Ultimate Eagle and Coil headline fine field of contenders on Saturday's Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap at Santa Anita. The field suffered the scratching of three horses shortening the field to six.
But the defections of Hoorayforhollywood, Key Decision (ARG) and Golden Itiz have done nothing to lessen the quality of the contenders, which makes this 77th rendition of the San Pasqual a very interesting and possibly open.
Bob Baffert trainee Coil is the morning-line favorite for the race.
His recent form shows us that he is the horse to beat in this race. You have to draw a line over his Breeders' Cup Sprint Championship race as he was compromised by a slow start that saw him leave the gate 14th (dead last) and was done right away.
He comes from finishing a game third to Stay Thirsty and Groupie Doll in the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on November 24 with a monster 105 Beyer Figure.
Since then, he has three bullet workouts for this race, highlighted by the four furlongs in 46.4 December in 22, and the five furlongs in 58.2 on December 29—both over the Santa Anita track.
He is definitely in top shape.
Ultimate Eagle is the top speed of the race. Jockey Martin Pedroza should take him to the lead right away and try to play catch-me-if-you-can.
He has only run twice on dirt, both here, including a win at the Grade 2 Strub last year over Jaycito and PrayerforRelief. He got beaten by Data Link on the Citation Handicap on his last race.
That marked his return to the track after a nine-month layoff, and should serve as a foundation race for this one. The rest of the horses are capable of keep track with him as they are no deep closers, but should he be able to get some easy fractions early, he will be hard to catch.
John Scott has been compromised by slow starts on his last two races. He finished fourth on his last to Tapizar on the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile and was given some time to refresh for his 2013 campaign.
The questions with him might come on his ability to handle conventional dirt as he is winless in three starts over the surface, while being five-for-seven with a second place over synthetics.
His works for this race—all over dirt—have been good with a highlight of five furlongs in 59.3 on December 19.
Jaycito powered his way to a win on his last start over an allowance company that included Tres Borrachos. He earned a 100 Beyer figure for his efforts which came a month after earning a 51 at the Breeders' Cup Marathon.
But that last race was over the synthetic surface at Hollywood Park and he looks better suited for that surface. Jockey Julien Leparoux repeats the mount.
Veteran eight-year-old Tres Borrachos made a winning move under Garrett Gomez on the turn for home on his last race and looked like a winner until Jaycito passed him on the stretch.
This horse is a warrior but has never won in nine tries at Santa Anita. He looks to be always in the mix, but has won only four times in 43 career starts and his last win was on July 2011 at Del Mar.
Bank the Eight scored a huge 109 Beyer figure off his win over an optional claimer competition under Rafael Bejarano on November 10 at Hollywood Park.
He then bounced big time finishing a disappointing last place finish, beaten over 17 lengths at the Grade 3 Vernon Underwood against tough company in the likes of Smiling Tiger, Private Zone and Capital Account.
The Bob Baffert trainee worked 58.2 and 58.3 over five furlongs on December 20 and 27 respectively. He then followed that up with a day's best, 34.4 for three furlongs, all works over the Santa Anita track.
His works for this race suggest he is ready to fire a big race and should not be overlooked as he could be the surprise of the race.
Santa Anita | 7th Race | Post Time: 3:35 p.m. PT
San Pasqual Handicap | Grade 2 | Purse: $150,000
Distance: 8.5 furlongs
|1||Jaycito||5/H||Julien R. Leparoux||Bob Baffert||5/1|
|3||Tres Borrachos||8/H||Garrett K. Gomez||Martin F. Jones||6/1|
|4||Ultimate Eagle||5/H||Martin A. Pedroza||Michael Pender||5/2|
|5||John Scott||6/H||Victor Espinoza||Carla Gaines||3/1|
|6||Coil||5/H||Martin Garcia||Bob Baffert||2/1|
|7||Bank the Eight||6/H||Rafael Bejarano||Bob Baffert||8/1|
Scratched horses: 2-Hoorayforhollywod 8-1, 8-Key Decision (ARG) 20-1 and 9-Golden Itiz 20-1.
Morning Line odds by drf.com.