Desi Arnaz Stakes & Cary Grant Stakes Odds and Picks

Two big Hollywood names take centre stage at Del Mar on Saturday – and the horses are pretty talented too. Upwardly mobile Juvenile Fillies Justique and Blessed Touch lead the line in the ungraded Desi Arnaz Stakes, while old rivals The Chosen Vron, None Above The Law and Big City Lights take each other on again in the ungraded 2022 Cary Grant Stakes.

Desi Arnaz Stakes

Ungraded, $100,000, 7f dirt, 2yo fillies, 2.59pm PT

Two races that hint at Del Mar’s A-list celebrity origins headline Saturday’s sport at the southern California circuit, with the Desi Arnaz featuring two highly promising fillies going nose-to-nose, one moving up, the other moving down.

It’s a little bit of class relief for Justique (8-5) – although of course at this early stage in her career it could simply be her true level – after she took a huge reputation and an impressive debut score into the G2 Chandelier at Santa Anita last month, which didn’t work out for her. She was slowly away, never in the mix, and although she kept on late for third she was five and a half lengths behind the winner.

The cutback from a mile-sixteenth to today’s sprint seven may be a positive, but Justique was slow away on debut too and she needs to do something about her gate speed, otherwise she’ll be trailing faster horses.

It all went wrong for Blessed Touch (9-5) on her debut here but it all went right next time at Santa Anita over six furlongs, when she broke on top and kept increasing her advantage all the way to the wire, getting there eight and three-quarter lengths ahead of the field. The form probably isn’t worth a lot but she looked a horse who is learning fast, ready to upgrade and move on. The extra yardage should suit.

Bob Baffert has won this race a record five times but his two representatives don’t leap off the page, with Huntingcoco (7-2) coming off a dreadful performance when last of seven in the aforementioned Chandelier, beaten an absolute mile. It’s not all doom and gloom, as she showed plenty here on debut over five and a half furlongs, cruising by six and three-quarter lengths, but a lot of faith is needed today.

Her barnmate Parody (4-1) got it right first time at Churchill Downs over five furlongs and has changed trainers since then. She can obviously be expected to make improvement from that introduction and she’s bred to appreciate stepping up in distance, so despite the morning-line verdict she could well be the better of the two Baffert contenders.

Naughty Lottie (12-1) was also beaten out of sight in the Chandelier – a longshot sixth, several lengths ahead of Huntingcoco but that’s just academic – and her previous effort when third in a stakes at little Prairie Meadows doesn’t read well in this company.

It nevertheless puts her way ahead of the Edwin Alvarez dual entry, led by state-bred sprint maiden claimer winner Smokem For You (30-1). Her barnmate Daddy Classy Dill (30-1) is a seven-race maiden who has never even hit the board, so it’s fair to say that she has practically no chance whatsoever.

Desi Arnaz Stakes Odds & Betting Prediction

Justique may still justify her big reputation but BLESSED TOUCH was very impressive when winning her maiden and looks ready to take the next step.

JustiqueVictor Espinoza+160
ParodyJuan J. Hernandez+400
Naughty LottieKent J. Desormeaux+1200
HuntingcocoFlavien Prat+350
Smokem for YouFrancisco Orduna-Rojas+3000
Blessed TouchDrayden Van Dyke+180
Daddy Classy DillDiego A. Herrera+3000

2022 Cary Grant Stakes

Ungraded, $100,000, 7f dirt, 3yo+ state-bred, 4.00pm PT

The formlines for the main contenders in the Cary Grant fit together like jigsaw pieces, but there is still a puzzle to be solved given the different demands of today’s race.

At first glance, this is all about dual G3 winner The Chosen Vron (evens), who is winner of his last two. In September, he won state-bred mile stakes at Los Alamitos when getting on top late and putting away the front-running Big City Lights (9-5) by a length and a quarter.

Last month, The Chosen Vron went to Santa Anita for another state-bred stake over six and a half furlongs on turf and had too much gas for None Above The Law (5-2), getting the job done by a length and a quarter.

So far so good. But now The Chosen Vron is back on the main track – according to his trainer Eric Kruljac he is better on the lawn – at an in-between distance at a track where his record is zero-for-three as opposed to five-for-six at Santa Anita, so can he confirm his dominance over his two old rivals?

The cutback will certainly suit Big City Lights, who has the speed to lead and the potential to improve further after just four starts. That Los Alamitos reverse was his first after three straight wins, a streak that culminated in a coast-to-coast success over course and distance, by a length and a quarter from subsequent G1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile third Slow Down Andy. That’s good form and he could get his own way out front.

None Above The Law is a different sort of horse, much more experienced, and capable on dirt and turf, and although he’s riding a seven-race losing streak since his victory in last year’s G2 Del Mar Derby, he showed with that recent run behind The Chosen Vron that he could be returning to form. However, he was second-choice for this race 12 months ago but could manage only fourth, and he’s fully exposed.

Coalinga Road (12-1) has never finished out of the first four in his 16-race career and with only five runners is expected to maintain that record, although the form of his stakes debut last time out, runner-up over a mile-eighth at third-tier Fresno, doesn’t give him much of a shot today.

This time last year Finneus (15-1) was a promising juvenile, G1-placed, and a state-bred stakes winner over course and distance when he put away the aforementioned Slow Down Andy. He has regressed considerably this year, though, drawing a blank from six starts and finishing well behind The Chosen Vron and None Above The Law at Santa Anita, and behind Big City Lights here. Whatever ‘it’ is, he’s lost it, and is likely to struggle again.

Cary Grant Stakes Odds & Betting Pick

The race set-up should be ideal for the unexposed, progressive front-runner BIG CITY LIGHTS, and he can flip Los Alamitos form with The Chosen Vron.

FinneusRamon A. Vazquez+1500
Coalinga RoadJohn R. Velazquez+1200
Big City LightsJuan J. Hernandez+180
The Chosen VronHector Isaac Berrios+100
None Above the LawFlavien Prat+250

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