Whittingham Odds & More Graded Stakes at Santa Anita

There aren’t that many runners in the four Graded stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday, but there’s plenty of quality to compensate. G1 winner Beyond Brilliant faces a test of his stamina in the G2 Whittingham; the high-class Express Train bids to follow up his recent Big ‘Cap win in the G2 Californian; the G2 Santa Margarita features an enthralling rematch between Miss Bigly and Varda; and track specialist Brickyard Ride looks to have a straightforward task in the G3 Kona Gold, in which he was runner-up last year.

Kona Gold

Another short field, and even at second glance the Kona Gold is all about track specialist Brickyard Ride, who is 11-for-15 at this circuit and a warm favorite to embellish that fine record.

Runner-up in this race 12 months ago, Brickyard Ride has been unstoppable in 2022, winning three state-bred stakes in a row here at six furlongs, a mile, and most recently over today’s intermediate distance on turf, when he went hard from the gate as usual and made it home with a little in hand. Now back on the main track, his trailblazing tactics will be a potent weapon against just three rivals following the scratch of Strongconstitution.

When Brickyard Ride won the G2 San Carlos here over seven furlongs in March 2021 he had Tigre Di Slugo four lengths back in the runner-up spot; Tigre Di Slugo has run just once since then and has been off the track for almost exactly a year.

The in-form Miles Ahead took a notable scalp when stealing a six-furlong stakes at Gulfstream Park by a neck from Drain The Clock last time out, completing a hat-trick, and also won the G3 Smile Sprint Invitational at the Miami circuit last summer. He’s preferred to Strike That, who has run only twice in the last 18 months and seems to have misplaced his consistent form of 2020.

Our Kona Gold Betting Pick

There seems to be nothing standing in the way of the admirable and versatile BRICKYARD RIDE, runner-up in this race a year ago and bidding to extend his brilliant record at this track.

HorseJockeyHorse Racing Odds courtesy of JazzSports
Tigre Di SlugoKyle Frey+350
Strike ThatRamon A. Vazquez+400
Brickyard RideJuan J. Hernandez+120
Miles AheadVictor Espinoza+160

Santa Margarita

Two horses stand out from the crowd in the Santa Margarita, two distaffers who take each other on again after their clash in the G1 Beholder Mile here at the beginning of March.

On that occasion the remarkably consistent Miss Bigly – who has hit the board in 14 of her last 15 starts – had too many guns for Varda when they finished second and third behind As Time Goes By, separated by seven lengths. It might be too simplistic to take that result at face value, however, as Miss Bigly was kept up to her work all the way to the wire whereas Varda – having her first start for 15 months – coasted home when her chance had evaporated.

On their previous starts Miss Bigly was a convincing winner of the G3 Bayakoa at Oaklawn Park and Varda rallied late to claim the 2020 G1 Starlet at Los Alamitos, both races over a mile-sixteenth. They dominate this field in terms of class and there won’t be as much between them as there was in the Beholder Mile, as Varda is bound to be sharper for her reintroduction.

Another with form behind As Time Goes By is Park Avenue, although she wasn’t in the same zip code when beaten 13 and a half lengths in the G3 La Canada here over a mile-sixteenth. She’s better judged on her all-the-way win in an allowance optional claimer over course and distance last time out, and merits another crack at Graded company.

The form shown by Sharapova when winning a stakes at Sunland Park over a mile – Lisette beaten a length and a quarter into third – is hard to assess, but nevertheless easier than trying to work out what Argentinian G1 winner Blue Stripe achieved on her US debut when seventh, beaten 17 lengths, in a Breeders’ Cup Distaff run at a ridiculously fast pace. She is a totally unknown quantity in this company.

The in-form Bye Bye Bertie is unbeaten in five at this track and has won her last four (three on turf), all in starter allowances, but looked out of her league on her single start at Graded level when last of six in the G3 Bayakoa at Los Alamitos (not the Bayakoa won by Miss Bigly). Fellow starter allowance winner Midnight Jamboree makes her stakes debut, and although she has been consistent at a lower level this could be a step too far.

Our Santa Margarita Top Pick

The rematch between MISS BIGLY and Varda dominates this contest and the former is expected to confirm their recent placings in a G1 here, although it will be a closer call this time.

HorseJockeyHorse Racing Odds courtesy of JazzSports
LisetteMario Gutierrez+1500
BellamoreVictor Espinoza+1500
Blue Stripe (ARG)Tyler Baze+600
Park AvenueJuan J. Hernandez+350
Midnight JamboreeMike E. Smith+800
SharapovaAbel Cedillo+500
VardaDrayden Van Dyke+400
Bye Bye BertieDiego A. Herrera+1200
Miss BiglyRamon A. Vazquez+250


The Californian is largely a re-run of the G1 Santa Anita Handicap here over a mile and a quarter in March, from which three of today’s five runners renew rivalry.

