May 26, 2024

Three plays on Santa Anita opener

Conquest Enforcer capturing the Sept. 11 Allied Forces Stakes at Belmont Park Photo by Susie Raisher/Adam Coglianese

Boxing Day means opening day at Santa Anita and the nine-race program features four stakes including a pair of Grade 1 events for 3-year-olds, the Malibu and La Brea. The 7-furlong stakes are ripe with early speed.

Here are three horses of interest on Monday’s card:

SEAU (#3) adds blinkers and cuts back in trip for Jerry Hollendorfer (22% route-to-sprint) in Race 3, a 7-furlong maiden special weight for 2-year-olds. A half-brother to Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, the Distorted Humor colt has squared off a couple of promising colts in the last two starts (Beach Bum and Royal Mo) and it may be his turn to shine.

Bob Baffert provides the main competition with three entrants including firster Dabster, a $1 million 2-year-old in training purchase by Curlin who is closely related to top sprinter A.P. Indian. He’s drawn outside with Rafael Bejarano.

Seau received an ideal draw in post 3 and figures to be forwardly-placed with new jockey Joel Rosario. I like his chances on the front end.

Race 4, a 1 1/8-mile entry-level optional claimer, marks the turf debut for PRIME ATTRACTION (#4) and turf is probably where trainer James Cassidy expected the 3-year-old colt to record his first win considering both siblings to race broke their maiden on the green. However, Prime Attraction broke through on dirt in his second career start last out, posting an 11-1 upset in dominant fashion as he led wire-to-wire in his 2-turn bow.

A $335,000 yearling purchase, the son of Unbridled’s Song hails from an outstanding female family, with his dam counting champion and sire Vindication as a half-brother, and Prime Attraction isn’t facing an imposing group of rivals in this spot. The 10-1 morning line price adds to the appeal.

Race 9, the $200,000 Mathis Brothers Mile (G2), anchors the All-Stakes Pick 4 with a field of 11 3-year-olds and CONQUEST ENFORCER (#4) will make his first start out west under the direction of new trainer Phil d’Amato. Part of the Conquest Stables dispersal at the Keeneland November sale, the multiple stakes winner brought $785,000 and should relish the one-mile turf trip.

It’s been a down year for the Southern California 3-year-old male turf division, with Free Rose and Frank Conversation making a major impact over the second half of the season, and it was no surprise to see the locally-based horses fail to offer a serious challenge in the December 3 Hollywood Derby (G1), with East Coast-based maiden winner Annals of Time rallying to a convincing win as stablemate Beach Patrol finished a clear second.

Conquest Enforcer can prove too good for these rivals as well. The Into Mischief colt has captured four of his last six starts, recording a close third in both setbacks against older horses, the Play the King (G2) and Nearctic (G2), and his BRIS numbers are strong.

Good luck on the opening-day program!

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