Handicapping the Astra Stakes at Santa Anita Park This Weekend

Here comes bonus time.

California horse race betting enthusiasts had been staring at a two-day racing weekend at Santa Anita Park, because the card on Martin Luther King Day had replaced the program scheduled for this Friday.

But then came the rains and postponement of last Saturday’s card.

And, presto, the lost card falls into Friday, creating a full racing weekend again.

Golden State bettors can watch the action at the Arcadia track just north of Los Angeles. They can also participate at simulcast facilities or, as people increasingly do, wager via horse betting apps like TVG.

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But first, Santa Anita deserves some praise.

It is setting a standard for other horse racetracks. Santa Anita is taking a proactive approach in regards to rainy weather that has been cited as one reason several horses died running over its uneven surface in recent years.

Due to the storms in Southern California, two cards have now been called off at this meet in what’s been a smart, logical approach by a track that also has scheduling space. This makes sense.

“With the significant rain that we’ve experienced within the past week and with what is currently predicted for last Saturday, we wanted to let our fans and horsemen know well in advance that we’ll reschedule these races,” said Nate Newby, Santa Anita senior vice president and general manager. “We look forward to  turning the corner look forward to sunny skies later next week.”

So, here’s the revamped lineup.

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Friday Races

A nine-race card starts at 12:30 p.m. PT. The final four races are compelling with fields of 10, nine, nine, and nine.

Race 6 is a potential payday alert, with 10 horses in a claiming field of $16,000.

Some early races only have six horses, giving gamblers a better chance to win and the invitation to bet heavily on one they like.

Saturday Races

A 10-race card highlighted by the $100,000 Astra Stakes. This will be festive. The featured eighth race has nine entries.

No less than six of the races are scheduled for fields of at least 10 horses. This translates into multiple betting entries and the opportunities for good payouts.

Sunday Races

Nine-race card.

Watch for the return of the Coast to Coast Pick 5 this weekend. It is a $1 minimum wager and includes races from Santa Anita and Gulfstream Park at Hallandale Beach, Florida. A bettor has to hit all five events, contested across two tracks. An earlier package of these races produced a payout of $15,214.

The Coast to Coast Pick 5 is scheduled to be offered every Saturday and Sunday during the Santa Anita and Gulfstream Park meets.

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Astra Stakes

Here’s a look at the field for Astra Stakes for $100,00 and the jockeys. It is the eighth race and is scheduled for approximately 3:30 p.m. PT.

Warrens Candy Girl

Jockey: Umberto Rispoli

Has not hit the board in three straight stakes races. That included an also-ran fifth in the Robert J. Frankel Stakes here three weeks ago. Can’t seem to run well at this level. Could hit bottom of exotics.

Lady Clementine

Jockey: Flavien Prat

Has a win and a third at what seems to be her ideal distance, seven furlongs. This is 12. Big stretchout for a game horse. We have no idea if she can get 1 1/2 miles.

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Queen of the Temple

Jockey: Juan Hernandez

The top jockey on the likely favorite. Ran a strong third at 15-to-1 in the similar-level Red Carpet Stakes. Has been 1 1/2 miles and also 1 3/8, running competitively.

Makes all the sense in the world.

Duvet Day

Jockey: Kazushi Kimura

Has run well twice at 1 3/8 miles but finished a distant sixth behind Queen of the Temple in the Red Carpet. 

Gets a good rider in Kimura, who won his first Santa Anita race last week with Kirstenbosch in the $200,000 La Canada Stakes. We featured Kirstenbosch as worth a long look and Kimura got his horse up at the end, prevailing at 3-to-1.

The Japanese native was North America’s Eclipse Award-winning apprentice jockey in 2019.

Good shot at top three.

Australia Mia

Jockey: Lanfranco Dettori

Records indicate this offspring of Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense has yet to run. The breeding is good. Bettors will know much more about her after this race.

