Santa Anita Blows The Doors Open Friday

26 Sep

Santa Anita opens its Autumn meet with a bang Friday, featuring three graded stakes races, including the Grade I American Pharoah and Grade I Chandelier Stakes for two-year-olds and two-year old fillies, respectively. As expected, HOF trainer Bob Baffert is holding aces in each race, saddling morning-line favorites Eight Rings (9/5) and Bast (3/5).

The latter enters off a dominating performance in the Del Mar Debutante, while the former took a sharp right turn out of the gate in the Del Mar Futurity and lost rider Drayden Van Dyke, disappointing the masses at 1/2 odds. Interestingly, top East Coast rider John Velazquez takes the call for Baffert on Eight Rings, who makes his two-turn debut in a field of nine in Friday’s 8th and featured event.

If Eight Rings opts to take a detour again, Express Train (4/1) with “Money” Mike Smith in the saddle could pick up the pieces, coming in off an impressive maiden win around two turns at Del Mar last out. Best Pal (G2) winner Collusion Illusion (5/1) and Del Mar Futurity (G1) winner Nucky (10/1) could also make their presence felt from the two outside stalls.

In addition to the pair of Grade I races, Friday’s card also features the Eddie D. Stakes (G2) for turf sprinters going 5 1/2 furlongs. This competitive sprint features a rematch between the top three finishers in the Green Flash Stakes at Del Mar: Mr. Vargas (5/2), Eddie Haskell (3/1) and Stormy Liberal (4/1). Throw in course specialist Pee Wee Reese (3/1) who’s won five of six over the Santa Anita lawn, and you’ve got one talent-packed field of eight.

Friday’s stakes races are the 5th (Chandelier), 6th (Eddie D.) and 8th (Pharoah) on a nine-race card that gets underway at 1pm.

More Stakes Action on Tap Saturday and Sunday at Santa Anita

Saturday’s stakes action at The Great Race Place is highlighted by running of the Awesome Again Stakes (G1), the local prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, which has attracted arguably the nation’s top handicap horse, McKinzie (4/5). His presence has predictably steered many clear of this race, but not Pacific Classic (G1) winner Higher Power, who seeks to prove his breakthrough victory was no fluke in the nine-furlong featured event.

The Breeders’ Cup preps continue for the turf handicap and fillies and mares divisions, with the running of the John Henry Turf Championship (G2) and Rodeo Drive (G1), respectively. Saturday’s stakes races are carded as the 7th (John Henry), 9th (Rodeo Drive), 10th (Awesome Again), and 11th (Unzip Me) on an 11-race card that gets underway at 12:30pm. The Late Pick 5 will include all four stakes races.

Sunday’s action features the Grade I Zenyatta Stakes, which is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Distaff, which will be held over this track and distance in early November.

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