Andrew Champagne previews the late pick four at Santa Anita on Sunday.
If you’re looking for a fascinating handicapping puzzle ahead of the big game (bonus play from me: Hammer the over), Sunday’s late Pick Four at Santa Anita presents one. Here’s the question: How does one make money on a sequence featuring one of the buzziest horses on the circuit?
My answer involves playing a very small, budget-friendly ticket which you can punch multiple times if you’re devoted to playing for a larger amount. If you play it for 50 cents, it’ll cost just $4, and here’s what it looks like.
RACE #5: There’s no use beating around the bush here, as #5 BEZOS will be a very heavy favorite in this maiden special weight event. Many of the connections that brought us Justify in 2018 are back here with another first-time starter getting underway as a 3-year-old, and his workouts jump off the page.
There simply doesn’t appear to be much use going against him here. I respect #2 MR. IMPOSSIBLE, a runner I liked a lot in his debut when he hooked next-out Grade 2 San Vicente winter Concert Tour. He’s a nice horse, but I simply can’t see him topping Bezos if that one runs to his works.
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RACE #6: We’ve got a field of 10 for the second leg, an optional claiming race for older turf sprinters. I’m going two-deep here, and my top selection certainly seemed to respond to a change in location last time out.
#6 TRANSLATE had run second three times in New York before being shipped west, and she cruised home by nearly four lengths in her local debut on New Year’s Day. This is her first start against winners, but she’s worked well and has more than enough early speed to ensure her preferred front-running trip.
#7 BRUJA ESCARLATA may very well go off favored, and I’m using her as well. She was never seriously challenged in her debut at Los Alamitos and tries turf for the first time, but she’s got the pedigree to love the lawn. She’s by top turf sire Street Boss and out of the mare Teroda, which makes her a half-sister to Grade 3 turf winner Sombeyay.
RACE #7: This five-horse field is light on quantity, but not on quality. It features several runners with stakes experience, and a favorite last seen running a good second in the Grade 3 Dogwood at Churchill Downs. I’m using that runner, but she’s not my top pick.
#2 QUALITY RESPONSE looked like a real prospect back in the fall of 2019. She won her first two starts by a combined total of nearly 13 lengths and was bet to odds of 7/2 in the Grade 1 Frizette. However, she was last of seven that day and she’s run just once since then, so it’s safe to assume she’s had her issues. However, the blinkers go back on, she seems to have been working well, and I think she’ll be a major player if she’s ready to run.
I’ll also use #4 EDGEWAY, the stakes-place runner I mentioned earlier. She hasn’t done anything wrong in the afternoon yet, having won two of four starts with two top-three finishes against stakes foes. If there’s any hesitation here, it’s because of two things: She’ll likely be a very short price, and trainer John Sadler is just so-so with runners coming off long layoffs (per The Daily Racing Form, he’s 11% with a $1.03 ROI).
RACE #8: We finish with the race that hit me as the toughest of the sequence. It’s an allowance event for Cal-bred turf sprinters, and I doubt this 11-horse field will include a short-priced favorite.
#2 MASTER RYAN may provide some value at or near his 5-1 morning line price. It took him a while to break his maiden, which he did two starts ago, but he ran well to be a close-up fourth last month despite a troubled trip. The red-hot Umberto Rispoli sees fit to ride back, and I think he could have first run on the pace-setters turning for home.
#7 BRIX, meanwhile, ran second in the race my top pick exits and would certainly benefit from a pace meltdown. He generally runs the same race every time out, and the likely race shape should play into the trip he wants. I’ll take a stand against #11 COLT FICTION, who’s done his best running over the main track at Del Mar and returns off a bit of a layoff. It wouldn’t stun me if he won, but the 5/2 morning line seems a bit short, so I’ll try to beat him.
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