Santa Anita Opening Day Best Bets

posted by Steve Bortstein -

Race Six -- One mile (Turf) -- Mathis Brothers Mile
#5 BOWIES HERO is back at his preferred distance this afternoon, with all four of his career wins having been at this trip. The son of Artie Schiller was given a tall order last time out rallying into soft fractions in the 9 furlong Hollywood Derby. His midrange style is best suited for this trip. He's reunited with Kent Desormeaux, appears to have worked well coming into this spot and should offer a hint of value in a race where there appears to be no real consensus among favoritism.
#3 COLONIST is returning from a layoff this afternoon after a pair of decent efforts against stakes company last summer at Del Mar. The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee has been facing some tough customers of late, but has to be respected here.
#4 HARBOUR MASTER will be closing ground in the lane. Whatever class cloud is against the James Cassidy trainee can be overlooked by his strong late kick and his most recent efforts, in which he's hit the board in four of his last five starts.
#8 BIG SCORE is simply being asked to be forgiven for too many near-misses of late. The son of Mr. Big hasn't been in the winners' circle since his score in last April's Grade 3 Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland. A couple outside post positions at Del Mar, running into a couple tough customers earlier this year in the likes of Oscar Performance and Frostmourne and coming up short in solid tries both locally and at Churchill Downs. It's an impressive list of references, but it requires a bit of courage to jump on board as the morning-line favorite.  

Race Eight -- 7 furlongs -- Malibu Stakes
In my mind, #6 PAVEL was always going to be a better middle-distance horse. It is precisely for that reason that I thought he was hopelessly over-matched going 10 furlongs last month in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Del Mar. Today, he's back over a track where he scored his maiden victory and racing at a distance I believe is perfectly suited for his tracking style. I'm willing to ignore the running line in the aforementioned Classic, as no one really in their right mind thought the son of Creative Cause was going to get near the top three runners in that race. I cannot, for the life of me, find any other runners in here who even closely resemble that Grade 1 caliber company.
#3 IRISH FREEDOM is another route-to-sprint mover, this one hailing from what's considered one of the best rider-trainer tandems in recent memory. The son of Pioneerofthe Nile comes off a pair of minor placings in stakes company, but figures to be aggressively maneuvered out of the gate in a race that doesn't appear at all heavy with early speed. The combination of jockey Mike Smith and trainer Bob Baffert needs no superlatives, but a plus-40 percent win ratio should not go unnoticed.
#4 FAVORABLE OUTCOME is the morning line favorite for the Malibu, presumably off the strength of a big effort last time out at Aqueduct. He is a stakes winner, having taken the Grade 2 Swale Stakes last February at Gulfstream Park, but in his only appearance in California, the son of Flatter was badly beaten on the local turf. Connections obviously merit a great deal of respect, and he's likely to be tactically positioned on or near the lead under Javier Castellano. I'll pass on the win end, but he remains a major threat with anything resembling his most recent start.
#2 EDWARDS GOING LEFT is the obvious horse-for-course players delight, as the son of Midnight Lute has won four times from six starts over the local course, including a stakes win at this tricky distance. The John Sadler trainee figures to be a prominent factor in the stretch.

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