Behind every great Derby is a great Oaks, and Santa Anita Derby Day is no exception. The 12-race card is California's premier event of spring, and the Grade 2 $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks will be 1 of 6 stakes on the program. It settles mid-card in Race 6 and kicks off an all-stakes pick 4. Horseplayers also will be challenged on the card to a 20-cent Rainbow 6 mandatory payout in Races 7-12 that is expected to reach $5 million in pool size.
BEAUTIFUL GIFT has the field's lone graded stakes win in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel. BEAUTIFUL CUT has placed at the Grade 2 level. MORAZ and JAVINICA are Grade 3-placed.
Cat-and-mouse tempos are typical in this size of a field and the Oaks likely will be about rider intent. Of the 21 total past performance lines in this field, exactly 1 has an Oaks contender on the early lead -- BRILLIANT CUT in the Santa Ynez. But she's hardly a burner and this is not the kind of race to rely on pace as the decider because of its ambiguous shape.
BRILLIANT CUT has the race's A-list victory with her Santa Ynez head victory over MORAZ. They rematch at the same distance 4 weeks later and the winner retains Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who is back in town to ride Medina Spirit in the Derby. MORAZ was forwardly placed in that 4-horse Santa Ynez and from the rail Saturday may be forced to do more early than probably is her best. She was left short in the last encounter likely in part for the same reason.
SOOTHSAY was brilliant in her March 26 workout at XBTV, running 6-furlongs in race time of 1:11-2/5, dusting a $600K unraced Curlin 3YO colt for fun. She looked even better than her promising debut sprint win suggested. You'd expect that from trainer Richard Mandella, whose runners improve with time and development. Her dam Spellbound was slower to develop for Mandella, finished 4th in her Santa Anita Oaks and would go on to win the Grade 2 La Canada. SOOTHSAY appears to be on a much faster trajectory.
JAVANICA looked home free in the 1-1/8 miles El Camino Real Derby last time out vs. the boys at Golden Gate Fields. It took a classy colt like Rombauer, fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last autumn, to run her down. She's wisely spotted back in with the Oaks cast, and should fit much better at the shorter trip. Her damside pedigree leans miler, and that's part of the reason she's wound up second-best in 4 straight races. Mike Smith takes the mount as Flavien Prat moves to SOOTHSAY.
BRILLIANT CUT went off slow and came home quicker in a nice solo move March 27 as seen at XBTV.com. She'll need to harness in a similar fashion to get the 1-1/16 miles trip after sprints in 6 of her 7 starts. Her pedigree leans sprint as well, but this was a good sign of relaxing and finishing.
Most Certain Exotics Contender:
BEAUTIFUL GIFT is a stakes winner over the track and distance, and it's Bob Baffert and John Velazquez on a big day. She's not dominant, but it's hard to see her outside of the trifecta.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender:
BRILLIANT CUT has finished underneath at big prices in past stakes and could click the bottom of the trifecta.
Sending it in ($100 bankroll):
$100 win SOOTHSAY.