Sunshine will greet the fillies and mares heading to post in this Saturday’s Santa Marina Handicap in California. Many of these fillies and mares have been off since around November, which will complicate the handicapping a bit. There are some accomplished horses in here, but also a slew of dangerous 4-year-olds eager to prove themselves against older mares.
(1) OISHE (owner given14, 6/1) is the first of two daughters of Distorted Humor, who have drawn the inside posts here. OISHE comes into this race on a hot streak, having won three in a row dating back to August. After having some success in the graded stakes ranks late in 2017 and early last year, she went back to the allowance ranks for a little while, and ultimately worked up to the Grade II Cool Hand Luke in Kentucky back in November, where she tallied that third straight win. After working from outside posts the past two starts, she’ll start form the inside here. If she comes to California as sharp as she was late last year, she has a chance to get her first G1 win.
(2) SKYLINE SLEW (owner jms11, 11/1) will start off 2019 here in California following an up-and-down 2018 campaign, which featured a G1 win in the Equinics early last year, but also some poor finishes in other Grade I races. Her last win was that Equinics race last February, and she has not hit the board in a G1 race since. She does have an on-the-board finish in the Grade II East Coast Mile in September. She wrapped up the year in Kentucky, finishing seventh in the Breeders’ Bowl Distaff. She almost always seem to get to the early lead, but has really struggled to hold up late in races, especially those beyond 8 furlongs. I suspect that even though she may get the early lead here, she’s going to have a hard time holding onto it by the end of 8.5 furlongs.
(3) TREACHEROUSLY II (owner canyongate, 7/1) is another one that comes out of the Breeders’ Bowl Distaff, and she put together a pretty solid race with a third-place finish. The five-time G1 winner has won most of her graded races at this 8.5-furlong distance, so this race sets up well for her at first glance. It should also be noted that it took quite a while for her to get into form last year, not hitting the board until her victory in the Grade I Bra Snap in September. So will she take a while to get going again this year? Or does she keep that solid form from the end of last year?
(4) WAITED ALL DAY (owner mklove, 11/1) will return to a graded stakes race for the first time since May 2017, and hopefully she’ll have better luck this time around, as neither previous start was all that successful. That being said, she’s about as sharp as she has even been, coming off two open-length victories in the past two months. That last win was in an ungraded stakes race at 8.5 furlongs in a career-best SP number of 111. This daughter of Trippi, who typically foals sprinters, has found an affinity for distances like these just over a mile, which will come in handy for this race. She is one of the few in here that has raced this year and is not coming off a layoff, so I wouldn’t be surprised if she stays sharp and makes a run at this one.
(5) OUTBACK BARGE (owner outback7, 13/1) comes into this race on a similar path as WAITED ALL DAY, with two straight wins in her past two starts, including an ungraded stakes race last time out. She does have a third-place finish in a G1 from last June, although that was against 3-year-olds. She has held her own, though against older company, and that last race shows that pretty well. This is a sizable step up from an overnight stakes race, but she has definitely improved significantly over the past several months and could pose a threat in here.
(6) DENOVO’S SONG (owner issybaby, 5/1) is the tepid morning-line favorite in here, and you’ll have to be watching the back of the pack to see her, as she likes to save her best running for the stretch drive. In virtually every race, she starts last or close to last, and then makes the mad rush at the end. Despite being the favorite, she is still searching for her first graded-stakes victory. Despite that, she has been everywhere but the winner’s circle, finishing in the money in 4 out of 5 graded stakes starts in her career. Her SP numbers have been very consistent, not dipping below 110 since late in 2017. So, just because she hasn’t won a graded stakes race doesn’t mean she can’t win here.
(7) DAY AT DELMAR (owner mtk2010, 16/1) will make her first start against older horses in this race, and that will be no easy task in this field. The daughter of Tapit had some success in stakes races against 3-year-olds, including a close second last time out in the Grade II Hunted by Lions back in November. Before that, she picked up her first stakes victory out in Oklahoma back in October. She cuts back in distance here, and cannot be ruled out if she improves off of where she was late last year. Even so, I’m not sure she’ll be quite up to the challenge in this spot.
