) will benefit from stretching back to six-furlongs as he simply ran out of room last time out at a shorter distance and he broke his maiden at 6 ½ furlongs. However, he’s got some good competition in this sport, including the horse to his inside, Brix (4-1). Brix only raced twice in 2021 and is coming off a two-month layoff entering the race but I think we could see a strong effort from time here. He had a difficult time in his last race as he stumbled and was bumped early but still managed to finish a close third against a good field. Umberto Rispoli is back on and is among the most trusted turf jockeys on the west coast. Riding with Dino (4-1) is another strong conder who has never missed the board since switching to turf after an 18-month layoff. The problem is that he has an annoying habit of not being able to close the deal so while he’s a safe bet to hit the board, I’d prefer to look elsewhere for the winner. He also could get sucked into a bit a hot pace given that several other horses, Dream Robber (30-1), Crossword (10-1), and Too Late (8-1), also want to likely get to the lead and that opens things up for deep closers. Of those, Crossword is the horse that strikes me as the best value play as he finished right behind Aligato and Riding with Dino last time out. While he was weakening late, he can do well at this distance and if he sits behind some of the early speed, he could get an ideal trip. Now, Rifey (6-1) is a deep closer but he’s transitioning to turf for the first time and has limited turf in his pedigree. Utlimately, I like the way the race sets up for Aligato and Brix. I think Brix will have less trouble this time around and show off his superior top-end speed.

Win: Brix ($7,000)

Place: Aligato ($7,500)

Show: Crossword ($1,000)

Get all of Matthew’s horse racing coverage by following him on Twitter at @failedtomenace, by subscribing to Amalfi Media’s YouTube channel, and following The Win Place Show podcast.

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