Santa Anita – Photo by © Breeders’ Cup/Todd Buchanan 2014

Trainer Bob Baffert has won the San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita on nine occasions, and since he’ll be sending out two of the five starters in Sunday’s renewal of the seven-furlong sprint, it stands to reason that he’ll have a strong chance to win a tenth.

Baffert’s two runners are #2 Coliseum and #3 Dessman, the favorites on the morning line at 6-5 and 5-2. At first glance, they loom as the runners to beat, but I can’t say that I’m terribly enthusiastic about playing them at short prices. Coliseum was an eye-catching debut winner at Del Mar in November, but he has a habit of breaking slowly from the starting gate, and he’s also had some trouble relaxing at times. Just look at what happened to him in the one-mile Sham Stakes (gr. III) last month—he blew the start, got rank while racing off the pace, and never really fired from there while finishing sixth of seven.

Dessman was also dominant in his debut, winning a six-furlong sprint at Santa Anita last month by 7 ½ lengths, but that race came back a bit slow on the Beyer and BRIS speed figure scales. He also broke slowly from the starting gate that day, a tendency he’s shown during morning workouts as well.

The problem is, slow starts from Coliseum and Dessman could prove problematic in the San Vicente. There’s rain in the forecast for Sunday at Santa Anita, which could leave the main track sloppy and speed-favoring. Even against a small field, Coliseum and Dessman might not be able to afford poor starts in such conditions—it could put them at a major tactical disadvantage.

Under those circumstances, the speedy sprinter #5 Savagery could be poised for a perfect trip. He was a capable stakes-level sprinter last year, most notably finishing second behind recent Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. III) winner Mucho Gusto in the Bob Hope Stakes (gr. III), and after a couple of uninspiring efforts around two turns, Savagery cut back in trip for a six-furlong allowance race at Santa Anita last month and romped to victory by 3 ½ lengths over a wet-fast, sealed track. Yes, he benefited from carving out modest fractions over a speed-favoring track, but if similar conditions are present on Sunday, who’s to say Savagery won’t capitalize yet again?

#4 Sparky Ville doesn’t have as much early speed as Savagery, but he was every bit as good as that colt last fall, beating him in the Sunny Slope Stakes at Santa Anita before finishing a head behind him in the Bob Hope. If you draw a line through Sparky Ville’s sixth-place finish in the Eddie Logan Stakes on turf in December, it’s hard to knock his form, and as a son of Candy Ride (who sires 21% winners on off tracks), a sloppy racing surface shouldn’t be an issue.

I’ll take a shot against the Baffert runners (particularly Dessman) and play both Savagery and Sparky Ville on top of the exotics:

$4 exacta: 4,5 with 5 ($8)
$3 exacta: 4,5 with 4,5 ($6)
$2 trifecta: 4,5 with 2,4,5 with 2,3,4,5 ($16)

Good luck!