Over the last couple of years, trainer Peter Miller has enjoyed a strong success rate with horses running over the unique 6 ½-furlong downhill turf course at Santa Anita.
That dominance will be on display this Saturday when Miller sends out three of the seven starters in the $150,000 Daytona Stakes (gr. III) going down the hill at Santa Anita, and it’s not impossible that Miller’s three horses could sweep the trifecta.
First and foremost in terms of reputation is #7 Stormy Liberal, who has finished in the exacta in ten of his twelve starts over this course, including a hard-fought win against a tough field in this race last year. Two starts back, Stormy Liberal posted a stunning 30-1 upset in the five-furlong Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (gr. I) at Del Mar, and while he was soundly beaten in the December 10th Hong Kong Sprint (HK-I) while traveling halfway across the world, I think it’s wise to forgive that performance against international competition and judge him off his U.S. form, which is excellent.
But Stormy Liberal’s Miller-trained stablemate #5 Calculator is also experienced over the downhill turf course and might be just as talented. The six-year-old son of In Summation has dealt with injuries and setbacks throughout his career, but seems to have pushed through these issues and recently won the Clocker’s Corner Stakes over this course in a huge performance. After sprinting to the lead through fast fractions of :20.85 and :43.22, Calculator maintained a one-length advantage to the wire and stopped the clock in 1:12.08, a sharp time that produced a 96 BRIS speed figure.
That victory brought Calculator’s record over the downhill turf course to a perfect 3-for-3; he previously won a pair of allowance races with 97 and 100 BRIS speed figures. There’s a lot of speed in the Daytona field, but Calculator doesn’t need to have the lead and can be equally effective rallying from off the pace. He’s also won going as far as a mile, so his stamina could come in handy if the pace gets hot.
The third Miller runner, #4 Conquest Tsunami, recently won an allowance race in his debut over the downhill turf course, leading from the start and drawing off to win by 4 ¼ lengths. It was a visually impressive run and earned a 99 BRIS speed figure, but he also got away with setting easy fractions of :22.27 and :44.78, and he’ll likely face a tougher task in the Daytona.
$10 to win on #5 Calculator
$5 exacta: 5 with 4,7 ($10)
$2.5 trifecta: 5 with 4,7 with 4,7 ($5)