Key Races & Bets for Saturday, December 26

La Brea Stakes – Race 6 at Santa Anita – Post Time 5 PM Eastern/ 2 PM Pacific

 Spiced Perfection gets slight preference among a quartet of fillies which can win, with a great outside post to avoid any potential traffic trouble early and coming off a CAREER BEST effort at this 7 furlong trip in the Betty Grable Stakes last month. Although that was a statebred race, the 111 Equibase figure earned lines up favorably here compared to likely favorite Dream Tree, who earned a 106 winning the Grade 2 Prioress Stakes in her most recent start. Since adding blinkers, Spiced Perfection is 2-for-2 in dirt sprints and Prat, who rode her to victory last month when aboard for the first time, ride back. That last race has already become a KEY RACE as both the runner-up and third finishers came back to win and as a filly who has been ultra-consistent in her career, evidenced by a 5-4-1 record in 11 dirt races, Spiced Perfection could help us profit nicely in the race.


Mo See Call is another “NOW” horse, having won three in row, two in a row since moving from turf to dirt. She may not have beaten much in her two recent allowance wins by earned 103 and 111 figures, the most recent with Smith aboard, who rides back. Smith rode Dream Tree to victory in the Prioress when she traveled to New York and although Van Dyke has become Baffert’s #1 rider of late it still is intriguing Smith and his agent take this mount. With three wins and a narrow defeat since adding blinkers in August and in the best form of her life, Mo See Cal is as strong a win contender as Spiced Perfection in my opinion.

Happy Like a Fool has one knock and that’s the rail as she has good early speed but she’s shown the ability to sit as far back as third early and still run big so she could be okay. She comes in off a sharp win with a 105 figure and won the Miss Preakness Stakes in May with a 111 figure. Trainer Ward shipped her in to train over the track over a month ago, a big sign he’s been pointing her to this race and wants her ready on all counts. Ward is just so good at this level (32% wins on over 150 dirt sprints in the last year) we must respect this filly’s chances to earn her 5th career win.

Dream Tree is going to be used defensively as she’s likely to be the prohibitive favorite but I can’t discount her as a win contender. She’s undefeated in five start including three graded stakes and she won her only start at the trip.  She does have question marks as she was off from February to September then off until now, so she must have some issues. On the other hand she put in a stellar five furlong work on 12/9 followed by a pair of maintenance works and Baffert continues to win at a solid 25% clip with horses off layoffs, whether 2 to 6 months or 6 months or more.

Bets: Spiced Perfection and Mo See Cal to win at 5 to 2 or more. (Add a place bet if 5 to 1 or higher).

Minimum odds on Happy Like a Fool are 7 to 2.


When making multiple win bets, use a “Dutching” tool to do the work of allocating your wagering dollars for the best edge. Amwager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.


1. Spiced Perfection and Mo See Cal

2. Box Spiced Perfection, Mo See Cal, Happy Like a Fool and Dream Tree.


Doubles and Pick 3’s: Use ALL four horses.


Mathis Brothers Mile Stakes – Race7 at Santa Anita – Post Time 5:30 PM Eastern/ 2:30 Pacific

Shivermetimbers finds a field lacking in proven milers on grass and can win this race in his turf debut, particularly if likely favorite River Boyne doesn’t cut back successfully from 9 furlongs to 8 furlongs. Shivermetimbers is bred to handle grass just fine as Shanghai Bobby has sired a number of turf winners and he has the right style to take advantage of what should be a very hot early pace. Snazzy Dresser, an absolute need-the-lead types, gets the extreme outside post and has to go fast to get to the rail, but Gemonteer and possibly Gidu will also be on or near the font early. Shivermetimbers rallied from 4th in his last two wins, BOTH under Smith, who rides back and who was also up for the colt’s other win. His last two efforts yielded 113 and 114 Equibase figures which match up nicely with the 115 likely favorite River Boyne earned in the Twilight Derby so Shivermetimbers has every much of a chance to win as the favorite but will go to post at better odds.

River Boyne has no real knocks as he shows up every time. After making the lead by a length and one-half in the Hollywood Derby on 12/1, he was beaten near the wire by Raging Bull but was nearly three lengths clear of the next horse. He hasn’t run a mile in nine months but won the non-graded Pasadena Stakes the last time he did and in terms of turf and stakes experience he is the one to beat.

Choo Choo forms an uncoupled Hollendorfer entry with Shivermetimbers and has a slight chance to win but a big chance to be in the exacta or trifecta. His two wins to date have come on turf and all-weather and his most recent effort when second and beaten under a length in the restricted Let It Ride Stakes last month earned him a career best 112 figure. That was his first start after six months off, second since adding blinkers, and better can be expected here particularly as Rosario fits his late running style nicely.

Bets: Shivermetimbers to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more.

“IF” Choo Choo should go to post anywhere near 7 to 2 or higher, make a smaller win bet on him as well.


1.Shivermetimbers and River Boyne

2. Box Shivermetimbers, River Boyne and Choo Choo.

3. Shivermetimbers, River Boyne and Choo ChooShivermetimbers, River Boyne, Choo Choo, Sejo, Gidu, Desert Stone, Gemonteer and Snazzy Dancer.

