Considering Europe’s poor record in the Classic (12.35am), the $5 million (£3.1m) highlight of the two-day meeting on Sunday, it’s no surprise to see an all-American affair.
Game On Dude was a gallant second in this race last year under Chantal Sutherland, beaten by her ex-fiancée Mike Smith on Drosselmeyer, and is best-priced 2/1 with Coral to gain compensation. Rafael Bejarano has taken the ride this year and the gelding will defend a 100 per cent record at Santa Anita – having won five from five at the California track.
At that price he is very short – albeit in a poor looking renewal – so a better value alternative might be MUCHO MACHO MAN at 8/1. Handled by the relatively unknown Kathy Ritvo, the son of former Juvenile winner Macho Uno has got better with age. He’s won four of his last six starts and looks ready to return to this 10 furlong trip. He’s also done all his winning on left-handed flat tracks similar to Santa Anita.
Elsewhere tomorrow, the Europeans have a strong hand in the Juvenile Turf (6.50pm) with the front three in the market all trained in Britain or Ireland. Favourite Dundonnell is a US-bred colt but is another worth taking on at his price in a big field full of unexposed types.
ARTIGIANO may have only won once in six starts but has only been behind the best two-year-olds this season including Olympic Glory, Steeler and the unbeaten Dawn Approach. He bolted up by six lengths the only time he encountered the firm surface he wants and that, combined with a good draw, will see him go well.
The one most likely to justify favouritism at a short price is GROUPIE DOLL. She is on a five-timer in the Filly and Mare Sprint (7.35pm) and I fancy her to do the business at 11/10 with Paddy Power. Course winner Turbulent Descent is another to consider but the Coolmore-owned filly is prone to throwing in a shocker.
The Turf (10.18pm) has long been the European banker with 10 of the last 12 renewals going to horses trained in Europe. St Nicholas Abbey returns to defend his crown but I think it’s going to Asia this year in the shape of TRAILBLAZER.
After heartache in the Arc with Orfevre, Japan can celebrate success with Yasutoshi Ikee’s charge who has been targeted at this race and did brilliantly to finish so close on his last start over an inadequate mile.
Over tomorrow’s longer trip he looks a great each-way bet at 6/1 with Coral in a race lacking strength in depth. Shareta and St Nicholas Abbey ran poorly in desperate conditions in the Arc and might not be quite ready to do themselves justice here.
The best bets from this evening’s action come in the form of two females, THE FUGUE in the Filly and Mare Turf (10.48pm) and SPRING VENTURE in the Juvenile Fillies Turf (9.28pm). The Fugue has been put away for this in mind and is a real 10 furlong specialist. There are plenty of dangers led by Marketing Mix but I’m confident champion trainer in-waiting John Gosden can crown off a
Finally, Spring Venture can foil the gamble on Sky Lantern. This continent’s two-year-old fillies have yet to win at this meeting in 27 runs.
Spring Venture appeals as an unbeaten juvenile who has won at shorter and further than this mile test, proving both her speed and her stamina.
As ever, you can follow me on Twitter @BillEsdaile for all my racing views.
SPRING VENTURE 9.28pm Santa Anita (today)
THE FUGUE 10.46pm Santa Anita (today)
ARTIGIANO e/w 6.50pm Santa Anita (tomorrow)
GROUPIE DOLL 7.35pm Santa Anita (tomorrow)
TRAILBLAZER e/w 10.18pm Santa Anita (tomorrow)
MUCHO MACHO MAN e/w 12.35am Santa Anita (Sunday)