Joe Hernandez Stakes Headlines Santa Anita Horse Betting This Weekend

Here comes an encore for the aptly named “Great Race Place.”

Santa Anita Park, the California horse race betting facility a few miles north of downtown Los Angeles, launches its first full live-racing weekend after a record-setting opener on Dec. 26.

With cards Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, Santa Anita Park seeks to follow up on its opening-day handle mark of $26,315,016 — a 35% increase over last year’s first day. 

It also drew an on-track crowd of 41,446, the biggest on-track gathering there since opening day in 2016.

What a way to spotlight the track that will host the Breeders’ Cup, racing’s biggest summit, in November 2023.

California bettors can wager at Santa Anita or remotely via several outlets, including the TVG app using our TVG promo code.

They will find a packed card with several large fields, graded stakes, a healthy dose of turf racing, and high-quality purses.

For gamblers who wager favorite jockeys, Juan Hernandez has numerous entries over the weekend. Hernandez, the defending meet riding champion, nailed four winners on Opening Day.

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Here’s an overview of the weekend’s listed stakes races.

FridayEddie Logan Stakes
Blue Norther Stakes
SaturdayJoe Hernandez Stakes
Las Flores Stakes
Robert J. Frankel Stakes
SundaySanta Ynez Stakes
Las Cienegas Stakes

Eddie Logan Stakes

Friday’s card is packed with big fields. Races 5, 7, and 9 have 12 listed, with no prohibitive favorites. Tough to handicap, but rewarding for those who can come up with it.

Speed Boat Beach will look to add a third stakes win on grass for trainer Bob Baffert when he takes on seven rivals in Friday’s $100,000 Eddie Logan Stakes going a mile on turf .

Speed Boat Beach, winner of the five-furlong Speakeasy on the Santa Anita turf course in October, added another stakes triumph on Dec. 4. That’s when he edged Game Time by a half-length in the Grade III Cecil B. DeMille over a mile on grass at Del Mar. Sandwiched between those two wins was a ninth-place effort in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint at Keeneland on Nov. 4.

Joe Hernandez Stakes

Saturday’s program opens at noon with a bang via the Joe Hernandez Stakes and closes with a huge field of 11 horses in the ninth.

That translates to money-making opportunities on mid-priced horses and longshots.

A look at the Joe Hernandez entries from the rail out:

Lane WayHad had three consecutive seconds and then a victory, at this distance, at Santa Anita in November. That was in allowance optional claiming. This is a big step up but he has a recent win at the distance.
IrideoRan an overmatched fifth in the Seabiscuit Handicap at Del Mar last year and would need major improvement.
Super OchoGave his backers a thrill at 41-to-1, leading into the stretch of the $1 million Breeders' Cup Sprint before being overtaken and finishing fifth. Goes an extra half furlong and drops down to $250,000. If the drop is significant, he could make some noise.
Gregorian ChantBeaten by Irideo and Lane Way in stakes company after performing well in allowance company.
WhatmakessammyrunReturns to 6 1/2 furlongs, where he won the Eddie D Stakes last year. He was a late-flying second at five furlongs in his last effort. What Makes Sammy Run? The right distance. He’s a fit here.
Air Force RedEnjoyed a bounce back victory in the 1-mile Lurie Stakes after being nowhere to be seen in the Eddie D Stakes. Bettors who believe in momentum will like him here.
Front Run the FedAlways being put over his head. Off the board in Breeders’ Cup races. No longer running for seven figures, “just” 250,000. Not as far over his head as some others, but still a lot to ask.
Hit the RoadOnly one race in 2022, an overrun eighth in the Pegasus at Gulfstream Park in January. Has two thirds in big races here. On his best could be on the fringes, but the layoff is a concern.
Kiss Today GoodbyeCould be aptly named. Hasn’t run since February and was off the board in two prior races at this level.
Smooth Like StraitWas right there, poised to win the Seabiscuit, but was then covered by most of the field, including Irideo. He runs well to the turn. Now they put him in a shorter race.
SigilosoNice win at 6 1/2 furlongs in allowance optional claiming. Hasn’t proven anything or been exposed. This race will help determine future class level.

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    Santa Anita Meet Overview

    The fun has just started for California gamblers. Here’s a look at the entire meet.

    Santa Anita Park will offer fans and horsemen 93 stakes, 10 of them Grade I events, including the $750,000 Runhappy Santa Anita Derby on April 8. The slate also includes 58 graded races, beginning with the track’s traditional opener on Monday, Dec. 26 through closing day, June 18.

    Santa Anita’s prestigious roster of Grade I stakes will resume on Saturday, March 4, as the $500,000 Santa Anita Handicap presented by Yaamava’ Resort & Casino and the $500,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (turf) will take center stage. They will share it with one of America’s most important Kentucky Derby preps, the Grade II, $400,000 San Felipe Stakes.

    Named for Spendthrift Farm’s four-time Eclipse Award Champion and three-time Breeders’ Cup winner, the Grade I, $500,000 Beholder Mile will be run on March 11.

    The Grade I, $750,000 Runhappy Santa Anita Derby, a race that has produced 19 Kentucky Derby winners, will be run on Saturday, April 8. The grand showcase will be complemented by four other stakes, including the Grade II, $200,000 Charles Whittingham Stakes and the Grade II, $200,000 Monrovia Stakes.

    Three Grade I stakes, the $500,000 Shoemaker Mile (turf), the $400,000 Hollywood Gold Cup, and the $400,000 Gamely Stakes, will all be contested on Memorial Day, Monday, May 29.

    Santa Anita’s traditional closing day feature, the Grade III, $100,000 San Juan Capistrano Stakes, at a mile and three quarters over the Camino Real Hillside Turf Course, will highlight proceedings on June 18.

    A Look Back at Santa Anita Opening Day

    There was something for everyone.

    First came the headliners. Country Grammer and Taiba, two of the nation’s top horses throughout 2022, each triumphed at short prices. The public got to see some of the sport’s top headliners run.

    Yet no Santa Anita card would be complete without an upset angle. And this was a solid one.

    Santa Anita’s defending winter meet riding champion, Juan Hernandez, capped off his opening day with victory aboard the Phil D’Amato-trained Rhea Moon in the American Oaks (G1). 

    The veteran Hernandez guided Rhea Moon home at 6-to-1 in a large field of 11. Second went to School Dance at 11-to-1, completing a nice $135 exacta. Sparkle Blue finished third at 8-to-1, wrapping up a $1 trifecta of $500.60. Oakhurst helped balloon the payday by hitting the wire fourth at 30-to-1. The $2 superfecta made $16,080, and the 10-cent super was worth $804.

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    With the field packing lightly raced, 2-year-old fillies, it was hard for the betting public to get its head around a hot favorite. That’s where the Hernandez angle benefited some gamblers who placed their bets around favorite jockeys.

    Having the leading rider on a 6-to-1 shot?  That was too good for some players to pass up and Hernandez showed why he’s worth the bettors’ money. He subtly waited behind horses in the homestretch, seized on a temporary opening, and bolted into a clear running position. From there, he had enough to overtake School Dance just before the wire.

    For Hernandez, the brilliance was his patience.

    Favored Salimah,  5-to-2, was simply outgunned in the stretch. Because he then ran out of the money, the payouts were substantial.

    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.