Merry Christmas to all of the players in The Dirty Horse Club! It's a time for celebrating faith, family, and friends and reflecting on how lucky we all are; whether or not we picked the winner in the last race. I'll be spending the next couple of days watching the joy and wonder in the eyes of my grandchildren. I'll be reminding them that Christmas is much more than ripping open presents; it's more about the celebration of faith and the shear joy of giving.
Yet, as all horseplayers know, the day after Christmas is opening day at Santa Anita. As a way of bringing the New Year in a little early, let's look at the opening day La Brea Stakes at Santa Anita. The usual handicapping puzzle presents itself and I'm going to dive right in and try to find the winner and avoid the tar pits.
2018 La Brea Stakes
1. Happy Like a Fool
She has good early speed and the rail at Santa Anita which are both in her favor. She vied for the lead in the Filly and Mare Sprint at the Breeders' Cup, but came up a bit short in the last furlong. She's working just fine and will definitely have a say in this, but to win in a Grade 1 against this field is a big ask in here. She may hit the board but I can't see her winning.
2. Mo See Cal
She's cutting back in distance and moving up in class for this. I like the cutback but not the move up in class. She's very versatile and seems at home on both dirt and grass, but I think this group is a little too good and too fast for her. I'll pass.
3. Kelly's Humor
She's zero for seven this year and really seems up against it in here. It looks like her only hope would be a complete pace meltdown where she could roll by them at the end. That is not the usual race profile at Santa Anita. I can't see it.
She's been gone for seven months but she's working like a freight train for Baffert and looks like a player in here. She seems comfortable on the lead or coming from behind and will take some beating in here. She a contender.
5. Dream Tree
She's undefeated, untied, and unscored upon; just another monster from the Baffert barn. The race goes through her and if they want to beat her they better have their running shoes on. I keep looking for a way to beat her, but I can't find it. There is enough speed in here to make her work on the front, but if anyone goes on from a duel it will be her. The deserving favorite and probable winner.
Before you dismiss her, take a look at her last five races at six furlongs. She won them all! She's obviously a question at seven furlongs against these, but she will still be on all my tickets. She has my favorite New York jockey and he will have her in position to do her best. Don't ignore that four furlong breeze on the 15th. I'll be using her with the favorite for sure.
7. Hot Autumn
She's moving up after a scorcher on this track in October in a NW1, but the water is quite a bit deeper in this end of the pool. She will definitely be a pace factor and speed is always dangerous at this track, but the class hike seems a little ambitious to me. She might make the favorite work for a while on the front, but I just can't see her holding them all off.
8. Cathedral Reader
She was beaten by the favorite in the Prioress at Saratoga in September, but she wheeled very wide in that race and wide is not the place to be at the Spa. I expect her to be much closer to the favorite today. She will be on my tickets and I'll be using her with the five and six in exacta combos.
9. Spiced Perfection
She's racked up a nice record in some expensive statebred races and she likes this track, but the outside post and the level of competition are factors working against her. If Prat can work out a ground saving trip, she might pass some of the tired horses but I can't see her winning this race from here.
That's the field and the five horse is obviously the one to beat. I'll be boxing the 5-6-8 in the exactas and tri's and throwing the 1, 4 and 9 in underneath a few supers. Good luck to all who are playing.