On the surface, a date switch from mid-summer to Saturday, New Year’s Eve, appears not to have enhanced the quality of the $300,000 American Oaks (G1) at Santa Anita.
On the other hand, aided by its top-level grade and the fact it gives horsemen with a three-year-old turf filly a chance to run one more time in age-restricted company before the new year strikes at midnight, the American Oaks at least provides holiday revelers an interesting race on which to bet.
Among the field of 13 are four graded winners on this circuit during 2016: Stays in Vegas, Cheekaboo, Decked Out, and Mokat. Stays in Vegas, who has done her most consistent work over the Santa Anita turf (3-2-1-0), could have had a more impressive portfolio if not for coming out on the wrong end of photo finishes in the Honeymoon (G3), Del Mar Oaks (G1), and Matriarch (G1).
The latter third-place effort, a neck loss to Miss Temple City, was a strong one, but she got away with setting a soft pace going a mile and will be asked to stretch out to 1 1/4 miles in the American Oaks.
Deep-closing Decked Out doesn’t always show up, but just missed to Harmonize in the Del Mar Oaks and is sure to appreciate the distance more than most. Cheekaboo seems off form, while San Clemente (G2) heroine Mokat also ran well in the Del Mar Oaks prior to a fifth in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) at Keeneland.
The fifth grade/group winner in the field is Queen Blossom, who won the Park Express (G3) at The Curragh in March, beating subsequent Group 2 scorer Devonshire, before finishing out of the money in two other stakes in Ireland. She’s owned in partnership by Gary Barber and Team Valor, is now trained by Graham Motion, and the addition of Lasix could help.
Another filly with only five previous starts is Sassy Little Lila, who won twice in overnight company this fall and then finished a half-length behind Grade 3 winner My Impression in the $125,000 Winter Memories at Aqueduct last time. An Artie Schiller half-sister to English highweight Pomology, she’s won at 1 1/4 miles and looks a major threat on present form.
8th Race – Santa Anita Park – Saturday, December 31st, 2016
|STAKES. 1 1/4 Miles Turf. Purse $300,000. FOR FILLIES, THREE YEARS OLD. By subscription of $100 each if made on Friday, December 16, closed with 20 or by supplementary nomination of $6,000 at time of entry. $1,500 to enter, $3,000 to start with $300,000 guaranteed, of which $180,000 to first, $60,000 to second, $36,000 to third, $18,000 to fourth and $6,000 to fifth. 124 lbs. Non-winners of a Grade I stake at One Mile or Over since May 1, 2016 allowed 3 lbs.: Non-winners of a Graded Stake at One Mile or Over December 31, 2015, allowed 5 lbs. A trophy will be presented to the winning owner. (If management considers it inadvisable for any reason to run this race at 1 1/4 Miles on the turf course, it will be run at 1 1/8 Miles on the turf course. If this race is taken off the turf course it will be run at 1 1/8 Miles on the main track.). (04:00PM) (13)|
|1||Lady Valeur (IRE)||3 F||L||121||Bejarano Rafael||Gallagher Patrick|
|2||Stays in Vegas||3 F||L||121||Prat Flavien||Hollendorfer Jerry|
|3||Dreamarcher||3 F||L||119||Contreras Luis||Hollendorfer Jerry|
|4||How Unusual||3 F||L||119||Solis Alex O.||Pender Michael|
|5||Cheekaboo||3 F||L||121||Smith Mike E.||Eurton Peter|
|6||Sassy Little Lila||3 F||L||119||Saez Luis||Cox Brad H.|
|7||Decked Out||3 F||L||121||Desormeaux Kent J.||Desormeaux J. Keith|
|8||Queen Blossom (IRE)||3 F||L||121||Rosario Joel||Motion H. Graham|
|9||Mrs. Norris||3 F||L||119||Espinoza Victor||Harty Eoin G.|
|10||Sheeza Milky Way||3 F||L||119||Blanc Brice||Eurton Peter|
|11||Dynamic Mizzes K||3 F||L||119||Nakatani Corey S.||Glatt Mark|
|12||Barleysugar (IRE)||3 F||L||119||Baze Tyler||Freeman Edward R.|
|13||Mokat||3 F||L||121||Van Dyke Drayden||Baltas Richard|
Santa Anita will also be hosting the final Grade 3 events of 2016: the $100,000 Robert J. Frankel for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on the turf, and the $100,000 Midnight Lute for older sprinters at 6 1/2 furlongs.