In the Big ‘Cap, Express Train justified favouritism by a hard-fought neck from Warrant, with Stilleto Boy a full nine lengths back in third and Spielberg another length and a quarter away fourth. Considering all the talk beforehand was whether Express Train would see out the distance – he did, emphatically – the reversion to today’s mile-eighth will be right down his street.

On his previous start in the G2 San Pasqual over course and distance Express Train was comfortably superior when coming three and a quarter lengths clear of the runner-up, with Spielberg beaten six and a half lengths into fourth, and he is now beginning to realise his considerable potential after a slightly stop-start 2021.

Stilleto Boy is a frustrating character who only seems to get going when the race has slipped away from him, which is borne out by a string of G1 placings – Malibu, Pegasus World Cup, Big ‘Cap – but a two-for-14 lifetime record. He’s a natural supporting actor and looks primed for the same role again today.

Spielberg’s barnmate Shaaz is a fascinating contender, unbeaten in three – all at Santa Anita, getting one on a DQ – and making his stakes debut here. He brought up his hat-trick when going gate-to-wire in an allowance optional claimer over a mile, cruising through the final sixteenth, and the extra furlong today shouldn’t be an issue, but he is now thrown in at the deep end against a couple of hard-case G1 runners.

Claimer winner Holden The Lute is also making his stakes debut but in 21 starts has never shown that he belongs anywhere near this level of competition.

Our Californian Top Choice

Everything points to EXPRESS TRAIN continuing his fine recent run, with distance, track and last-time-out form with his main rival all in his favour and making him the obvious selection.

HorseJockeyHorse Racing Odds courtesy of JazzSports
SpielbergAbel Cedillo+600
Holden the LuteRamon A. Vazquez+1200
Express TrainVictor Espinoza-125
ShaazMike E. Smith+350
Stilleto BoyJuan J. Hernandez+250


The race named after one of North America’s all-time great trainers has not drawn a notably deep field, but the highlight of Saturday’s meeting at Santa Anita still poses a tricky question for bettors.

The key to the Charles Whittingham is whether Beyond Brilliant can stretch out his class to ten furlongs, having shown star quality at a mile and a mile-eighth. Today’s race also represents class relief, certainly from his neck victory in the G1 Hollywood Derby at Del Mar in November, in which it appeared that a mile-eighth was far enough given the way he was hanging on grimly in the last sixteenth after leading from the gate.

Perhaps trainer John Shirreffs thought so too, as his two starts since – both here – have been down in distance, runner-up in the G2 Mathis Mile and then fourth in the G1 Frank E Kilroe Mile, when he was run off the board late. He’ll be on or near the pace and steady fractions will help parcel out his stamina.

Going the other way is Dicey Mo Chara, runner-up in the G3 San Luis Rey here over a mile and a half after winning an allowance optional claimer here over a mile-eighth. He needs to show more but perhaps the in-between route will prove ideal.

Former Irish runner Masteroffoxhounds lost his mojo after winning the G2 San Marcos over course and distance on his Graded-stakes debut, but he will have been sharpened up nicely by runner-up spot in an allowance optional claimer here over a mile last month – his first start off a seven-month layoff – and should appreciate the extra yardage. Dean Martini was three and a quarter lengths away in fourth and could struggle at this level.

Phil D’Amato puts two in the gate, with the more interesting being Gold Phoenix, who has only had four starts – winning an allowance optional claimer here over a mile last time out – and is likely to make improvement, especially now stretching out. His barnmate Gregdar is on a five-race losing streak and makes his stakes debut here.

The old man of the party Majestic Eagle is on the downgrade and had to drop into the minor leagues to break a 16-race losing streak, getting it done over seven and a half furlongs at Turf Paradise two starts ago.

Our Whittingham Betting Pick

The class belongs to Beyond Brilliant, but MASTEROFFOXHOUNDS shaped nicely on his first start off a long layoff and the return to ten furlongs can put him back in the winner’s circle.

HorseJockeyHorse Racing Odds courtesy of JazzSports
GregdarRyan Curatolo+1500
Dean MartiniAbel Cedillo+1500
Majestic EagleMike E. Smith+600
Dicey Mo Chara (GB)Drayden Van Dyke+400
Gold Phoenix (IRE)Kyle Frey+600
MasteroffoxhoundsJuan J. Hernandez+200
Beyond BrilliantVictor Espinoza+180

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