The prep race schedule for the 2016 Kentucky Derby Trail takes a break this week, but there is still some major graded stakes racing action at Santa Anita & Aqueduct.
Look for a small but talented field for this year’s Santa Monica highlighted by a couple of veteran thoroughbreds trying to get off to a fast start in a brand new season of racing. The following are a pair of horses that come together perfectly for an exacta play in Saturday’s sport picks.
Santa Monica Stakes- Santa Anita Park
The Santa Monica is a Grade 2 stakes race for four-year old fillies and up with a total prize purse of $200,000. It will be contested on the dirt at Santa Anita over a distance of seven furlongs.
Prize Exhibit has already made a big splash as a newly turned four-year old with a victory in the Grade 2 Monrovia Stakes over a distance of 6 ½ furlongs at Santa Anita Park on Jan. 3. She did fade to sixth in the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes at Del Mar and seventh in the Grade 1 QE II Challenge at Keeneland her previous two times out at longer distances to close-out her three-year old campaign, but the shorter distance of this Saturday’s race should work in her favor.
Trained by James Cassidy, Prize Exhibit has an overall rating of 6.27 by Horse Racing Nation and one of her two victories as a three-year old came at this track in the Grade 3 Senorita Stakes in late June.
My second choice for this Saturday’s Santa Monica Stakes would be trainer Philip D’Amato’s Sunday Rules. This five-year old California-bred mare has the highest HRN rating in the field at 7.39 and she has not finished out of the money in her last seven races. This includes a strong track record at Santa Anita with victories in three-straight races here last year including the Spring Fever Stakes on May 23.
Sunday Rules last raced on Nov. 22 as a four-year old and she went on to win a five furlong allowance race at Del Mar. She also ran well in her last graded stakes event with a second-place finish in last season’s Grade 2 Great Lady M at Los Alamitos on July 11 over a distance of 6 ½ furlongs.
Bonus Race: Busanda Stakes- Aqueduct Racetrack
The Busanda is a listed race for three-year old fillies and it will be contested on the dirt track at Aqueduct over a distance of 1 mile 70 yards.
The entered field of three-year old fillies for this Saturday’s Busanda stands at seven, but the horse that clearly stands-out from the rest is Flora Dora. This is a relatively inexperienced field when it comes to stakes races, but this three-year old Florida-bred filly has already proven she can step-up in class. As a juvenile, she caught everyone’s attention with a solid second-place finish behind Big World in the Grade 3 Tempted Stakes at Aqueduct on Nov. 4 over a distance of a mile. At a longer distance of a 1 1/8 mile in the Grade 2 Demoiselle Stakes at Aqueduct on Nov. 28, she finished just out of the money in fourth place.
Flora Dora is trained by Marialice Coffey and look for Jose Ortiz to get the ride. She is the only horse in the field rated by HRN at 5.45.
The rest of the field has all had a level of success in some Maiden Special Weight races and some Maiden Claimers at Aqueduct during their juvenile campaign, but one filly that I see taking the next step by finishing in the money in a stakes race would be Alto Belle. This is famed trainer Todd Pletcher’s entry into Saturday’s Busanda and jockey Irad Ortiz is expected to be on board.
In her final race as a two-year old, she finished first in a MSW race at Aqueduct on Nov. 20 over a distance of 1 mile and in her racing debut last season she took second in a MSW race at Belmont over a distance of 1 1/16 mile.