One of the best days of racing in Southern California is Santa Anita Handicap day. The 76th running of the Big Cap is Saturday.
It’s hard to believe that for the first time in Big Cap history, two prior winners will meet: Ron the Greek (2012) and Game On Dude (2011). One would have thought that with so many great geldings racing in the handicap division over the years that two previous Big Cap winners would have met.
Both horses are exiting big wins and appear to be head and shoulders above the rest. Game On Dude (6-5) toyed with a four-horse field and won by 6½ lengths in the San Antonio. Ron the Greek (5-2) won the Sunshine Millions Classic by 11¼ lengths at Gulfstream Park.
The potential for bounce among Grade 1 horses is lessened by their innate class. Also, Game On Dude, a speed horse, and Ron the Greek, a late closer, possess differing styles. Thus, they don’t figure to put pressure on each other until late in the race.
Two horses who could have a puncher’s chance to get into the mix are Guilt Trip (6-1) and Stephanoatsee (8-1), the top two finishers in the Strub at Santa Anita.
Guilt Trip is trained by Bob Baffert, who also saddles Game On Dude. It would not be the first time that Baffert would win a race with the longer-odds horse in an uncoupled entry.
Stephanoatsee looks like a horse who will relish the Big Cap marathon distance of 1¼ miles. He is sired by A.P. Indy, winner of the 1992 Belmont Stakes. He should be running late under Julien Leparoux.
On the Big Cap undercard are two more Grade 1 stakes — the Las Virgenes and the Frank E. Kilroe Mile.
The Las Virgenes is headed by Beholder (6-5), winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. She was upset last out in the Santa Ynez in, quite frankly, a dreadful try. The champ deserves another shot.
Her main foe figures to be Baffert’s Fiftyshadesofhay (5-2). She won the Santa Ysabel last time and appears to be peaking.
The Kilroe is as wide open as a Grade 1 race can get. Six of the eight horses last ran in the Arcadia, which Suggestive Boy (5-2) won in a blanket finish.
However, the horse I like, Mr. Commons (3-1), did not run in the Arcadia. He last ran in the Breeders’ Cup Mile and was beaten by only three lengths by Horse of the Year Wise Dan. Mr. Commons’ handlers will enjoy the fact no horse is close in ability to Wise Dan in the Kilroe.
Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick.