China Doll Stakes Headlines Horse Racing Weekend At Santa Anita Park

Written By Dave Bontempo on March 16, 2023
Handicapping China Doll Stakes at Santa Anita Park, from

One day’s rainout is another day’s bounty. California horse bettors reap the harvest of a Santa Anita card canceled by rain last Friday.

Large fields and some extra races mark this Friday-Sunday program at “The Great Race Place” in Arcadia.

California horse racing bettors can wager remotely through the TVG app. Additionally, they access the action all weekend on FanDuel TV, varied simulcast outlets or from attending the events in-person at the Arcadia oval.

Here’s a look at the lineup and a preview of the $100,000 China Doll Stakes on Saturday.

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A 10-race card, big for a Friday, starts at 1 p.m. This looks like a way to get the horses and horsemen shut out last Friday into action. Toss in a few extra races here and there, and a canceled card can be spread onto other programs throughout the meet.

The highlighted race will be a $50,000 maiden claimer with a gigantic field of 15 entries as of late Wednesday. Fifteen. Even if some of the horses don’t run, this is going to be a wide-open event with a possibly strong return to bettors.


The 11-race card unfolds at 12:30 p.m.

The key will be the $100,000 China Doll Stakes for fillies on turf at 3:30 p.m.


There is a 1 p.m. start with nine races and no major stakes scheduled.

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China Doll Stakes

Here’s a look at Saturday’s China Doll Stakes, 1 mile on the turf, from the rail out. It has attracted a competitive field of seven.

Paris Secret

Makes her US debut after prevailing in Ireland as a 28-to-1 longshot. Workouts have been good. Expectations will be muted until she shows what she can do on the American circuit.

That starts now.

Havana Angel

Had a string of thirds in Great Britain and France before shipping to California and being off the board in three races. Has not demonstrated the ability to step up this level. Beaten decisively by Comanche Country, who is in this race.

The Wild Grazer

Has one win and a second in California after going 0-for-2 in Ireland last summer.

Won handily in her first condition allowance at 6 1/2 furlongs on Jan. 8. On Feb. 12, just missed at 1 mile in the Lady of Shamrock Stakes.

Has run well twice here and gets leading jockey Juan Hernandez in the irons.

Fast and Shiny

Not getting much attention. Only about three lengths back to Comanche Country in the Surfer Girl last October. If Comanche Country ends up being the top horse in this field, why couldn’t Fast and Shiny grab a slice of the minors?

Tea N Conversation

Part of the triumvirate of contenders. Finished a couple lengths back of The Wild Grazer and Princess Bettina in the Lady of Shamrock. Was running hard at the end. A little improvement puts her with these.

Princess Bettina

Strong effort in the Lady of Shamrock. Did not succumb easily. Just a little behind The Wild Grazer, a margin small enough to overcome with a slight uptick.

Comanche Country

The leading money winner in the field with $241,287. Hasn’t run since finishing just 5 3/4 lengths back in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filles Turf Nov. 4 at Keeneland.

The layoff is a concern, but if she’s ready, she can win.

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Santa Anita Park betting trends

Hernandez has been a little quiet lately at Santa Anita. He has not matched the volume of mounts and victories from early in the meet and has been upstaged by Flavien Prat and Frankie Dettori. 

He has a chance to change that Saturday. Hernandez is listed on nine races and is overdue for a big day. We’ll see if he gets one.

A pleasant surprise last weekend was Librado Barocio, who rode three winners on Saturday. The little-known riders are sometimes able to ride a hot streak for a while. Give him a look this weekend.

From a stylistic perspective, the turf remains able to yield strong closing efforts and some terrific stretch duels.

One of the best last weekend involved Vantastic and Dettori nipping Yeng Again on the final stride. Dettori brought his horse from the rear of the pack, had to wait for an opening around the stretch and then swing outside.

Dettori provided a masterful ride and then Vantastic was fantastic. He passed six horses down the stretch in a thunderous move.

On the dirt, horses that can shake free early remain in an advantageous position, but deep closers can win if there is a duel up front.

Longshot honor roll

A tip of the hat to anyone who had a piece of this on the special Thursday card last week.

On a weekend in which chalk ran very well, Seattle Breakout helped break up the board.

In a 6-furlong contest, he rallied from fourth to mow down the field at 19-to-1.

Divine Rascal was second at 9-to-1, completing the sizable exacta of $417.

And it got better. Giant’s Brite Eye, at 60-to-1, occupied third. That helped the trifecta reach whopping heights of $3,935 for the $1 version.

American Cat, the 4-to-5 favorite, finished fourth and nearly lost that spot too.

The combo produced a seismic $2 superfecta of $47,447, translating into $23,723 for the $1-dollar supe and $2,372 for 10 cents.

That’s remarkable for an eight-horse field.

Key ingredient: a low level race of claiming $16,000, in which horses take turns waking up to run a big one.

American Cat ranged up on the early speed. He was in a perfect position to pounce, but he didn’t. Seattle Breakout came from further back and took the whole thing.

Handicappers like to go back after a race and see if they missed something.

Looks like they didn’t. Seattle Breakout hadn’t hit the board in his past six outings and had been way behind Quick Intro, who as in this race, in a previous matchup.

Those horses flopped positions. That’s the saga of low-level claimers. They can author major reversals and make rapid improvement if they decide one day that they are in the mood to run.

Some gamblers might get a sense of that beforehand by noticing an alert bounce in how a horse behaves in the paddock or the post parade. 

For most others, it was just another example of how unpredictable racing is, especially on the lower levels.

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Derby contender fails Santa Anita test

Arabian Knight has been highly regarded and wagered upon heavily as a Kentucky Derby futures contender.  He was the second favorite behind Forte.

But the Kentucky Derby isn’t going to happen. Nor, for that matter will the Santa Anita Derby on April 8.

In a Twitter message posted late Saturday, owner Amr Zedan said trainer Tim Yakteen “wasn’t happy” with Arabian Knight’s last work on Thursday at Santa Anita and he’ll receive “more time to develop.”

“We feel it’s in Arabian Knight’s best interest not to rush & allow him more time to develop. We know he’s a superior talent and our plan is to point him toward a summer and fall campaign,” Zedan tweeted.

A $2.3 million auction purchase as a 2-year-old, Arabian Knight romped in his debut by 7 1/4 lengths last November against maidens at Keeneland on the Breeders’ Cup undercard. Given the rest of the year off, Arabian Knight returned in the Grade III Southwest at Oaklawn Park on Jan. 28 and was an easy 5 1/2-length winner over a sloppy and sealed track.

He returned with a work at Santa Anita 16 days following the Southwest, which was followed by 18-day gap before he worked again on March 4. A few days after that second drill, Arabian Knight worked 6 furlongs in 1:13.60. That’s considered pedestrian if the connections wanted him to run hard.

The pause in his training is probably a concern for potential injury for Arabian Knight. If a horse this highly regarded isn’t accelerating, connections may feel he needs more rest.

Photo by Associated Press
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Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo is a writer for PlayCA, and has covered the horse racing and boxing industry extensively since the 1980s. He was an award-winning writer at the Press of Atlantic City. As a broadcaster, he has won the Sam Taub Award for Excellence in Boxing Broadcasting, issued by the Boxing Writers Association of America. He has called major fights for HBO, ESPN, Showtime, and other networks since the 1980s. He is in the New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame. Dave shifted gears to cover the emerging legalized sports-betting industry in 2018. He now serves as the go-to authority on horse race betting across multiple websites, including PlayCA and California Casinos.

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