No Huge Race, but Big Payout Chances at Santa Anita Park This Weekend

California horse race betting enthusiasts tackle another four-day weekend package at Santa Anita Park with post times of 12:30 p.m. Friday through Monday.

While the $200,000 La Canada Stakes is the biggest stake of the weekend, the track has a variety of races aimed at varied betting levels.

Gamblers can access the action at the Arcadia facility just north of Los Angeles or wager at various outlets like the TVG app.

Here’s a look.

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Friday Races

A nine-race card starts at 12:30 p.m. and features several excellent turf-betting opportunities.

Race 3 is a $50,000, 6-furlong race with 11 horses.

Race 5 is a 6-furlong sprint with 10 horses at $50,000.

The capper, Race 9, features an abundant 12-horse field with a claiming level of $32,000. A big field and mid-range claiming class provides enough betting entries and uncertainty to set the stage for a big payout.

Saturday Races

The La Canada Stakes is a Grade III for fillies and mares, 4 and up, for $200,000. It is the seventh race on an eight-race card and starts at about 3:30 p.m. It has six contenders, enabling bettors who like to load up on one horse to do so with more confidence.

That, in fact, is the pattern of the entire card. Most races have six or seven entries and the finale has eight.

This will shift a bettor’s focus.

The win line and exacta boxes may be where the money’s at on this day. Although the track has paid some memorable superfecta payouts in this meet, Saturday does not look like the day for that.

This is the day bettors will try to avoid spreading too much money in trifectas and superfectas, because they are not likely to pay. This is not one of the track’s strongest cards,  but it will appeal to gamblers who feel they have a better chance handicapping a smaller field.

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Sunday and Monday Races

Nine-race cards with 12:30 p.m. first post.

La Canada Stakes

Here’s an analysis of the Saturday’s La Canada field, from the rail out.


Trained by Bob Baffert, drops down from the $300,000 La Brea Stakes to the $200,000 La Canada.

Respected at 5-to-1 in the  Grade I La Brea, she set sharp opening fractions, was engaged in a duel, and then faded badly. The drop in class should help.

Has one effort at this distance. Was fourth to Under the Stars in the Summertime Oaks here last June.

Will Ganadora get an uncontested lead in a small field, enabling her to avoid being overrun?


Always in it, rarely wins it. Possible consideration in the exotics, coming off a strong performance in Allowance Optional Claiming, where she finished second.

Honest effort every time. The move up is substantial, but will run hard.

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Under the Stars

Also trained by Baffert. Disappointed at 7-to-2 in the La Brea, finishing last. Pushed the early pace but, like Ganadora, did not belong in that race.

Sports a nice victory in the Grade II Summertime Oaks at this distance and this track last June. Ganadora finished fourth in that one. Those who back her will overlook recent form and put stock in the back class of the 1 1/6-mile effort.

Angel Nadeshiko

Hasn’t proven she can thrive above Allowance Optional Claiming, where she finished behind Smoothlikebuttah. Much to do.


Could be a nice horse. Finished second in the Zia Park Oaks at this distance in New Mexico. Able to transfer to the California circuit and snatch a smart third with a gallant rally in the 7-furlong La Brea.

Beat a fading Ganadora and Under the Stars in the process.

Looks suited to a longer race. Gets a longer race here. Will be worth a long look.

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Natural Colour

Significant stakes jump. Finished second in the $50,000 Miss America Stakes at Golden Gate and now must face better horses. Flavien Prat is a plus — how much can he add?

Sunday Alert: No Prat, Joe Bravo

Prat and Joe Bravo, two of the top jockeys racing in Southern California, will not compete Sunday while they serve one-day suspensions for excessive crop use, according to published reports.

Prat was ruled by stewards to be one strike over the limit Saturday when he rode Giver Not a Taker to a second-place finish in the Cal Cup Derby at Santa Anita.

Bravo also was one strike over the maximum Saturday when he took Luvluv to a third-place result in the Unusual Heat Turf Classic.

Prat and Bravo also were fined $250 each.

Under the new Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, a rider can use the crop a maximum of six times in one race. Both were barely over the limit — this was nothing flagrant. It might be comparable to a fine for a linebacker who couldn’t stop the late hit he put on a quarterback.

Missing a day of racing is more expensive. But, with some racing suspensions lasting a couple of weeks, this is not that bad.

Elite Trainers Gather at Great Race Place

Santa Anita features several top trainers, who figure to battle it out for the Santa Anita meet championship. 

Phillip D’Amato was eighth on the money-winning list last year with just under $12 million won. Baffert was 12th with nearly $10 million.

Baffert was the nation’s leading in-the-money percentage winner, as 64% of his horses finished first, second, or third. That’s an important comfort consideration for bettors.

So far this year, Baffert is turning the tables. He leads the Santa Anita meet with $863,000 in earnings. D’Amato is second with $663,000. Leonard Powell is next with $373,000.

The legendary Baffert is not only a Hall of Fame trainer, but has also guided the past two Triple Crown winners: American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018.

Other top names will pop up throughout the Santa Anita meet, especially in big races. They include Chad Brown, Todd Pletcher, Steve Asmussen, and Brad Cox. These trainers have fewer mounts, but they can be trusted.

When you see those names,  give the horse they train a  second look.

Stars From Last Weekend 

We touted Juan Hernandez here last week regarding his leadership of the Santa Anita meet and his potential to become a breakout star in 2023.

And he’s sizzlin’.

Bettors who played him rejoiced on Sunday, as he rode four winners. Three of them paid moderately, at $7.60, $3, and $5.80. But then he returned $35 by securing an upset in the $100,000 Sham Stakes with 16-to-1 shot Reincarnate.

Not only did Hernandez obtain perfect position, he outlasted Newgate with a resilient homestretch run.

As the week progressed, it looks like that performance was better than most people realized. Reincarnate and Newgate notched 95 Beyer Speed figures, the best in the country in this young racing season.

A Beyer figure measures the horse’s time into a formula that includes the track record at the distance and whether the surface was light or heavy. A 95 Beyer is superb.

If the horses continue to improve, you will hear them in Kentucky Derby contention discussions. And it began here.

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Opry captured the ninth race Sunday at 18-to-1. He topped Dean Martini at 25-to-1 and the exacta paid $614. Avenue rallied for third at 4-to-1, completing a $1 trifecta of $1,502, and Script came in fourth at 5-to-1. The $2 superfecta paid $17,189, meaning the 20-center was $1,718 and the 10-center was $859.

Mike E. Smith has fewer mounts than most jockeys at Santa Anita. But he makes them count and last Friday, he guided Coffee In Bed to the winner’s circle at 19-to-1. A brilliant rail trip enabled Smith to save all the ground and he got the most of his longshot down the lane.

It’s fitting to see him in California.

Smith is a National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame inductee and has won the most Breeders’ Cup races of any jockey, 27. He’ll presumably be back here to ride in the Breeders’ Cup in November. Smith guided Justify to the sport’s last Triple Crown in 2018.

About the Author

Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo is a writer for California Casinos, and has covered the horse racing and boxing industry extensively since the 1980s. He was an award-winning writer at the Press of Atlantic City. As a broadcaster, he has won the Sam Taub Award for Excellence in Boxing Broadcasting, issued by the Boxing Writers Association of America. He has called major fights for HBO, ESPN, Showtime, and other networks since the 1980s. He is in the New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame. Dave shifted gears to cover the emerging legalized sports-betting industry in 2018. He now serves as the go-to authority on horse race betting across multiple websites, including California Casinos.