Key Races & Bets for Saturday January 13th, 2024

California Cup Oaks – Race 5 at Santa Anita – Post Time 5:30 PM Eastern

Top win contender: Grand Slam Smile
Other contenders: Asada Fries, Sushi Sticks

Grand Slam Smile stretches out to two-turns on turf off a solid foundation of two sprints following a layoff. She won her comeback on 11/3 here at Santa Anita, at seven furlongs and easily by seven lengths. That was a stakes for California breds like this one. She then shipped to Golden Gate, where she was one-for-one after breaking her maiden at first asking in May of last year, and she ran second around the track to a horse that could not be caught. That was also a stakes race, but was not restricted to Cal-breds. Now she ships back down and before leaving trainer Specht’s northern California base put in a SPECTACULAR five furlong workout in 59.8 which was the fastest of 73 on the day. She’s bred to adore this two-turn turf trip as the other foal of the dam is four for nine in turf routes, including a stakes race, and with jockey Alvarado accompanying her and having been up for all five races to date, with nothing worse than a second place finish, Grand Slam Smile should be tough to beat.

Two others may be worthy of consideration for exactas. The first of the pair is Asada Fries, who won at this mile turf trip one before last on 11/23 and then wasn’t disgraced when third at this distance on dirt. Back on turf and reunited with Hernandez, up for the win, she could rebound to form good enough to be part of the exacta. Sushi Sticks broke her maiden at first asking at a mile on grass in August, which is a tough feat, then was overmatched in a grade 3 stakes. Shipping to Golden Gate for an open (not restricted) stakes on the main track she was running on for the first time she ran okay to be third and now back on the Santa Anita turf, with Prat getting on for the first time, she too has a shot to be part of the exacta. The reason I think both Asada Fries and Sushi Sticks are likely to finish second but not win is their best efforts earned 79 Equibase Speed Figures, compared to 93 and 85 for Grand Slam Smile’s last two efforts.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Grand Slam Smile is very probable to win, so fair (minimum) odds for a win bet at 7 to 5 and she may be a low odds overlay win bet above that threshold.

Exactas: Grand Slam Smile over Asada Fries and Sushi Sticks

Get up to $150 signup bonus and cashback rewards when you bet with AmWager.

Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf – Race 7 at Santa Anita -Post Time 6:30 PM Eastern

Win contenders: Stay and Scam, Madiha, Rose Maddox

Stay and Scam gets a good post (six) near the outside in this eight horse field, which is advantageous in a downhill sprint at Santa Anita like this race. Chancery Way gets the outside eight post and is the speed of the field, likely to open up early as she’s led from the start and through the opening half-mile in her last three sprints. However, NONE of those were on grass and the ONLY two times Chancery Way sprinted on turf she lost ground in the final eighth of a mile. On the other hand, Stay and Scam rallied from fifth to second, missing by just a half-length two races back on 11/4, then rallied from fourth to draw off easily by nearly five lengths on 12/1 in her most recent race. Gutierrez has been aboard for her last six races, including two wins on turf, and knows where to put Stay and Scam in the early stages for the best result. Better still, her last two Equibase Speed Figures, of 103 and 108, are tied for the best, and the best, in the field, and as a newly turned four year old, Stay and Scam may still have improving to do, not to mention the scintillating 58 flat best of 71 five furlong drill she put in just six days ago preparing for this race.

Madiha beat Stay and Scam in a downhill sprint on 11/4 (with a 103 figure) and was second in the similar California Distaff Handicap at this trip one month earlier. However, she had the seven and nine posts for those races and gets the rail today. Espinoza rode her exceptionally in both those races and rides back and if not for the difference in post position she might be the top pick.

Rose Maddox won the Distaff Handicap in October at the trip, beating Madiha by a couple of lengths and earning a 100 figure. She finished fourth in the OPEN (not restricted like this race) Senator Ken Maddy Stakes one month later and has been away for a couple of months since. Prat getting on is a good sign and this filly can close very well and is very competitive, as evidenced by the fact she’s finished first or second in 14 of 18 career races and seven of nine last year.


