Key Races & Bets for Monday December 26th, 2022

Santa Anita Mathis Mile Stakes – Race 1 at Santa Anita – Post Time 2 PM Eastern

Top win contenders:
Handy Dandy shows up EVERY TIME he runs, especially this year in which he has seven first or second place finishes in 11 races and has been third or fourth the other four times. He’s run very well on the SA turf and particularly well at a mile on grass where he has a 3-2-2 record in seven races. This spring he missed by inches in the Singletary Stakes and by less than a length in the Pasadena Stakes and he’s moving down a peg in class off a fourth place finish in the tougher Grade 1 Hollywood Derby. What I like most is he gets a jockey change to Rosario, who has never ridden before, but when Rosario gets on for Miller (mostly in stakes) at Santa Anita they have won four of 19 in the past two years. Likely to go to post a big ignored compared to others, if Handy Dandy just runs back to his win at this mile trip in the Let It Ride Stakes one before last on 11/11, he can win this race.

Sumter beat Handy Dandy in February in the Pasadena and Singletary, both which he won. He’s winless in three since but he stretches out off a third place finish in a turf sprint and back to the distance where he’s a perfect two-for-two, with Smith getting back on after two races with other jockeys and having been aboard when he won the Singletary. The colt also put in a scintillating half-mile work coming into the race, 46 flat, suggesting on the stretch out he may go for the lead and play “come catch me” as he did in both the Singletary and Pasadena.

I’m a Gambler makes his U.S. debut and gets Prat so we must take notice. He has never run two turns but won two of his last four, in England, at seven furlongs and in fields of nine and 11 so if he’s ready he could be competitive. Balnikhov won the Bryan Station Stakes at Keeneland in October when last seen, closing from next to last in a field of 12. He won the Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar this summer at this mile trip as well, also closing from next to last, that time in a field of 13. He closed into 46 and change half-mile splits each time and that may not be the case here, noting when he only got a 48 half mile to close into in the Del Mar Derby he could only manage a fourth place finish.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Handy Dandy and Sumter to win at odds of 5 to 2 or higher.
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Handy Dandy and Sumter over Handy Dandy, Sumter, I’m a Gambler and Balnikhov
Handy Dandy, Sumter, I’m a Gambler and Balnikhov over Handy Dandy and Sumter

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Tropical Park Oaks – Race 5 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 2:11 PM Eastern

Top contenders:
My Philly Twirl gets slight preference among three contenders in this field of 10, the other two being Omixochitl and Personal Best. My Philly Twirl drops slightly in class off an eighth place finish in the Grade 3 Valley View Stakes at the end of October. She won right before that off a near five month layoff, and before the layoff she won a stakes here on the Gulfstream Park Turf, the Sanibel Island. That win this past April was her third in a row, ALL on this course and all under Leparoux, who gets back on after not having ridden her since May. The jockey change and class drop as well as back to the course she loves may give this filly a slight edge.

Omixochitl leads the field in wins with five, in 12 races. Two came on turf including one before last versus older. She moved to the all-weather Tapeta surface after that for the Cellar’s Shiraz Stakes last month and opened up in the stretch only to be run down and beaten three-quarters of a length. Back on the grass if she falls into a stalking trip like she did in that October race, she could run well enough to win or at least run second as she’s done three times. Like My Philly Twirl, Omixochitl likes the GP turf, with three first or second place finishes over it in four tries.

Personal Best gets the outside post but that may not be an issue as she won from the 11 post three back in November. She also won her most recent race, on turf as well, with Irad Ortiz, Jr. up for the first time and riding back today. Particularly considering she’s been first or second in her last four races, all on turf, this gal rounds out the top trio of contenders for our wagers involving this race.

Handicapper Picks

Win: 5 to 2 odds are the minimum threshold for considering win bets on all three contenders – My Philly Twirl, Omixochitl and Personal Best, and I would absolutely consider betting two of the three above those odds.

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Box Omixochitl, My Philly Twirl and Personal Best

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Tropical Park Derby – Race 8 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 3:42 PM Eastern

Top Contenders:
Red Danger, Stolen Base and Churchtown have the edge in this full field of 12 with two also-eligibles. One of those, Native Thunder, can be considered a contender should he draw into the race as well.

Red Danger is the one we’ll look to first for our profit, at least on win bets, as he’s rarely gone to the post as the favorite. Nevertheless he’s won three of nine on grass including the Pulpit Stakes on the course last December, Leparoux up same as today. He earned over $400K last year as a two year old but is winless in six races this year. However, a few of those are irrelevant particularly his most recent which was scheduled for grass but run on a sloppy dirt track. That was his first start in nearly six months and he stayed in the race to get into shape for his winter-spring campaign. Last April in his third start off the layoff, Red Danger rallied for second in the similar Cutler Bay Stakes and from the rail after saving ground today I think he’s going to pass most if not all of these in similar fashion.

Stolen Base has earned more than a half-million, winning or placing in six of 13 races. He only has two wins, one on turf and one on dirt, but the one on turf came in the Grade 2 American Turf Stakes this year on Derby Day and he was decently regarded at 5 to 1 that day. He ran poorly in three straight after that BUT finished second last time out in the same off-turf stakes Red Danger ran in and once again Stolen Base could be part of the exacta at the very least.

Churchtown wired the field in the Gio Ponti Stakes in New York last month to post the mild upset at 5 to 1 but he doesn’t need the lead so his outside post doesn’t concern me. He won a two-turn turf race two before last when rallying from sixth of 10 early and Junior Alvarado, who got familiar with him in the Gio Ponti, takes the mount back. The gelding has now run four “A” races in a row, winning three and missing by a neck in the other, and rounds out the main win contender group.

“IF” Native Thunder draw into the race he should get respect as he’s won two in a row and gets Irad Ortiz, Jr. for Todd Pletcher. He broke his maiden in June on dirt (in an off-turf race), then after five months off won an all-weather race at Gulfstream. He has tactical speed so may be a bit disadvantaged by his outside post but still fits with these if he runs.

With such a big field and opportunity for exacta profit we’ll consider three for the runner-up spot on some tickets – Axthelm, Steady On and Night Jumper, all with good recent form.

Handicapper Picks

Win: 5 to 2 odds are the minimum threshold for considering win bets on all three contenders – Red Danger, Stolen Base and Churchtown, and I would absolutely consider betting two of the three above those odds.

Box Red Danger, Stolen Base, Churchtown
Red Danger, Stolen Base, Churchtown over Red Danger, Stolen Base, Churchtown, Axthelm, Steady On, Night Jumper

If Native Thunder Draws in and if one of the other top contenders scratches, you can use him in the win position on the exacta tickets above.

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Ellis Starr

Ellis is a well respected handicapper and contributor of AmWager. He has been a public handicapper for more than twenty years, educating racing fans of all skill levels with detailed commentary few other handicappers provide.

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