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Santa Anita Handicap: This is some horserace
by Geir Stabell (geir.stabell@globeform.com) / Globeform (http://www.globeform.com)
Last update: 2009-03-06 08:09:44 (First published: 2009-03-06 05:43:51 )


Santa Anita Saturday: The top race of the winter / spring season in California is upon us, and this year’s edition of the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) has drawn an evenly matched field of fourteen.

Einstein has been given top weight, as he returns to 1 ¼ miles and tries the Pro-Ride surface for the first time. He is set to meet strong runners like Champs Elysees, third in the Big Cap last year, Colonel John, winner of the 2008 Santa Anita Derby (G1), Matto Mondo, a rapidly improving South American import, as well as two talented four-year-olds in Hollywood Derby (G1) winner Colonel John and Strub Stakes (G2) winner Cowboy Cal. Throw in the French import Zambezi Sun, who has been given a particularly attractive weight, and you are looking at some horserace.


GLOBEFORM RANKING
SANTA ANITA HANDICAP (G1)

Santa Anita Saturday 7 Mar 2009
10 fur. Pro-Ride / 4yo+ / $1,000,000

Top ranked horse on 100, with others ranked down in pounds
worse off according to GF ratings and weights (1 length = 2lb).
Horses presented with sire, best Globeform rating, last placings
(most recent first / 0 = worse than 9th) / trainer and jockey.

A “+” after the rating indicates improvement expected.

# = Same jockey as last time out
^ = Better jockey than last time out

100 – ZAMBEZI SUN (Dansili) GF 120 turf / 0142 / R Frankel / V Espinoza
..97 – MATTO MONDO (Sir Cat) GF 117+ / 1138 / R Mandella / R Bejarano
..97 – COLONEL JOHN (Tiznow) GF 120 / 3613 / E Harty / G Gomez #
..95 – MAGNUM (El Compinche) GF 115 / 1394 / D Vienna / J Rosario #
..94 – EINSTEIN (Spend a Buck) GF 119 / 3152 / H Pitts / J Leparoux #
..93 – CHAMPS ELYSEES (Danehill) GF 115 / 7183 / R Frankel / J Valdivia Jr
..93 – STREAM CAT (Black Minnaloushe) GF 115 in 2008 / GF 108 / 6366 / P Biancone / A Solis ^
..93 – HEROI DO BAFRA (Royal Academy) GF 108 / 1622 / P Miller / M Baze #
..93 – DANSANT (Dansili) GF 113 / 2116 / G Butler / T Baze ^
..92 – MONBA (Maria’s Mon) GF 110 / 3010 / T Pletcher / E Prado
..91 – COURT VISION (Gulch) GF 114+ / 3116 / W Mott / R Dominguez #
..91 – COWBOY CAL (Giant’s Causeway) GF 114 / 1122 / T Pletcher / J Velazquez #
..91 – CAUSE (Giant’s Causeway) GF 105 / 6154 / K Cho Myung / J Court
..90 – BLUE EXIT (Pulpit) GF 109 / 2104 / J Hollendorfer / R Albarado ^


Matto Mondo is our selection. He is the most interesting new South American import around at the moment, and coming off two impressive wins at this venue, both in lesser company and both over shorter distances. He could have gone for the Kilroe Mile, but trainer Richard Mandella chose the Big Cap, and his horse is clearly in with a good chance, if he stays the trip. Matto Mondo beat the Euro import Mr Napper Tandy by 1 ¼ lengths in a turf allowance race over a mile in late December, then came back to take the Thunder Road Stakes (G3) over a mile on the Pro-Ride (race moved off the turf) on February 7. Always in the first two, he kicked right away in the straight to beat Global Hunter by 3 ¼ lengths, with Monba a length further back in third. That performance earned Matto Mondo Globeform 117+ and there is almost certainly more to come form this guy. He won the 8.5-furlong 2,000 Guineas (G1) in Chile back in 2007 and has 6 wins from 11 career starts.

Colonel John will be making his first start since finishing fourth to Bob Black Jack in the 7-furlong Malibu Stakes (G1) over this course on December 26. That was much too short for the son of Tiznow, and last year’s Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner will be more at home over 1 ¼ miles. He also won the Sham Stakes (G3) here at Santa Anita last term, as well as the Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga, and – perhaps more importantly – performed with credit when sixth to Raven’s Pass in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). Racing over the same surface and distance as the Big Cap, Colonel John was beaten 5 lengths that day. It was not his best performance of last year but it showed that he handles the Pro-Ride surface. Having done a lot of training over the strip, he is a horse who holds ‘home advantage’ here, and he must be respected. If he reproduces his best level of form, Colonel John can beat them all. His sire won this event and Colonel John has, on more than one occasion, displayed a winning attitude similar to Tiznow, the only horse to have won the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) twice.

