We have a couple of graded stakes Saturday at Santa Anita -- featuring the G3 Sham on the Triple Crown trail as well as the G2 San Gabriel on turf. Our friends at Xpressbet break down all the angles and give you their $100 betting strategy in their “Race of the Week”.
G1 winner NEXT SHARES appears to have the class edge as a top-level miler. Underneath that one, there's a steady level of performer that fits at this level. CHICAGO STYLE and LIAM THE CHARMER are G2 winners on the circuit. PLATINUM WARRIOR took down an Irish G3. Steady stakes players like FLAMBOUYANT, BIG BEND and BIG SCORE have won at the G3 level.
There's very little early pace in here and outside drawn BIG BEND and/or ARMS RUNNER likely will default into the front-runners. This race should be run at a slow pace and become a quickening challenge in the lane. You don't want to be a total, far-back closer and rely on the pace to come back to you.
In Our Eyes
NEXT SHARES was an upset pick to win the Breeders' Cup Mile, so there's obvious respect from this corner. That he ran a disappointing 13th was an indictment on that pick, but not necessarily a negative to this far easier spot in terms of class. The question for NEXT SHARES will be the 1-1/8 miles distance as much as anything. Sixth in the G2 Eddie Read at Del Mar over this trip last summer, the pure miler would have this field at his mercy over his preferred trip. The one caveat to the Eddie Read is that Next Shares ran a massive 107 BRIS late pace figure, one of his career highs, and did make up about 6 lengths. So, he wasn't short on wind; rather, the race didn't set up as well. The concern is that this one may not either without a defined pace. Still, he's the horse to beat and becomes a value judgment.
LIAM THE CHARMER won the G2 John Henry during the Santa Anita stand in September before being overmatched at 75-1 in the Breeders' Cup Turf. Similar to NEXT SHARES in terms of his form and class, he also carries a major distance question here. LIAM THE CHARMER has run 10 furlongs or longer in 9 of his last 10 starts. Now he'll shorten the trip on the flipside to NEXT SHARES, who extends the assignment. A deep, one-run closer, LIAM THE CHARMER does not get a positive pace flow scenario on paper for this.
CHICAGO STYLE bested the 12-furlong G2 Hollywood Turf Cup last out at Del Mar as the 9-5 favorite. It was only his third start since the previous year's Turf Cup and marked the former claimer's first stakes win in five tries. He, too, has a come-from-behind style that will come under question as this 1-1/8 miles journey. He comes off a career-best effort but could be an underlay price here after the chalky score.
FLAMBOUYANT rallied to be second in this race last year to the razor-sharp Itsinthepost. But his only victory in 2017-'18 came in the G3 San Francisco Mile on the class drop at Golden Gate Fields. He's missed the board in all four SoCal stakes starts since last year's San Gabriel placing.
BIG SCORE and BIG BEND have had success at Keeneland, winning the G3 Sycamore and G3 Transylvania, respectively, during the 2017 season. But neither has won a race since. BIG BEND has missed the mark in 6 straight with only a single superfecta finish during that time. BIG SCORE has gone 0-11 with 9 superfecta finishes during his drought, knocking on the door. The tactical speed of BIG BEND could keep him in the mix here, but he's more marathoner than middle-distance. In terms of pace, BIG SCORE used to have some early foot, but has become terribly slow early since returning from a 7-month break last summer. Still, he's run some good races at Santa Anita and could be interesting.
Most Certain Exotics Contender
LIAM THE CHARMER has eight straight superfecta finishes at Santa Anita and should be rallying late for at least a piece. He's got four SA turf wins lifetime while the rest of the field has nine combined.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender
ARMS RUNNER looks overmatched, but it's Peter Miller and front-end pilot Martin Pedroza with potential lone speed while adding blinkers. They'll see how far they can take these routers.
The Picks ($100 bankroll)
- $53-win BIG SCORE
- $10 exacta box BIG SCORE and NEXT SHARES ($20)
- $3 exacta part-wheel ALL with BIG SCORE ($27 if all 10 start