(If you open the PP’s and use Adobe Reader to view them, you’ll find my annotations…if you just open the link, you’ll find the original PP’s)
The 2013 Santa Anita Handicap has attracted a strong field of ten competitors, with Game On Dude and Ron The Greek playing as the headliners. Game On Dude won the 2011 running of the Big ‘Cap, but it didn’t go without some controversy. Many believe Game On Dude should have been disqualified following contact in the stretch between himself, Setsuko and Twirling Candy. After reviewing the incident, the stewards chose to make no change, and Game On Dude became a Grade I winner. He’s going to be the main speed of this year’s Big ‘Cap, and there is no question that he loves the Santa Anita strip (won 6 of 7 career races at SA). If you’re looking for a reason to play against him, it can be argued that 10 furlongs is a bit farther than he’d like to go. He’s won 2 of 8 starts going a mile and a quarter, but he clearly seems to be more formidable going 9 furlongs. Game On Dude will be the post time favorite and has to be considered a major player in this race, but I’m going to look elsewhere.
Ron The Greek won the 2012 running of the Santa Anita Handicap in convincing fashion. While he took advantage of a ridiculous pace of :44 and change on the front end, Ron The Greek made a strong middle move and continued along with his rally, taking the race by three and a half lengths. In his 2013 debut, he put forth a monster effort in the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park, winning that race by open lengths and registering a 115 Beyer Speed Figure in the process. However, I can’t help but think the off track had something to do with the huge winning margin and gaudy speed figure. Much like Game On Dude, he needs to be considered a major player in this race, but he won’t offer much value (expecting 5-2, 3-1) in this spot. He could absolutely win this race, but I’m going to pass.
Called to Serve is the “it” horse at the moment. Many people are talking about him as if he is destined to be a major player in the handicap division this year – and he very well could. It took him a while to figure things out, but by the end of this three year old campaign Called to Serve was handling taking down stakes races, including the Grade III Discovery Handicap at Aqueduct in November. Hall of Famer Gary Stevens has the mount, so you can be assured that Called to Serve will have every opportunity to get the job done if he’s good enough. He has plenty of potential, but I think he’s going to be the “wise guy” horse and will be an underlay in this spot…no thanks.
Richard’s Kid has been a nice horse throughout his career, but I think he’s finally starting to show his age. The eight year old has been a strong competitor throughout his racing career, but he looks to be getting a little long in the tooth. Add in the fact that I believe his best efforts are over a synthetic surface, and I’m going to eliminate Richard’s Kid as a contender.
Guilt Trip is a developing four year old colt that has blossomed nicely since being sent to the West Coast and into the barn of Bob Baffert. Coming off a nice victory in the Grade II Strub Stakes, Guilt Trip definitely has a shot at taking down the Big ‘Cap. As strong as his recent efforts have been, he has had back to back dream trips which no question have aided him. He could very well work out another perfect trip and be good enough to best this field, but I’m not picking him on top.
I truly believe Handsome Mike is the key to this race. It may be wishful thinking on my part, but I think Handsome Mike can be enough of a pest to Game On Dude on the front end that it could set up for the off-the-pace runners to take advantage. I’m not picking Handsome Mike – but I’m hoping he sets the race up perfectly for my selection…
Bred to relish 10 furlongs, Stephanoatsee has made steady progress in each and every one of his starts. You’ve got to believe that Graham Motion has some confidence in this son of A.P. Indy, as he sent him to California to run in the Strub Stakes last month, which is a logical prep for the Santa Anita Handicap. In the Strub, Stephanoatsee rallied from deep in the pack to finish a nice second, a length and a half behind Guilt Trip. There are a multitude of reasons I’m picking Stephanoatsee to win the Big ‘Cap – second start of the year, second start off the layoff, second start as a four year old, bred to love the added distance, and Graham Motion is as good a horseman as you’ll find in the United States. He’ll need some help on the front end, but I believe Stephanoatsee will light up the toteboard in the Santa Anita Handicap, hopefully at odds near 10-1.
SELECTION: 8 – Stephanoatsee, Julien Leparoux; ML 8-1