The 2023 Thoroughbred Horse Racing season is starting to heat up with 32 stake events across ten tracks on Saturday and Sunday, including 19 graded stake races. Sanita Anita Park is one of the facilities having a big weekend with seven stake races. The following examines Santa Anita’s three Sunday stake races.
The Grade III Santa Ysabel Stakes is the crown jewel of the day as it is part of the Kentucky Derby Prep. The Santa Ysabel Stakes is the first of the three races on the afternoon docket (Race 3), followed by the Grade II San Simeon Stakes (Race 5) and the Baffle Stakes (Race 7)
Grade III Santa Ysabel Stakes
The Santa Ysabel Stakes is a Grade III event with a purse of $100,000 and is part of the Kentucky Oaks Prep. Six 3-year-old fillies are slated to go one and one-sixteenth miles.
Jockey Juan Hernandez, onboard Eda, gets a chance to win the Santa Ysabel again as he gets the ride on Pride of the Nile. Flavian Prat (Faiza) and Victor Espinoza (Justique) also won the race.
Bob Baffert has trained the past two event winners to give him seven Santa Ysabel Stakes victories, the most in the race’s history. Baffert has morning line favorite Faiza in this year’s race. Doug O’Neil is the only trainer with a horse in the field (Pride of the Nile) to win the Santa Ysabel.
As part of the Kentucky Oaks Prep, points for the May 5th race at Churchill Downs will be awarded. The winner receives $60,000, a trophy, and 50 Kentucky Oaks points.
Second place gets $20,000 and 20 points, and third gets $12,000 and 15 points. Fourth receives $6,000 and 10 points, while fifth nabs $2,000 and five. Post time is at 4:31 p.m. (ET).
Pride of the Nile: The daughter of Pioneer of the Nile came up just short in the one-mile Grade III Las Virgenes Stakes On January 28, finishing a half-length behind Faiza. It marked the fourth straight race that Pride of the Nile (5-2-2-0) has hit the board. She is the second on the morning odds at 5-2.
And Tell Me Nollies: The daughter of Arrogate has been off since finishing eighth in the Grade I NetJets Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland in early November. Before the Breeders Cup, And Tell Me Nollies had won three straight races, including the Grade I TVG Del Mar Debunte Stakes and the Grade 2 Chandelier Stakes. She is third on the morning line at 3-1.
Blessed Touch: The Kentucky (5-1-1-1) filly has hit the board in three of five career races. She is coming off a third-place finish in a six-furlong Optional Claimer. Blessed Touch was second in the Des Arriaz Stakes and is 8-1 on the morning line.
Spanning the Globe: The daughter of Tapiture has not raced since finishing seventh in the one-mile Blue Northern Stakes turf race on Dec. 30. Spanning the Globe, who has one victory in three races, is the longest shot in the field at 15-1.
Justique: The Justify filly was third in the Las Virgenes Stakes the last time out, finishing three lengths behind Faiza and two and one-half in back of Pride of Nile. Justique has finished in the top 3 in all four of her races with two wins – including being victorious in the seven-furlong Desi Arnez Stakes – and two third-place finishes. She is 4-1 on the morning line.
Faiza: The half-sister of Blessed Touch is undefeated in three races. Faiza has edged Pride of the Nile in winning the last two races, the Las Virgenes Stakes and the one-sixteenth-mile Grade I Scarlet Stakes. She is the slight morning line favorite at 8-5.
I believe four horses can win this year’s race. Faiza is the favorite, but I’m not sure she can hold off Pioneer of the Nile for a third straight race. And Tell Me Nollies and Justique are the other horses who can claim the crown.
Here is my thinking. Faiza is going to win going away, or Pioneer of the Nile or And Tell Me Nollies will come out victorious. I’m going with the latter in a close finish at the wire, who is coming off a long layoff and has two graded-stakes wins.
Order of Prediction. 1. And Tell Me Nollies 2. Pioneer of the Nile 3. Blessed Touch 4. Faiza 5. Justique 6. Spanning the Globe
While I have Faiza finishing fourth, she should be used in exotics and could win this, as I said above. But a horse running four consecutive perfect races is uncommon. Plus, she is not better that much better than her other competitors.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the race comes down to a duel between Faiza And Tell Me Nollies and Pioneer of the Nile. I have Blessed Touch finishing third due to her recent workouts and the fact that she could take advantage of the mistakes of other horses in the field. Spanning the Globe is the only horse I do not like at all.
Best Bet: $2 on Blessed Touch (8-1) to show
$1 exacta box: And Tell Me Nollies/ Faiza/ Pioneer of the Nile
$0.10 Superfecta: And Tell Me Nollies/Faiza/ Pioneer of the Nile/ Blessed Touch
Grade III San Simeon Stakes
The San Simeon Stakes is a Grade III race with a purse of $100,000. Eight 4-year-old and upward male horses will go six and one-half furlongs on the downhill turf.
The San Simeon Stakes debuted in 2004 as the Daytona Handicap. It was upgraded to a Grade III event in 2009 and has been run at different distances and on grass and dirt.
Juan Hernandez (Brickyard Ride) won the race in 2021 with Georgian Chant and is the jockey in the field to win the race. Similarly, Philip D’Amato, who trained Georgian Chant, is the only trainer to experience victory in the event. If Motorious can win this year’s event, he would give D’Amato a record third San Simeon win.
I like four horses in the field – Brickyard Ride, Sumter, Whatmakessammyrun, and Motorious – to various degrees. However, I am going with Brickyard Ride to pick up his 13th victory in 24 starts after coming off a nine-month layoff.
Brickyard Ride (2-1 ML) is the fastest horse in the field, loves to run at Santa Anita (12-for-17), and is a strong runner at this distance and on the turf. The 6-year-old horse is 3-for-5 on the grass and 2 of 3 at the current distance. He has been training well lately.
Sumter (5-1) is dropping in class and shortening up after finishing third in the Grade II Santa Anita Mathis Mile Stakes the last time out. The 4-year-old War Front colt has hit the board in eight of his nine turf races. He also has been training well.
Whatmakessammyrun (5-1), who has not raced in over two months, has been running consistently of late. The 5-year-old gelding has posted an Espeed between 95-111 over his last five races, posting a win and two seconds during that stretch. He has three wins in four starts at Santa Anita and has trained well lately.
Motorious has hit the board in 9 of 12 career events. He has also been consistent since coming across the pond, finishing in the top 3 in all six of his SoCal meets. This is the first Graded Stakes race for the 5-year-old gelding.
Best Bets/ Prediction: Brickyard Ride (2-1) to win
$1 exacta box on Whatmakessammyrun/Sumter/ Brickyard Ride
$2 show bet on Sumter (5-1)
The Baffle Stakes is an ungraded event with a purse of $100,000. Ten 3-year-old colts and geldings are slated to go six and one-half furlongs on the downhill turf.
This is a tough race to handicap with many talented yet very green horses. I do like several horses here to varying degrees. First Peace (4-1), Johannes (4-1), Kingdon Heart (4-1), Malibu Coast (12-1), Heladic (8-1), and Mi Hermano Ramon (6-1).
Best Bet: $2 to show on Mi Hermano Ramon