The first-ever 1/ST Saturday is upon us. As part of the festivities, the wagering menu will include two special Coast-to-Coast Pick Five sequences for dirt and turf races.
These bets carry $1 minimums and an ultra-low 12% takeout. Those factors, combined with big fields at Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita Park, could mean significant paydays for those who hit.
I’ll focus on the all-dirt wager, which includes five graded stakes races. Two of those are Kentucky Derby preps, and the payoff leg is the prestigious Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap. Let’s dive in!
Leg 1: Grade 2 San Carlos (Santa Anita, Race 4)
This seven-furlong sprint attracted nine older horses. Trainer Bob Baffert seems to have a pretty powerful one-two punch here. I’m going two deep, and while the higher-profile Baffert trainee is my top pick, there’s another that also merits consideration.
No. 4 Cezanne almost certainly needed his last-out effort in the Grade 3 Palos Verdes. He was third at odds of 3-5 that day, but it was his first race in more than nine months. He’s been working lights-out ever since, and I certainly think he’ll get more of a pace to run at here than he did that day. When he’s right, he’s got an awful lot of talent, and I think he’s sitting on a step forward.
I’ll also use No. 1 Brickyard Ride, who’s been firing on all cylinders since returning to the races in January. He’s dusted two fields of Cal-breds, but while this is a class hike, he won the San Carlos a season ago. The inside draw should be an asset given his blazing early speed. If he gets comfortable early, he may very well forget to stop.
Leg 2: Grade 2 Gulfstream Mile (Gulfstream Park, Race 10)
Another nine-horse field greets us here, and it’s headlined by the top two finishers in the Grade 3 Fred Hooper. No. 3 Speaker’s Corner won that race, and he hits me as a logical favorite.
Speaker’s Corner worked hard on the lead that day in his local debut. However, the Bill Mott trainee repelled Fearless, who sat an ideal trip and looked like a winner turning for home. I think Speaker’s Corner may be even sharper in his second start off the bench, and I can see the wisdom in singling him in this spot.
However, I’m also going to use No. 8 Collaborate, whose form looks much better if you solely consider his one-turn efforts. He came off a pretty long layoff to win going shorter, and he’s worked well since then for trainer Saffie Joseph. He’ll likely need a career-best effort to win here, but we may get some value on an in-form horse with three wins here and two at this route.
Leg 3: Grade 2 San Felipe (Santa Anita, Race 6)
Leg 4: Grade 2 Fountain of Youth (Gulfstream Park, Race 12)
I previewed both of these Kentucky Derby preps already. I won’t spend too much time on them here, but I’ll certainly nutshell my wagering strategy for multirace wagers.
I’m singling No. 6 Forbidden Kingdom in the San Felipe. His win in the Grade 2 San Vicente was very good, and while he may not be at his best going two turns, the same can be said for most of his opponents. Anything close to his last-out effort would make him tough to beat.
Meanwhile, I’m going against No. 8 Emmanuel in the Fountain of Youth and going four deep without the likely favorite. No. 4 In Due Time is my top selection, and I’m also using No. 2 Simplification, No. 7 A.P.’s Secret and No. 10 Giant Game. I’m hoping we can beat an underlaid favorite, knock out a bunch of Coast-to-Coast Pick Five tickets and create some value.
Leg 5: Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap (Santa Anita, Race 11)
Long referred to as the Big ’Cap, Saturday’s finale at Santa Anita drew eight older horses who will go racing’s classic 1 1/4-mile distance. I’ll go three deep in an attempt to finish off the sequence.
No. 8 Stilleto Boy is my top pick, and he may see this spot as class relief. His last five starts have been won by Medina Spirit, Knicks Go, Flightline and Life Is Good. By comparison, these waters certainly seem more shallow, and his grind-it-out running style means the distance shouldn’t be a problem.
I’ll also use No. 3 Warrant and No. 6 Express Train. The former ships in for Brad Cox after chasing Mandaloun and Midnight Bourbon and should be sharper here. The latter, meanwhile, has emerged as one of the most consistent horses on the circuit and was second in this race a year ago. I think he’s better going a bit shorter, but he’s 2-for-2 since a brief freshening and may be in career-best form for Hall of Fame nominee John Shirreffs.
The $48 Coast-to-Coast Pick Five ticket
L1: 1, 4
L2: 3, 8
L4: 2, 4, 7, 10
L5: 3, 6, 8