- Opening Weekend at Santa Anita features 12 Stakes Races and nine Graded Stakes in three days
- Breeders Cup Classic favorite Maximum Security will be challenged by Improbable in the Awesome Again Stakes
- With Great Racing comes opportunity. Where is the best betting value this weekend?
Santa Anita is known for high-end horse racing, but following last week’s cancelation because of air quality as a result of the Bobcat Fire, this weekend the cards are loaded.
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday feature multiple graded stakes races and seven of them are Breeders Cup Win and You’re In Events. The main event is Saturday’s Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes. It features Breeders Cup Classic favorite Maximum Security, and top contender Improbable.
Let’s do a deep dive on the Awesome Again, and highlight several of the other top-end events throughout the weekend. Finding some value each day is the goal, and there is plenty of volume to sift through and pick out a viable price or two.
2020 Awesome Again Stakes Odds
|Sleepy Eyes Todd||+1600|
|Take the One O One||+2500|
Odds taken September 24 at Bet365
The Awesome Again Stakes, at a mile-and-an-eighth on the main track, is the last of Saturday’s stakes action and will begin at 8 pm EST. It is a Breeders Cup Win and You’re In event with the winner awarded a berth in the BC Classic. Santa Anita’s full card is televised each day by TVG.
There were reasonable doubts around Maximum Security both early in his career when he was in a maiden claiming race, and more recently. After being disqualified in the Kentucky Derby, and then taking his next four races including the $20 million Saudi Cup, he looked unstoppable. However, trainer Jason Servis was arrested on charges of covertly obtaining and administering adulterated and misbranded performance-enhancing drugs to racehorses under his care while evading PED prohibitions and deceiving regulators and horse racing authorities. Maximum Security was shifted to Bob Baffert’s barn and has won back-to-back races.
If you are going to knock Maximum Security, his recent level of competition is where you ought to start. His two races with Baffert have come against weak fields, and there is a worthwhile adversary in the Awesome Again. That said he is a perfect three-for-three at the distance, and a winner of 10 out of 12 races, who has gotten to the finish line first 11 times. Maximum Security is a tough customer, but an opportunity to beat him is present.
Improbable is fourth or fifth in Breeders Cup Classic futures wagering, but you can make a pretty strong argument he should be right behind Maximum Security. His last two races, easy wins against grade one horses on both sides of the country have been ultra-impressive.
While Maximum Security’s body of work is unparalleled among horses currently racing, Improbable has been more impressive this summer, in large part because of his level of competition. Maximum Security was a little more than three lengths better than Improbable at the Kentucky Derby in 2019. Both are trained by Baffert.
This is only a five-horse field and anyone other than Maximum Security or Improbable will pay big. Midcourt gave Maximum Security all he wanted and then some in July’s San Diego Handicap.
While Midcourt was five lengths behind Maximum Security in the Pacific Classic, that race was probably too far, a-mile-and-a-quarter, for him. He lost badly to Improbable in June’s Gold Cup. Midcourt is two-for-two at a-mile-and–an-eighth.
It is fairly unclear how good Maximum Security is right now. There were real questions when Servis got arrested, and since then Baffert has found two soft fields. Improbable is legit. He is the value against a question mark, albeit a question who has earned $12 million and finished behind a horse only once.
Pick: Improbable (+150)
Other Top Graded Stakes this Weekend at Santa Anita
Eddie D Stakes
This Grade 2 turf sprint is loaded with speed horses. Will the fastest of the field at the start survive, or can somebody come off the pace?
Wildman Jack won in Dubai in March and returned to take a graded stakes race at Santa Anita in May.
While that win, challenging the pace and then going by, was impressive and a good sign style-wise for this race, against better competition at Keeneland in July, and Del Mar last month he came up short. His last race however was on dirt, not turf.
Sparky Ville was second to Wildman Jack in the Daytona Stakes, and trainer Jeff Bonde spoke confidently to the Daily Racing Form saying his horse is going good right now and will be on the lead if anyone wants to challenge him. Sparky Ville has just one win in the last 18 months.
Mr Vargas is an abnormally large horse who is coming off an injury but training well and should be forwardly placed. After back-to-back wins last summer, his last race, the Eddie D last year did not go well.
Trainer Peter Miller has two horses who might get a perfect trip, rallying from behind. El Tigre Terrible has four wins in eight career starts and is moving up in class coming off a stakes victory. Grit and Curiosity had crummy racing luck and still beat a pretty solid field of allowance horses at Oaklawn Park in February. He has been off since but is two-for-two this year. He is also facing the best competition of his career.
Pick: Grit and Curiosity
The Rodeo Drive Stakes
This test for fillies and mares going a-mile-and-a-quarter on the turf with a berth in the Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Turf on the line appears to be wide open.
Bodhicitta edged Tonahutu and Lady Prancealot wasn’t far back when they faced off last month. They all go at it again today, with added distance from that mile-and-a-sixteenth heat.
Lady Prancealot returned to the track September 5 and just missed in a grade two event, finishing ahead of today’s rival Catch the Eye.
Mucho Unusual came close last time out in a stakes race at Del Mar, after facing much better in grade one affairs over the summer.
American Pharoah Stakes
The winner of this mile-and-a-sixteenth contest on dirt gets an expense paid trip to the Breeders Cup Juvenile. The field has had more hype and promise than strong results thus far.
Baffert’s Spielberg was purchased for $1 million and has been beaten by well thought of Dr. Schivel in both of his career races.
After winning his first two races, Weston ran third in the Del Mar Futurity, beaten by more than three lengths by Spielberg.
Get Her Number has strong connections, trainer Peter Miller, owner Gary Barber, and jockey Flavien Prat. After winning his debut, he was fourth, beaten by just a length in a stakes race at Del Mar on September 7.
Santa Anita Sprint Championship
There are two major tune-up races for this event, which in itself is a prep and a guaranteed ticket to the Breeders Cup Sprint.
Collusion Illusion is one of three horses coming out of the Bing Crosby Stakes. He had no trouble with Anyportinastorm and Desert Law. The victory was Collusion Illusion’s third straight, and fifth in six career races.
The pace may not be as quick in the Sprint Championship, and regardless the top finishers from the Pat O’Brien Handicap will have a say.
CZ Rocket and Flagstaff along with fifth-place finisher Giant Expectations return in the Sprint Championship.
While the veterans coming out of the Pat O’Brien are more established with longer resumes, Collusion Illusion looks terrific right now, and the four-year-old should be ready for this level of competition.
Pick: Collusion Illusion
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