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Big ‘Cap Preview: No Arrogate Means Opportunity for Others

David Alcosser/NYRA

Jimmy Jerkens’ Shaman Ghost and Phil D’Amato’s Midnight Storm head a competitive field of nine older horses in Saturday’s Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap at 1 1/4 miles.  America’s longest continually-run “hundred grander,” the Big ‘Cap, which was first staged in 1935, will be run for the 80th time at The Great Race Place.

A solid second to the mighty Arrogate in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on January 28 at Gulfstream Park, Shaman Ghost will be stretching out a furlong for Jerkens.  Midnight Storm, a winner of five out of his last six starts, including his last two, will try to extend his speed off of a front-running tally in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes, run over 1 1/16 miles here on January 1.

Top Choice

#1 Midnight Storm – This horse just keeps getting better, as he now tries to accomplish the rare feat of becoming a Grade 1 winner on both the turf and the dirt.  If he can run back to his previous two races, he’ll have a big shot to do just that; he’s dominated Grade 3 and Grade 2 fields in wire-to-wire fashion.  On paper, he looks to be the lone speed in the race, which gives him his biggest advantage.  Drawing the rail could be just fine for him, as long as he breaks well.  I’m expecting him to go straight to the lead and play “catch me if you can” – and I’m not sure anyone will be able to do it.  Wire-to-wire for the win.

Horses to Use in Multi Race Wagers

#3 Shaman Ghost – The GHOST is back after a solid second-place showing last time out in the Pegasus World Cup.  He was defeated by Arrogate by nearly five lengths, but it’s worth noting that he was well clear of the third-place horse, Neolithic, who is heading to Dubai instead of coming here.  Shaman Ghost is probably the deserving favorite in this race, but Midnight Storm might have too large of a tactical advantage on him in this spot.  In my mind, it’s a two-horse race for the win, so I would not be surprised if Shaman Ghost stalked and then ran down Midnight Storm at the wire.

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Exotic Plays

#9 Imperative – Impressive win last time out at Gulfstream Park for this classic, hard-knocking California horse who just keeps showing up and running well in these types of races.  I’m not at all confident that he can win a race of this caliber, but I think it would be especially awesome if he could get the job done here.  He’s going to need an honest pace up front, which I’m very unsure he’ll get, but if he does, he will have an outside shot.  He’s definitely one to use underneath, regardless of the pace, because we know he’ll show up with an honest effort.

#5 Hard Aces – While I called Imperative the “classic, hard-knocking California horse,” that phrase is just as accurate for Hard Aces.  He, too, always shows up in these types of races, and usually he runs an even type of race.  He’ll do more of the same here, but I don’t think he has as good of a chance of winning as Imperative does.  This is a horse you would love to own, but not one you particularly like to bet unless you are using him underneath.

Party Crashers

#6 Follow Me Crev – He returned off of a long layoff last time out to win a Santa Anita allowance race at odds of 9/2.  You’ll get at least double that in this spot, and this is the only long shot-type of horse that I could see having much of a chance.  His prior form wasn’t good enough to compete in a race like this, but he was pretty sharp in his comeback effort, so perhaps he’s good enough now to give them a run for their money.

Throw Outs

#2 Gangster – He’s been decent on turf his last three races, but he does have a two-turn dirt win on his resume, too.  However, that win came in a maiden special weight, so this kind of company will be a challenge.  Not a bad idea to try, but he looks overmatched.

#4 Isotherm – He’s a fairly good horse on the turf, but he’s proven a few times that he is not a dirt horse.  I don’t see how that will change today, which makes this a very curious entry.

#7 Twentytwentyvision – Another mainly turf runner that will try to go back to the dirt for this race.  It’s a big race that has a softer-than-normal field, so I don’t blame them for trying, but I’m not sure he matches up with the others.

#8 Hi Happy – He had a decent effort last time out on the turf to finish a close fourth in a Grade 2, and does have a win over the dirt in Argentina.  However, I’m not sure he can match up with the top ones in this race when it come to running on the dirt.  He just hasn’t had the success in the United States that he had in Argentina.

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