June 22, 2024

Express Train looks to extend win streak in Californian

Express Train, with Victor Espinoza up, wins the Santa Anita Handicap (Photo by Horsephotos)

Racing returns to Santa Anita on Saturday after a near two-week spring break. The 12-race card features four graded stakes.

The highlight of the program is the $200,000 Californian S. (G2) for older horses over 1 1/8 miles, in which Express Train looks to extend a graded stakes win streak to four races. The John Shirreffs-trained son of Union Rags dominated the local division during the winter-spring meet, sweeping the San Antonio (G2), San Pasqual (G2), and Santa Anita H. (G1).

The field of five also features the multiple graded-placed Stilleto Boy and stakes newcomer Shaaz, an Uncle Mo colt who captured two of his first three starts.

The $200,000 Santa Margarita S. (G2), a nine-furlong test for fillies and mares, features a rematch between graded veterans Miss Bigly and Varda, both of whom were distantly placed in the March  5 Beholder Mile (G1). The Beholder Mile was the first start for Varda since her victory in the Starlet (G1) at Los Alamitos in December 2020.

The Santa Margarita also includes the Argentinean import Blue Stripe, seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) in her U.S. debut last fall.

Hollywood Derby (G1) winner Beyond Brilliant heads the field for the most lucrative of the four stakes, the $225,000 Charles Whittingham S. (G2) over 1 1/4 miles on the turf. His main rival might be 2021 San Marcos (G2) scorer Masteroffoxhounds.

The $100,000 Kona Gold S. (G3), a 6 1/2-furlong dash on the main track, includes the Grade 2-winning Cal-bred star Brickyard Ride and the Grade 3-winning Florida invader Miles Ahead.