Almost A Factor

Jockey: John Velazquez

Mid-pack-itis. Has only hit the board once in the past eight outings and has flattened out in allowance company. Has run at 1 3/8 miles. Steps up in class, but not to a ridiculous extent. Would need to improve to fit here.

Tiz en Adventure

Jockey: Mike Smith

Reportedly won seven of 11 races last year with an average earnings per race of about $12,000. That would make her a fit horse moving up substantially. Mixed signals.

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Barrister’s Ride

Jockey: Ricardo Gonzalez

A few lengths behind Warrens Candy Girl in the Solano Stakes and later finished behind Lady Clementine. Runs gamely, but others have done better.

New Heat

Jockey: Abel Cedillo

Eighth in the Robert Frankel and significantly behind Warren’s Candy Girl in fifth. Not a good fit.

Handicapping the Astra Stakes

It will be Queen of the South’s race to lose. Duvet Day has every reason to get in the top three. None of the rest scream “play me.” A longshot may run in this triple.

If I could get odds of 8-to-5 or higher on the 3, I would like a small win bet for him.

Recap From Last Week

Bettors were treated to the Juan Hernandez show and a monstrous late-race payout last Friday.

We’ve highlighted Hernandez as the breakout jockey bettors are flocking to. All he did Friday was win his first two races and be part of a $1 trifecta worth $148 with a 2-to-1 shot in a short field.

This paid exceptionally well for a six-horse field. Hernandez was second  aboard 2-to-1 shot Distorted Math. Katonah won the race at 10-to-1. El Potente was third at 10-to-1. 

Bettors with the $1 trifecta key entry wager might have jumped on this. For $12, taking the Hernandez horse in the first and  second position with three other horses paid extraordinary well.

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Hernandez entered Sunday having won at a 30% clip during the Classic Meet and his 16 wins were more than triple that of his next closest pursuers in the jockey’s standings. 

On Sunday, he added one victory and two seconds in four mounts.

The fast start at Santa Anita, which includes six stakes wins with two Grade Is, follows what was a breakout season in 2022.

Last year, Hernandez won his first riding title at Santa Anita and followed that up by winning the Del Mar summer meet. His 30 graded stakes wins last year surpassed his previous career total of 26.

While Hernandez basks in the spotlight, the track continues to offer a mix of short-priced winners and longshots.

The best was saved for the end last Friday.

Consternation won the final race at 4-to-1. Bali Dancer was second at 40-to-1 with Ice Queen Third at 9-to-1 and Witch Moon fourth at 18-to-1.

The exacta paid a whopping $377, while the $1 trifecta returned $1,221 and the $2 superfecta paid $3,148. That translates to a 10-cent payout of $1,574.

Keys to the payout:

Dolly May, the 8-to-5 favorite, ran out of the money.

A stab with the 4-to-1 second choice in the first and second spots with five other horses in a 10-cent superfecta would have only cost $12 and returned $1,574. 

It’s harder than it looks of course, but some gamblers will simply take some longshots and try to get them into the money with their favorite selection. And Bali Dancer was a beautiful longshot at 40-to-1.

A Note About Chalk in Small Fields

We saw it for the first time in the meet last Sunday. It started with Hejazi winning the opener at 1-to-2,  resulting in small payouts. That pattern marked most of the day.

When you see a horse at less than even money in a small field, and you feel he’s the winner, that changes the betting landscape. The focus becomes one exacta box or straight exacta. Trifectas with a 1-to-2 shot on top are not going to pay.

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A short-priced horse that’s a little higher than even money in a big field can still return reasonable money if longshots run second or third. But in a small field, odds  like 3-to-5 and 1-to-2 are not good.

The problem for bettors is that a late bet can knock a horse into absurdly low odds right at post time.

If you see a horse at less than even money in a small field a couple minutes before post, it could be a good event to skip, as a bettor.

Good luck finding your angles this weekend.

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.