Handicapping the Santa Monica Stakes
Despite no Kentucky Derby prep races this weekend, there is still a full weekend of racing including the Santa Monica Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park Saturday, January 23. The seven furlong sprint for older fillies and mare features a $200,000 prize pool with nine entries in race 8.
The expected odds-on favorite SUNDAY RULES has been scratched due to a bacterial infection. That leaves BEN’S DUCHESS as the horse to beat having chased three top female sprinters in her last race at The Le Brea (G1) December 26 before coming up four lengths short of winner Birdatthewire. The chestnut filly had a pair of wins previous to that while recording a pair of triple-digit speed figures. With three wins in six races at Santa Anita including 9 of 10 on the board finishes, Ben’s Duchess will be a bet on horse and has been training steadily with a pair of solid workouts over this track.
ROOM FOR ME has won three of four races including a second place finish at this track. She could pull a mild upset with Martin Garcia on board having shown strong speed chasing champion female sprinter La Verdad twice in recent races while also winning the Garland of Roses stakes in convincing fashion.
The most accomplished horse in the field is PRIZE EXHIBIT, a multiple graded stakes winner who will take some betting action behind the favorite. However, she is running on the dirt for the first time having won on the turf five times. The dark bay filly will be buried on the rail and had an unimpressive 4 furlong work of 53 seconds recently at Santa Anita.
LIVING THE LIFE should be considered as a serious threat despite being a synthetic-surface specialist with a pair of Grade 2 wins. A bad trip in her last November 1 at Del Mar saw her going wide and in traffic. Value price knowing she’s prepping well with three bullet workouts from four to six furlongs over this track.
TARA’s TANGO had three runner-up finishes over this track last year in stake’s company, but did not run well in her two races to finish the year. Two workouts over the track including a poor 5-furlong gallop on January 8 does not instill confidence despite the training of Jerry Hollendorfer with Mike Smith aboard.
KISS AT MIDNIGHT is a stretch runner who has closed to finish second in four of her last five races and Gary Stevens will be in the irons. KYRIAKI is a Kentucky bred mare that won last time out November 21 in the mud at Delta Downs. The 6-year old was a non-contender in six allowances races over this track last year, and had a recent four furlong work over the track in 47.60. FINEST CITY will be a longer shot on the front end.