(8)TAKE THE MOON LV (owner bizalls10, 11/1) is another 4-year-old looking to make her mark, but she’s off to a good start. She won her only start against older horses, the Grade II Barbacoa Handicap, back in December as an 18/1 longshot. She then stayed here in California and raced against 4-year-olds last month, and got a little too far behind early in the race, not able to make up the gap in the end. She is out of Sim hall-of-fame mare PUENTELARRA, who has had some very successful offspring. She has raced very well over the past year or so, and I really like her chances here at a nice price.
(9) KNOT FOR SAIL (owner 1more, 8/1) has had a hard time finding fast tracks of late, as she has raced on an off track in 3 out of her last 4 races. Nevertheless, she’s had some nice results, including a win in the Grade III Air Line Handicap back in November. While hitting the board in those off-track starts, she also won a time-restricted allowance race back in October. This will be a stretchout in distance by 1/16th of a mile, but it doesn’t seem like that should really phase this mare, as she has a stakes win early last year at this distance. This is a tricky mare to handicap in this field. She’s been very successful, but this will prove a tougher challenge than she’s been up against lately.
(10) CONTRACT KILLER NY (owner danc2014, 14/1) appears to have been a nice claim for $150,000 by the danc2014 barn. She had already developed into a pretty nice allowance horse on the New York circuit last year, but has improved nicely since the barn change, hitting the board in two ungraded stakes races in August and September, and then blew by the competition to win the Grade III Nutcracker BC up in British Columbia in October. She now travels down the West Coast and will find a formidable test off a long layoff. Most others in here, though, are also coming off long layoffs. Also like others, it’s hard to write this mare’s chances off.
(11) A SPECIAL CAUSE (owner pointblank4, 12/1) will be another dangerous 4-year-old in this field, who just won a Grade III race against older horses in Florida late in December. She’s had a pretty solid career so far, but seems to have taken the next step into a quality takes horse in the past several months. While she’s been improving, she’s bounced back and forth between the dirt and the turf. She’s seemed to take a real liking to the dirt, as both of her graded wins are on the dirt. Both of those graded wins are at this distance as well. She has not taken to this surface in the past, so while she looms dangerous in here…
(12) HARD BLUE SKY (owner casino19, 13/1) has been able to step up to nearly all of the challenges that she’s faced in her young career, whether it be tackling ESR races early on, or competing against graded stakes company. She has notched a Grade II and Grade III victories, and is fresh off a very good second last time out in the Grade II Encino Handicap here in California. The daughter of Sim G1-winner VICTORY ANDTHE SIN is looking sharp these days, and definitely looks like another 4-year-old that may not only just be competing to hit the board, but the trophy as well.
(13) RAZOR GIRL (owner rager, 8/1) had quite the stretch in 2018, racking up multiple stakes wins, including the Grade I Superfilly Handicap in New York back in September. That race was at today’s distance, and she threw up an excellent SP number of 116. Since then, though, she has not been as sharp. She failed as the favorite in an open allowance race at the end of September, and then really struggled over the off track in the Breeders’ Bowl Distaff – she failed to fire and finished a disappointing eleventh. I suspect that was an anomaly and she’ll show up much sharper in this spots. She’ll find a tough field here, but not one she can’t conquer.
(14) LA BONITA (owner haack07, 31/1) is the longest price in the field, and draws the worst post as well. She came out absolutely firing in her 2-year-old year as well as early last year, winning a few races in a row leading up to the Bluegrass Oaks last May. She never really got going in that race, finishing midpack in that race. To some extent, she’s never really been the same since. She put up a respectable third in the Grade III Meadows Oaks in Iowa in June, but struggled in her subsequent start in the Grade III Chicago Oaks. She only found the winner’s circle last time out by taking a major drop in class, winning a time-restricted allowance race in a very small field. This is her first start against older fillies and mares, and given her recent form, I suspect she’ll struggle to keep up in this field.
(12) HARD BLUE SKY, 13/1 – Going to take a shot here at a price, as she’s been steadily improving and that last race here in California looks good. She could catch others napping in here.
(8) TAKE THE MOON LV, 11/1 – Has had some success here in California over her past couple of starts, and this seems like a logical step.
(13) RAZOR GIRL, 8/1 – I’ll throw out the Distaff over a good track, although I will say that the struggles in the open allowance race before that give me pause. I think she bounces back here, but how much?
(6) DENOVO’S SONG, 5/1 – Has been ultra-consistent, but has struggled to find the winner’s circle recently. Nevertheless, I like her better than some of the older mares in here.
Good luck to all!