The Santa Margarita Stakes lost its star attraction when champion Unique Bella defected from the first Grade 1 race of the year for older females in favor of the second–the Apple Blossom on April 14th at Oaklawn– because of missed training.
The absence of Unique Bella might have taken star power away from the $400,000 race on Saturday at Santa Anita Park, but it certainly makes the field more interesting from a handicapping perspective.
The mile and an eighth event conducted over Santa Anita’s main track drew a field of ten probables led by 13-time winner #3 Mended. Trainer John Martin claimed the daughter of Broken Vow for the low price of $12,500 in January of 2017 and she has paid off for her connections to say the least. The five-year-old mare won ten straight for Martin starting last February and then nearly made it eleven in a row in the Grade 2 La Canada in January, but she was beaten a head.
Mended comes into her first Grade 1 start fresh, but has to illustrate she can get the nine furlong distance, as well as deal with a field that appears to have at least a few others that do their best running on or near the front end. As always though it is difficult for me to exclude a horse that is razor sharp and loves to win.
#9 Mopotism spent 2017 taking on many of the best three-year-old fillies in the States earning over $361,000 despite hitting the wire first just once. She put forth a career best 105 BRIS speed rating in a fifth place effort in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff before getting seven weeks off from trainer Doug O’Neill.
The Reddam Racing filly has not matched her effort in the Distaff in three starts since the championship event, but she has hit the board in 3 straight graded stakes events, including the narrow win over Mended in the La Canada two-back.
I respect Mopotism’s class and consistency, as well as the fact that she should sit a perfect trip in the Santa Margarita, but I question her ability to finish with significant energy at a mile and an eighth. She is likely to hit the board, but I struggle to see her winning at nine panels.
#7 Bishop’s Pond ships in from the East Coast for trainer Jason Servis after a win in the $100,000 Thirty Eight Go Go Stakes at Laurel on January 8th. Like Mended, the six-year-old mare will have to contend with rivals on the front end, but if Victor Espinoza can find a way to relax her early or beat the rest of this group to the front and set a moderate early tempo she has a shot to spring the minor upset.
#6 Majestic Heat comes into the Santa Margarita off of consecutive third place efforts for Hall of Famer Richard Mandella. The Cal-bred mare has moved to the dirt after racing solely over the lawn through her first 15 races. She won her first two starts on the main track, including a two and a half length win in the Grade 2 Bayakoa, but has disappointed to an extent in 3 starts in 2018.
Majestic Heat’s 0 for 3 record at Santa Anita and moderate efforts in her last few make her hard to trust, but the upside is there to handle a field like this one.
#10 Fault has not raced on dirt since two straight efforts over Fair Grounds main track last winter, but she comes into the second start of her four-year-old campaign off a win in the Grade 2 Buena Vista. The daughter of Blame is one of a few that should benefit from a contentious first half mile, but at 4-1 she is tough to get too excited about until she proves she can compete at this level over dirt.
Here is how I will wager on the Grade 1 Santa Margarita:
Without a strong opinion on the win end, I will focus my attention on exotic wagers where I will key Mopotism for second or third.
$1 Trifecta Wheel
3+6+7 with 9 with 1+3+6+7+8+10 = $15
$1 Trifecta Wheel
3+6+7 with 1+3+6+7+8+10 with 9 = $15
$.50 Superfecta Wheel
3+6+7 with 9 with 3+6+7 with 1+3+6+7+8+10 = $12
$.50 Superfecta Wheel
3+6+7 with 3+6+7 with 9 with 1+3+6+7+8+10 = $12
Total Budget: $54
Good luck at the windows!