Handicapper Picks

Win: We must start with Stay and Scam, given her post, recent workout and dominant last race figure, so we should consider betting her to win at odds of 8 to 5 or higher.

Fair odds on both Madiha and Rose Maddox are 5 to 2 and a second win bet can be considered at or above that threshold on the one of the two at the highest odds near post time.

Exactas: Stay and Scam over Madiha and Rose Maddox
Box Stay and Scam and Madiha
Box Stay and Scam and Rose Maddox

Get up to $150 signup bonus and cashback rewards when you bet with AmWager.

Turf Classic Stakes – Race 9 at Santa Anita – Post Time 7:30 PM Eastern

Top win contenders: Aligato, Bally’s Charm, Kings River Knight
Secondary contender: Carmelita’s Man

Aligato may go to post at the highest odds of the main three contenders so we’ll look at him first. His record of 2-5-5 in 14 races is one of the reasons he may be somewhat disregarded by the betting public but there is something which gives this horse a much higher probability to win than his odds suggest and that is the fact Prat gets on. In the 2022 Turf Classic, Prat got on Aligato off a nose defeat in allowance company and he WON the race decisively with a big rally from fifth. Three races later and making his third start following a nine month layoff, Prat got BACK ON (after not riding since the previous year’s win) and Aligato lost in this race by a neck. Aligato has finished second or third in ALL six races since then, only the race in March of last year with Prat, and not Prat gets back on. Aligato’s last race was a big one, as he rallied from 10 lengths back to miss by less than a length, with a CAREER-best 110 Equibase figure, setting him up for an effort good enough to win here.

Bally’s Charm won the similar Snow Chief Stakes in May of 2022 and although he hasn’t raced much since then, when he does show up he runs big races most of the time, with first or second place efforts in four of five since then. He returns from nearly three months off but has run big off rests previously, and his effort when last seen here at Santa Anita on October 28 was his best race ever where in the Lure Stakes he led from the start and was beaten by a half-length at the end by Easter, a multiple stakes winner. Berrios remains aboard and the 109 figure Bally’s Charm earned in the Lure is right there with the 110 last race figure Aligato earned so if both repeat those efforts we might see a heck of a race.

Kings River Knight has ONLY finished worse than second ONE TIME in 13 races. He shows up every time, particularly on grass where his record is 5-2-0 in eight races. He can run on the lead or from off the pace and although he faded to fourth in this race last year he’s been much improved since then, mostly as a result of Hernandez riding, because they are a perfect four-for-four together. Similar to Aligato and Bally’s Charm, considering Kings River Knight earned a 109 figure in his most recent race, he has about the same probability to win and only low odds will keep me from betting him to win, but nevertheless he is a must to use on any other tickets we play involving this race.

For some exacta and trifecta tickets we should include Carmelita’s Man, not only because he has finished first or second in 50% (14 of 28) of his turf starts, including eight at Santa Anita, but because he won the similar California Dreaming Stakes last August off a layoff similar to the one he’s coming back from today, and with Periera in the saddle as today. He’s also run well at this nine furlong trip.

Handicapper Picks

Win: ALL three horses – Aligato, Bally’s Charm and Kings River Knight, have fair odds of 5 to 2 and I won’t hesitate to be two of the three if their odds are above that level, betting the two with the highest odds near post time.

If two of the trio are above 5 to 2 this is a good opportunity to “Dutch” the bet, which means to allocate our wagers based on the odds. To do this we can use a Dutching tool. There’s a free “Dutching” tool at Amwager, which allows us to set the total amount we want to bet, then prorates our wagers for the best mathematical edge. This is just one of many tools, and perks, available for racing fans at Amwager.

Exacta and Trifecta Boxes:
Aligato, Bally’s Charm and Kings River Knight
Aligato, Bally’s Charm, Kings River Knight and Carmelita’s Man

Share This Story!

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.

Related Posts