California Horse Racing Features Warm Up Weekend For KY Derby Qualifier

Written By Dave Bontempo on March 30, 2023
California horse racing warm-up weekend

Here’s the Golden State Two Step.

The California horse-racing circuit will ease into April this weekend. Next weekend, it becomes the center of the entire industry. California bettors can wager on cards this Friday through Sunday, including a couple of stakes races.

It’s a warm-up for next weekend’s grand spectacle involving the biggest names in the horse-racing world on April 8. The $750,000 Santa Anita Derby will crown a Kentucky Derby participant on that date. It will be joined by the $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks and a string of lower-stakes races on a high-profile day.

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

Let’s Look at the Lineups

Santa Anita Racetrack has an eight-race card for this Friday. The first post in Arcadia is 1 p.m.

The theme of this day is small to mid-size fields. Some races have five entries. Others have eight.

Bettors will take fewer liberties with exotics and focus on single-win bets and exacta tickets. They should avoid spreading the bread in small fields that won’t produce their desired payouts.

Saturday fashions a nine-race card that begins at 1 p.m. Two races to jump out at bettors include the $200,000 Royal Heroine Stakes in Race 6 and an 11-horse optional claiming finale in Race 9.

Sunday features the America and Pasadena Stakes, both worth $100,000 apiece.

Here is the field for the feature race of the weekend, the Royal Heroine on Saturday, from the rail out:

School Dance

She struggled in stakes company. Had a couple of good chances to perform against top horses in the Megahertz and Buena Vista Stakes at Santa Anita.

She was beaten twice by closing remarks on the front end and as a stalker.

Honey Jar

Connections have been methodical about moving her up. After an early maiden victory, she needed six more tries to obtain an allowance-level victory.

As soon as she accomplished that, handlers moved her well up in company. They are hoping her good recent form matches well with better competition.

Closing Remarks

She is on the uptick. Third-place finishes in the Megahertz and Buena Vista told different stories.

As a stalker, she ran well in the Megahertz.

In the Buena Vista, she caught a bad break when the horse in front of her abruptly pulled out of the race in the backstretch. It cost her several lengths, yet she still authored a spirited spring to the wire.

She might have been ready to win that day. Maybe she’s ready to win now.

Look for Closing Remarks to stalk and be in a good position.


She was nipped for third by Closing Remarks in the Buena Vista. Nadette may be a shade less talented than her rival, given the circumstances Closing Remarks ran under.

Nonetheless, she runs hard each time out and will be in it on her best day.

Very Scary

Opposing connections may think she’s aptly named.

She hasn’t run at the same level of competition but might have suddenly become scary good. Her three-race win streak includes triumphs on both the turf and the dirt.

She’s in a career-best groove and feeling good right now. Along with  Honey Jar, she is trying to prove she belongs in stakes company.


At first glance, one would figure she doesn’t belong here. She is winless in 10 career races.

But this is turf, and those races were in Ireland. European turf shippers are highly respected here, and she does get John Saddler, trainer of the fabled Flightline.

If a horse that has never won on the European circuit manages to win this race, that would be a huge compliment to the overseas circuit.

That said, you would think she’d have figured out how to win by now. I’m getting mixed signals.

Talent assessment

Three horses who have faced each other meet two others moving up and one moving West. It’s an interesting assortment of entries.

Closing Remarks has been the best of the horses who faced each other, but not by a large amount.

Flavien Prat Watch: Santa Anita Star Rides Another Big Race

Can two become the magic number on Saturday?

Will Santa Anita’s second-leading rider, Flavien Prat, deliver in a major event outside of California for the second straight week?

Golden State bettors have become accustomed to Prat’s excellence. At this meet, he is 58% in the money and is second in wins and earnings to Juan Hernandez.

But he also has a big name for himself on the national circuit.

Prat will ride Angel of Empire, one of the favorites at 9-2, in the Arkansas Derby. He will be guiding the Risen Star Stakes winner, who enters as one of the top contenders, along with Red Route One, who was second in the Rebel Stakes.

Reincarnate, third in the Rebel, is the lukewarm 5-2 morning-line favorite.

That can change by post-time, which is 4:50 PT, a few minutes before Santa Anita’s closing race.

Prat secured a big victory last weekend, guiding Kingsbarns to a wire-to-wire triumph in the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

Knowing his horse had to stretch out from barely over a mile to a career-long 1 mile and 3-16, Prat adroitly guided him through slow early fractions while maintaining the lead.

Once assured his mount could get the distance, Prat hustled him home.

For bettors paying attention to the Kentucky Derby picture, Kingsbarns is unbeaten and suddenly vibrant as a Run for the Roses threat.

Take Another Look at the Derby Through Gulfstream Park

Earlier on Saturday, the $1 million Florida Derby unfolds from Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla. at about 3:40 p.m.

Santa Anita bettors may already be on the Gulfstream wavelength with the popular Coast-to-Coast Pick 5. That’s a string of races between Santa Anita and Gulfstream. Patrons must pick the winners of all five races on Saturdays and Sundays.

Sunday’s player-friendly Coast-to-Coast Pick 5 returned $10,697.20 to 11 winning tickets.

Bettors have thus found two ways to put big money in their pockets.

One is through the varied Pick 5 and Pick 6 competitions. Two is being there when the longshot bombs go off. As they did on Monday.

Salute to Longshots: Rosenquist at 45-1

Rosenquist delivered that as a frontrunning 45-1 Monday in Race 6. Birth of Cool rallied for second at 7-2, finishing a $394 exacta.

Third went to Never Seen Before at 7-1, enabling the $1 trifecta to pay $1,031.

American Refugee was fourth at 7-2 and the $2 superfecta returned $13,637, or $682 for 10 cents.

Key to the race was Arrest, at 4-5, running out of the money.

Photo by AP / Jae C. Hong
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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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