This is probably the last of the slow holiday related weekends of stakes racing. The number of big bankroll races will start to heat up with the Pegasus World Cup coming in three weeks and all the Kentucky Derby prep races shortly thereafter.
There are six stakes races this Saturday with money pools of at least $100,000.
Aqueduct Race 8 - $100,000 LA VERDAD STAKES
Gulfstream Park Race 5 - $100,000 GINGER BREW STAKES
Gulfstream Park Race 9 - $100,000 KITTEN'S JOY STAKES
Gulfstream Park Race 10 - $100,000 MUCHO MACHO MAN STAKES
Santa Anita Race 7 - $200,000 SAN GABRIEL STAKES GRADE II
Santa Anita Race 9 - $100,000 SHAM STAKES GRADE III
"The world's most beautiful track" gets the pair of graded races. The SAN GABRIEL STAKES is the better betting race in our opinion as the morning line favorite, CHICAGO STYLE (PP: 5) is 3-1 in a 10-horse field.
Santa Anita Race Track with San Gabriel Mountains in the Background
The SAN GABRIEL STAKES dates to 1935 with FORCED LANDING taking the inaugural checkered flag. It's named after the majestic mountains seen in the background of the Acadia, California horse racing track. Twenty-nineteen's version is the 73rd running of the race. We know, the math doesn't add up. That's because the race skipped some years and ran twice in others.
Ten horses, four-years-old and up, will race 1 1/8 miles on turf, with the winner collecting $120,000 of the $200,000 pool. The race starts in an unusual spot, about three-quarters the way through the backstretch turn. So, it's a two-and-a-quarter turn race.
It's widely believed that two-turn races punish front-runners and give an edge to horses with stalking or closing running styles. In the seven, 1 1/8-mile turf races run during the late September through early November meet, three winners were labeled early speed with two going wire-to-wire (w2w). On average, the eventual winner ran third or fourth in the opening quarter-mile and second or third at the half-mile marker.
In the current meet, starting December 26th, another seven 1 1/8-mile turf races are in the books. So far, another two winners went w2w with four being early speed types. While the numbers between the fall and winter meets are similar, the typical winner has moved closer to the front of the pack out of the gates this go-around. Typically, the average winner now runs second or third at the first call and first or second at the second call.
Put the two meets together and horses running third at the 1/4 mile-marker and second at the 1/2-mile marker is probably where you'll find this year's SAN GABRIEL STAKES winner. Funny thing is, almost all the horses in this group are late flyers.
BIG BEND (PP: 9 ML 12-1) could be the reluctant pace setter with ARMS RUNNER (PP: 10 ML 30-1) checking in right behind BIG BEND. Primely positioned in the three and four spots will likely be some combination of CLEOPATRA'S STRIKE (PP: 3 ML 8-1), NEXT SHARES (PP: 7 ML 7/2), and maybe CHICAGO STYLE, as the favorite won't want to be too far behind chasing what could be a slow pace.
This is how our handicapper lines then up in our pro-subscriber's bonus commentary."NEXT SHARES hasn't won at Santa Anita but has two seconds and two thirds in four races at the southern California course. Overall, he has the best, most consistent speed numbers in the field, most 2018 prize money, and double the next closest in average winnings per race in 2018. CHICAGO STYLE is making his third start after taking 10-months off. He ran his best speed number and highest, last race figure for this crew in his most recent race. The same race could be the same result, but he's finished fifth in both of his SA starts. LIAM THE CHARMER [PP: 1 ML 4-1] got smoked in the Breeders' Cup Turf in his last race. He'll feel more at home at SA where he's won four of eight on the turf. He has one W elsewhere in seven tries. PLATINUM WARRIOR [PP: 2 ML 15-1] is making his third start off the break and trainer John Sadler wins at 24% with the third start angle."
As the morning-line odds indicate, the 2019 SAN GABRIEL STAKES is a wide-open race, which can lead to nice payouts with the right tickets. With that in mind, you might consider including our two alternative selections as you construct your bets.