The Grade 2 Penine Ridge

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

A few things before we get to The Pennine Ridge. After a call like last week in The Preakness, this week almost must be better. Second, check out all the great coverage AmWager and Past the Wire are providing on The Belmont Festival at Saratoga. We’re taking you behind the scenes, past the wire, and giving some great wagering insight. You can find it all RIGHT HERE


As for The Pennine Ridge, it looks like we will have a rather short-priced favorite who may have been a bit exposed last out, thus being vulnerable here. The Godolphin runner Legend of Time went off short on Kentucky Derby day, and although a little washy in the paddock and post-parade, he had no solid excuse for his 5th-place finish. They will probably bet him back, and maybe we can beat him again.


White Palomino comes off a nice maiden win at Keeneland for Chad Brown and looked like a horse who belongs with this kind and potentially even better down the road. That said, he had a perfect trip against maidens and looked to me like he liked and wanted every part of the mile and three sixteenths. This is shorter and for that reason he became my second choice.


Legend of Time might have needed one over here to acclimate, but I question who he faced at Meydan, and usually, the Godolphin Appleby horses are ready off the plane. He was in position to win but couldn’t close the deal.


Risk Tolerance is one for one and looks like a horse with potential. He is dangerous and would be no surprise, but I will opt for someone with a bit more experience in this spot.


Cable Ready won his lone turf start against New York Breds, and this is a tougher spot.


Royal Majesty looks very interesting to me. This Frankel colt improved when moved here to the Mott barn form England and really put it together last time in that allowance win at Keeneland. Yes, his two wins came with Lasix, which he won’t have on Saturday, but he ran without it in the Colonel Liam at Gulfstream, and I believe it was more the trip than the no Lasix that got him beat that day. I’ll land here at a very fair 5-1.


St James the Great looks a cut below these to me.


Triple Espresso will get support due to Pletcher and Irad, but he would be down 3rd or even 4th on my list.


Legend of Time looks like the speed in a pace-less race and that can be scary to play against, but we often see closers sit closer and still have that kick in these spots also. I’ll be hoping for that here.

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Jon Stettin

Since childhood, Jon has always had a deep love and respect for the Sport of Kings. His years of experience have earned him a well respected spot in the industry as a handicapper. He now is a frequent contributor to AmWager as well as writing for his own site.

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