December 26, 2018
SANTA ANITA (Race 8)
(2) BATTLE OF MIDWAY may be one of the better handicap horses going into the 2019 calendar year. He'll get a chance to show us a preview of what's to come next year if he runs his race in the San Antonio this afternoon. The son of Smart Strike is looking to extend his current win streak to three while holding what appears to be a significant class edge over these. He'll be pressing the pace from his inside draw under Flavien Prat. He has a proven record over this course and at this distance.(7) GIFT BOX will make his debut in the John Sadler barn and will be returning from a long layoff today. The son of Twirling Candy has been working very quickly in the mornings leading up to this spot, but will be tackling much better company than what he was running against last winter in New York. That said, he should be a good measuring stick for the rest of the field and will be finishing well.(3) DABSTER pushed our top choice to the limits last time out, finishing just a neck behind that one while well, well clear of the rest of the field in the Native Diver Handicap at Del Mar. It's proven that he might just be better at longer distances and may be able to soften up our top pick.
SANTA ANITA (Race 9)
(13) MCKINZIE has run only one bad race. That came last time out at Churchill Downs in the BC Classic when he finished 12th against the likes of Accelerate and Gunnevera. He returns to his home base and should be sitting on a big effort today. He broke his maiden at this demanding 7 furlong distance in his career debut, which may give bettors optimism that he can fire fresh. The Bob Baffert trainee will be pushed to make the lead from his outside post, and he will have plenty of company for that position.(6) AXELROD appears to be sitting on a doozy for trainer Mike McCarthy. Last seen finishing off the board in the BC Classic, he's been able to take his best races around the country much like the top pick and has the type of tractable speed where he could make a huge impact in the lane.(10) BOBBY'S WICKED ONE will be chasing a couple pretty big targets here, but the son of Speightstown ran super when second best in a stakes race last time out. Though still eligible for NW/1 allowance events, I like the aggressiveness from trainer Albert Stall. Look for him to be close to the early pace.(9) AX MAN popped and stopped when last seen in the Los Alamitos Derby last summer, but he has trained well for Baffert and could be a factor on the front end. Curious to see how well he handles the pace pressure.
SANTA ANITA (Race 10)
(4) ACKER will be looking for his third straight win and might have found a bit of a soft spot in the allowance ranks. The Peter Miller trainee should get a relatively good trip just off the pace. He is reunited with his go-to rider Rafael Bejarano and returns to a turf course where he has found success. (3) SHAKY ALIBI looked good breaking his maiden at Del Mar earlier this month and looks like he's on a bit of an upswing. The Carla Gaines trainee gets a big rider change to Mike Smith and will likely be nursed along on the lead.(6) SOUTER should benefit from what could be a contested pace. The Mark Glatt trainee looked good coming off a nice win against softer company last time out.
THE PLAY: Late Pick Three (Races 8-10) in order of preference
R8 -- 2
R9 -- 13,6,10,9
R10 -- 4,3,6