This week we move to the warm ocean breezes of Santa Anita for the G2 $200,000 San Gabriel Stakes. The race will be contested by 10 older horses at 1-1/8 miles over Santa Anita’s turf course. The 2018 San Gabriel has returned to its G2 status after the 2017 version, taken off the turf due to weather, was automatically downgraded one notch by the American Graded Stakes Committee.
The Santa Anita turf course has produced 2 wire to wire winners in the past ten 9 furlong turf contests, with 7 races being won by stalkers and mid pack closers. With no “need-the-lead” types being entered, a questionable pace scenario will force us to dig a little deeper to figure out who may get the best trip on Saturday.
When handicapping this group of 5, 6 and 7 year olds, I will be concentrating on their form cycle, speed figures and the pace scenario. I do not expect any of these older horses to do something for the first time in this race. They are all proven commodities and none of them should be making any leaps forward at this point in their careers.
The pace of the race should be dictated by the two outside horses, the #9, Free Rose, and the #10, Smokey Image. Free Rose, a multiple graded stakes winner who is usually forwardly placed, will be making just his 2nd start since 2016. So while I expect him to try and cross over on the first run through the stretch, I don’t expect him to be there the second time through. Just to his outside and coming in off of a 3rd place finish at 7f on the dirt is the #10, Smokey Image. In his last 2 tries on the turf, he prepped with a dirt sprint but was never able to move forward and get to the lead on Santa Anita’s grass. I see more of the same for this 20/1 morning line long shot who was 0 for 2017.
Just behind the speed should be the #3 Top of the Game, #5 Tequila Joe, and #6 Isotherm. All of these contender are coming in off of graded stakes tries but I have reasons to dismiss them all. Top of the Game has never won on the turf and trainer Vladimir Cerin is 0/19 in graded stakes. Tequila Joe last ran at 1-1/2 miles in the G2 Hollywood Turf Cup where he hugged the rail up front only to fade in the lane. And then there is Isotherm who has not run since the G1 Santa Anita Handicap in March where he finished 5th. While Isotherm has been training well, he is 0/3 at this distance and I would need more than the 7/2 morning line odds to back him.
Morning line favorite (3/1) Itsinthepost presents us with an interesting dilemma. He last ran in the Breeder’s Cup Turf at 1-1/2 miles in November and should be the class of the race (along with the #1, Flamboyant), but even trainer Jeff Mullins has been quoted that he thinks Itsinthepost needs more than the 1-1/8 miles that the San Gabriel has to offer.
The #1, Flamboyant, has not won a race since early 2016 and trainer Patrick Gallagher is a mere 4 for 74 in graded stakes tries. While he has cashed checks in 7 of his last 8 races, Flamboyant just can’t find his way to the winner’s circle.
The horse I landed on this week is 15/1 morning line long shot #2, Editore. Trained by Paulo Lobo with Brice Blanc in the irons, Editore has won his last 2 starts, including a 2-1/4 length victory over the all-weather in the G3 Berkeley Handicap at Golden Gate. It looks like something changed for this horse after being laid off following a 9th place finish in the Del Mar Handicap last August. He has won over the Santa Anita turf course, he has won at this distance, he has won a graded stake, and he is entering the 3rd race of his current form cycle. With competitive recent speed figures and a post position conducive to saving ground, I will take my chances with Editore and hope for a huge payday.