Doubles and Pick 3’s: Use Shivermetimbers, River Boyne and Choo Choo.

San Antonio Stakes – Race 8 at Santa Anita – Post Time 6 PM Eastern/ 3 Pacific


Beach View has a decent upset shot here and gets slight preference in a race where four horses (of 9) have almost all the probability to win in my opinion. Of his 11 career starts, 8 were on turf and of the other three, only two were routes. However, both those efforts were exceptional. Both were at 12 furlongs but he’s run well at a mile on turf so I’m not concerned about his ability to handle the trip. He returned from four months off last month and rallied decently enough for 3rd in the G2 Hollywood Turf Cup at 12 furlongs. He might have run even better but was blocked during a critical portion of the stretch run. Even though that trouble may be enough to back him here, it’s his effort prior to that which, if repeated, could help him earn the upset as when winning the G3 Cougar II Handicap by five lengths in dominating fashion he not only earned a career best tying 112 figure which isn’t far from the best in the field, he beat multi-millionaire Hoppertunity with ease. Bejarano was up for both efforts, the only two times he’s ridden the horse, and rides back, which provides me with enough reasons to take a big swing with Beach View.

Gift Box is very interesting here as he shipped west sometime in the past few months after being privately purchased (from Farish, with Chad Brown as his trainer) by Hronis racing and sent to the Sadler barn. Considering Sadler’s success with dirt stakes stars the past year, this
five year old could turn into something special. Even though it took him six tries to move through the 2nd allowance level, he was very competitive, missing twice by inches before an eight length win in March with a career best 114 figure. The only knock is coming back from 9 months off around two turns and in a graded stakes BUT the works are excellent, Rosario rides, and if Sadler is confident I won’t argue.

Battle of Midway and Dabster are likely to be the two favorite and both are logical contenders, but not standouts. Battle of Midway has yet to run as well as when winning the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in the fall of 2017 but got close in his last two efforts, particularly his win in the G3 Native Diver at this trip last month with a 117 figure. Dabster was neck shy of his foe in the race, BUT we must note it was essentially a match race, a three horse field in which the other horse was never involved.


 Bets: Beach View to win at odds of 5/2 or more, adding a place bet at 5 to 1 or higher.

For a slightly smaller amount, Gift Box to win at 3 to 1 or more, adding a place bet at 5 to 1 or higher.

 Exacta and Trifecta: Box Beach View, Gift Box, Battle of Midway and Dabster.

 Doubles: Use all four horses.

Malibu Stakes – Race 9 at Santa Anita – Post Time 6:30 PM Eastern/ 3:30 Pacific

Bobby’s Wicked One ships in from Louisiana by way of Ohio, having just missed by a nose in a $250K sprint for three year olds. It was his second start after coming back from six month off and he’s on a pattern for an even better effort here. Based on the barn of top trainer Al Stall, the well bred colt is bred to handle 7 furlongs just fine although to date he has a runner-up and third place finish at the trip and the previously mentioned pattern off 101 and 109 Equibase figures, with a great post and a lot of early pace to stalk, Bobby’s Wicked One could post the upset in this year’s Malibu.

Copper Bullet was thought to be a Derby prospect last summer (2017) after winning the Saratoga Special but had issues which kept him on the shelf for 15 months. He returned last month at Churchill Downs as if he had never been away, winning easily by 3 1/2 lengths in a new career best effort (110 figure) and has every right to take a big step forward 2nd off the layoff. Asmussen has been pointing him to this race as he shipped the colt in right after the last win for three works over the track and getting Jose Ortiz (2nd in the jockey race for 2018 and just behind his brother  Irad Ortiz, Jr.) the colt would be no surprise if winning this race.

McKinzie and Kanthaka are very likely to go to post as the first and second betting choices here based on their performances in graded stakes this year and both can win or be part of the exacta but they are not standouts. McKinzie moves back to three year olds only after finishing 12th of 14 in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He won the San Felipe Stakes over the track in March with a 118 figure then had issues and was off for nine months, returning to win the Pennsylvania Derby. The 114 figure in the PA Derby was fine and he broke his maiden at this distance. He’s been working fine but this year’s Malibu drew a very strong field compared to what he faced in the PA Derby and he has his work cut out for him although he could be up to the task and that’s why I’m not completely taking a stand against him. Kanthaka is a ONE-TURN horse, proven by winning the San Vicente Stakes over the track at the distance in February with a 113 figure, then by running not nearly as well around two turns in the San Felipe and Blue Grass, then by winning the Barrera Stakes in May when turned back to this trip. Rested since then, he’s working like he can pick up where he left off and must be respected as a contender as well.

Bets: Bobby’s Wicked One to win and place at 7 to 2 or more.

Copper Bullet to win at 7 to 2 odder or more.


When making multiple win bets, use a “Dutching” tool to do the work of allocating your wagering dollars for the best edge. Amwager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.


Copper Bullet and Bobby’s Wicked One

Copper Bullet, Bobby’s Wicked One, Kanthaka and McKinzieCopper Bullet, Bobby’s Wicked One, Kanthaka, McKinzie, Axelrod and Nero

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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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