As the fairy-tale Santa recovers at the North Pole from his impossible mission, horseplayers are looking forward to continued delivery of riches from THEIR Santa — Santa Anita — my favourite track, which begins today at 11:00 p.m. west coast time, 2 p.m. in the east.
If you’re a Canadian homer, you have extra reason to pay attention because Canada’s leading rider, Kazushi Kimura, who won 175 races from 916 starts at Woodbine, debuts at the southern California track today, riding in three races including two $300K stakes: the La Brea for 3-year-old fillies (#7 Kirstenbosch at 15-1) and the 1 ¼-mile American Oaks on the turf (#10 Duvet Day at 20-1). Heady company!
Kimura’s best chance is likely to come in a maiden race for 2-year-olds, race 4, where his mount, #1 Jam Session at 8-1, has recently been gelded. But he’ll have to overcome California’s top baby trainer, Bob Baffert, who has three contenders in the eight-horse field. Yup, it’s baptism by fire for Canada’s best.
Why is Santa Anita my favourite? Consistency and quality of racing. Which resulted in my last big score of $10,000 coming from that track in a pick-5 that cost me and my partner $100. Because of the track’s reliability, we were able to key two legs: a turf route race with the horse having the quickest closing fractions and a leg in which DRF trackman Brad Free was especially high on a horse that my partner and I also liked.
You know I have racing “rules” and those rules work best at a track where there is consistency. California tracks have that edge because (a) horse quality is high (b) the track surface pretty much remains the same because temperatures are relatively stable and rain is infrequent (c) the horse population remains pretty much the same, with few shippers.
Turf racing is especially consistent, which was demonstrated by a three-month study I had done at Santa Anita that showed the average payout in a turf route race was $6.10. I think that makes Santa’s turf route races the most consistent race condition on the continent. That’s why turf route races are keyable in horizontal wagers such as pick-4s, pick-5s, etc.
In an extreme contrast, Santa also features a unique race that had the highest average win payout anywhere in my study, $20.60. That was the 6 ½-furlong down-the-hill turf race. Aside from wheeling “all” in your tickets, what horses win most often? Horses who have previously won that race and horses who showed early quick pace in turf route races. It’s a fun race to watch, too.
The downhill turf sprint today goes as race 7. DRF analysts are all over #8 Big Beauty because the filly is the only horse who has shown something on this course: she finished second in October. Aside from that, #7 and #9 showed a bit of early speed in route races. My ticket will be an exactor wheel: ALL/8. Likely one of my pick-6 tickets (there’s a $1 million guaranteed pool) will have “all.”
Happy Boxing Day and good luck in your pick-6 (it’s just 20 cents a combination) and whatever else you play. I love the card because it’s filled with “rule” races: closing fractions in turf routes, highest 7-furlong speed fig in 7-furlong races and 5-furlong workouts of first-time starters in maiden races.