Arles, a close second in the Glens Falls (G3) and Red Carpet (G3) in two stateside appearances, is the likely favorite in the Frankel. Ryans Charm, a better than expected sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) invading from Peru, could improve second off the bench. Pretty Girl, a Group 1 winner in Argentina and stakes scorer in France, makes her second U.S. start after finishing seventh in the Beverly D. (G1) at Arlington back in August.
4th Race – Santa Anita Park – Saturday, December 31st, 2016
|STAKES. 1 1/8 Miles Turf. Purse $100,000. FOR FILLIES AND MARES, THREE-YEARS-OLDS AND UPWARD. By subscription of $100 each to accompany the nomination, closed Wednesday, December 21 with 15 or by supplementary nomination of $2,000 at time of entry. $500 to pass the entry box and $1,000 additional to start with $100,000 guaranteed of which $60,000 to the winner, $20,000 to second, $12,000 to third, $6,000 to fourth and $2,000 to fifth. Three year olds 123 lbs. Older 125 lbs. Non-winners of a Graded stake at One Mile or Over since May 1, 2016, allowed 3 lbs. Non-winners of a Sweepstakes of $20,000 at One Mile since December 31, 2015, allowed 5 lbs. A trophy will be presented to the winning owner. (Rail at 20 feet). (02:00PM) (8)|
|1||Sweet Charity (FR)||3 F||L||120||Smith Mike E.||Sadler John W.|
|2||Keri Belle||6 M||L||122||Arroyo, Jr. Norberto||Shirreffs John A.|
|3||Frenzified (GB)||4 F||L||122||Gonzalez Santiago||Cassidy James M.|
|4||Arles (FR)||4 F||L||120||Rosario Joel||Motion H. Graham|
|5||Pretty Girl (ARG)||5 M||L||120||Van Dyke Drayden||Lobo Paulo H.|
|6||Ryans Charm||6 M||L||125||Bejarano Rafael||Gallagher Patrick|
|7||Goodyearforroses (IRE)||4 F||L||122||Nakatani Corey S.||Baltas Richard|
|8||Into The Mystic (IRE)||4 F||L||120||Prat Flavien||Mandella Richard E.|
St. Joe Bay, who might have found his niche after a comfortable second-level allowance score around one turn at Del Mar earlier this month, might be the one to beat in a field of five for the Midnight Lute.
3rd Race – Santa Anita Park – Saturday, December 31st, 2016
|STAKES. 6 1/2 Furlongs Dirt. Purse $100,000. FOR THREE-YEAR-OLDS AND UPWARD. By subscription of $100 each to accompany the nomination, closed Wednesday, December 21 with 14 or by supplementary nomination of $1,500 at time of entry. $500 to enter, $1,000 to start with $100,000 guaranteed of which $60,000 to the winner, $20,000 to second, $12,000 to third, $6,000 to fourth and $2,000 to fifth. Three-Year-Olds: 123 lbs. Older: 125 lbs. Non-winners of a Graded stake since April 1, 2016, allowed 3 lbs.; Non-winners of a Sweepstakes of $20,000 since December 31, 2015, 5 lbs. A trophy will be presented to the winning owner. (01:30PM) (5)|
|1||Tough Sunday||4 C||L||120||Baze Tyler||Miyadi Steven|
|2||Solid Wager||5 G||L||122||Espinoza Victor||Miller Peter|
|3||St. Joe Bay||4 G||L||120||Desormeaux Kent J.||Miller Peter|
|4||Navy Hymn||3 G||L||118||Bejarano Rafael||Baltas Richard|
|5||Jimmy Bouncer||5 G||L||122||Gutierrez Mario||O’Neill Doug F.|