Zambezi Sun, a horse bordering on top class when trained by Pascal Bary in France, tops the ranking based on his best turf form. On 116lb, the son of Dansili has been let in rather lightly by the handicapper in the Big Cap. He pulled much too hard on his US debut, in the San Luis Obispo Handicap (G2) on turf two weeks ago, and faded to sixth after leading on the home turn. Trainer Bobby Frankel, who also runs Champs Elysees, was not too disappointed, saying “I was fearing something like that might happen”. Zambezi Sun will get a strong pace to run at on Saturday, and he is certainly one to consider. He beat Schiaparelli by half a length to land the Prix Foy (G2) over 12 furlongs at Longchamp last September, before running way below form in the ‘Arc’. Zambezi Sun had previously been a good runner-up to the well-known globetrotter Doctor Dino in the Grand Prix de Chantilly (G2), and he was a Grade 1 winner over 12 furlongs at three (albiet in a soft race).

Einstein produced yet another solid performance when third behind Dubai World Cup favourite Albertus Maximus in the Donn Handicap (G1) at Gulfstream Park on January 31. Somewhat caught out by the distance and the pace scenario, he went down by 2 ¼ lengths in Florida. It a good start to the new season for this tough and versatile Brazilian bred runner. He was coming off a break since landing the Clark Handicap (G2) over 9 furlongs on dirt at Churchill Downs two months earlier. Einstein ran right up to his best in Louisville, to pass the front-running favorite Commentator at the top of the lane, and run on too strongly for the relentless closer Delightful Kiss (a G3 winner since). He was also second to Horse of The Year Curlin in last year’s Foster Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs. A classy G1 winner on turf, Einstien is likely to enjoy racing on the Pro-Ride surface. Nine furlongs suits him best, however, and if we get a strongly run Big ‘Cap his connections will may be worried about the stamina factor.

Champs Elysees, arguably the best-bred horse in the field, is an intriguing contender. He finished third here last year, behind Heatseeker and Go Between. Champs Elysees made up a lot of ground from well off the pace in last year’s Big Cap, and it was a main track debut that made many include him on their shortlist for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). Indeed, via a season of some ups and down in turf races, Champs Elysees did end up in the BC Classic. But, while he produced his highest rating in the championship event, he finished only eighth. He went off at 23-1 so his run was more or less as expected. He was beaten 5 ¼ lengths by the winner, Raven’s Pass. Champs Elysees had previously gained G1 success in the rather soft Northern Dancer Stakes (G1) on turf at Woodbine in Canada, where he was third in the Canadian International (G1) four weeks later, and he also landed the Hollywood Turf Cup (G1) before the year was out. Champs Elysees disappointed in his 2009 debut, as he could manage only seventh of eight behind Magnum in the San Antonio Handicap (G2) at Santa Anita in February. He needs to run a lot better than that to have a chance in the Big Cap but the son of Danehill has been rather inconsistent over the past twelve months, and it would be no surprise to see him bounce back to form. Related to some top class milers, such as Banks Hill, Dansili and Intercontinental, he stays 1 ½ miles and his chances increase if the race gets a strong pace.

Magnum returned to form with a solid win over Well Armed and Tiago (who were both giving him weight) in the San Antonio Handicap (G2) over 9 furlongs at this course in February. Magnum had been third to Cowboy Cal when making his comeback in the San Pasqual (G2), and he moved forward really well to win the San Antonio. He has a good weight here, but the distance is a worry, as Magnum is a prominent runner and more effective over 8 and 9 furlongs.

Court Vision and Cowboy Cal, both aged four, seem harshly treated by the weights, but they come here in good form and both might improve. Court Vision, possessing more stamina than Cowboy Cal, is preferred. He finished gamely from off the pace to take thi8rd behind Kip Deville in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) over 9 furlongs on the lawn last time out. That was his first run since he landed the Hollywood Derby (G1) last November, and Court Vision looks a horse to follow in 2009.

GLOBEFORM SELECTIONS

A: 1 MATTO MONDO
B: 5 COLONEL JOHN, 12 ZAMBEZI SUN
C: 8 EINSTEIN, 11 COURT VISION



2008 SANTA ANITA HANDICAP (G1)

1 – HEATSEEKER (Giant’s Causeway) GF 120

2 – Go Beween (Point Given) GF 120
3 – Champs Elysees (Dansili) GF 113+

Also ran:
Tiago GF 114, Zappa GF 108, Student Council GF 110+, Awesome Gem GF 106,
Great Hunter GF 103, Air Commander GF 103, Big Booster GF 101, Seminole Native GF 100, Monterey Jazz GF 101+, Medici Code (GB) GF 97, Celtic Dreamin GF 0

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