Previewing Four Days Of California Horse Racing At Santa Anita

Written By Dave Bontempo on March 9, 2023 - Last Updated on March 10, 2023
Previewing four-day race weekend at Santa Anita

California horse racing bettors can turn a phrase on its ear this week.

Instead of a “four-day week,” it’s a “four-day weekend” at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia.

The Great Race Place unfurls a special Thursday, eight-race card starting at 12:30 p.m. That leads into the regularly-scheduled Friday-Sunday program.

Thursday’s card came about after the California Horse Racing Board permitted Santa Anita to run on a scheduled dark day. This replaces a canceled card from heavy rains during the last weekend of February.

It’s bonus time, baby.

Santa Anita will offer free General Admission and Parking, as well as $3 beers and $5 margaritas, on both Thursday and Friday.

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.

Thursday Kickoff

From a betting perspective, a pair of $72,000 allowance races will highlight Thursday’s program.

The sixth race of the day, for fillies and mares bred or sired in California, attracted a field of seven at six furlongs on the main track.

Thursday’s seventh race, for older horses at a mile and one quarter over the Camino Real Turf Course, attracted a field of nine.

The rest of the weekend is loaded.

Friday’s eight-race program starting at 12:30, has a unique 13-horse entry in the final race.

On Saturday, Santa Anita offers $1,097,000 in purses, one of only two tracks in the country to reach the seven-figure mark. The other is Tampa Bay Downs, which offers $1,245,000 via several big events, including the $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby, a Kentucky Derby qualifier.

Santa Anita sports the richest event in the country on Saturday, the $500,000 Beholder Stakes for fillies and mares running 1 mile on the dirt.

The $200,0000 San Carlos Stakes, at 7 furlongs, highlights the undercard.

Sunday has the Santa Anita Stakes at $100,000. It is 1 1-4 miles on the turf.

The nine-race card starts at 12:30 p.m.

Preview of Beholder Stakes

A field of eight contests this event at 1 mile on the dirt at 4 p.m.

From the rail out, here is a look at a talented field.


She is quickly becoming a fan favorite at Santa Anita, especially after she won a thrilling stretch duel with her Saturday opponent Ganadora to win the 1 1-16 mile La Canada here in January.

That race was for $200,000. This contest is a step up and shorter course than she might like. Kirstenbosch rallies fiercely and needed every step at 1 1-16 miles to nip Ganadora.

Kazoshi Kimura returns to get the mount. La Canada was his first victory at Santa Anita. Kimura is an excellent young jockey and the leading rider at Woodbine outside of Toronto last year.

The connections for Kirstenbosch include John Sadler, trainer of the famed Eclipse Award-winning Flightline.

Much to like, but the distance is a variable.

Pauline’s Pearl

A quality horse, which comes out of one of the top races on the circuit, the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic.

He won it twice in a row.

Like Kirstenbosch, Pauline’s Pearl needed every bit of race track to run down his foes at 1 1-16 miles. He debuts at Santa Anita and has 1-16 less real estate to operate with.

He may have to adjust his style and be more forwardly placed before the stretch.

Awake at Midynte

She comes off two seven-furlong losses to Fun to Dream, who subsequently evolved into the likely favorite role here.

In the last, she had the lead in the stretch with no excuses but was passed.

However, Awake at Midnyte beat Kirstenbosch at seven furlongs last year. But Kirstenbosch seems to be getting better and this is a longer race.

The more special Fun to Dream looks, the more bettors may like this horse in the exacta with her.

Midnight Memories

She has excellent victories in the 1 mile Torrey Pines and 1 1-16 miles Zenyatta Stakes for $200,000.

She was second to Fun to Dream at seven furlongs, but it appears she prefers route races. That makes her a threat at this distance.

A Mo Reay

What a filly. She has victories at Oaklawn, Fairgrounds and Laurel. She comes off a contentious stretch battle to win the $250,000 Bayakoa Stakes at Oaklawn last month.

It took her three surges to get by, but she displayed gritty determination by doing so just before the wire. The great jockey Florent Geroux rode her last time. She gets another this weekend in Flavien Prat. Prat is second on the all-time money list at Santa Anita.

Like many in the field, she must get used to a shorter race.


You like Kirstenbosch. You like Ganadora. Enough said. They put on a show in the homestretch in the La Canada. She may like the shorter distance because she was caught in the final step.

Officially, she lost by a nose to Kirstenbosch. But in reality, it was more like a nose hair. This race was incredibly tight. It figures to be that way again.

Desert Dawn

She was edged by about a length by Midnight Memories in the Torrey Pines at this distance.

But it’s been more than six months since her last race, and may need one before finding her form.

Fun to Dream

Despite her name, she has big dreams too. She has seven wins in her last eight tries and won five straight. She is usually trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who is a magician in California.

Fun to Dream was honored this week as the California-bred Horse of the Year in a dinner hosted by the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association.

The 7-furlong Santa Monica Stakes victory was unique because she had to come off the pace.

Betting Overview

Fun to Dream has the best credentials, but do you want 4-5 on her?  She was 1-2 in her last race. We won’t know until post-time how bettors are sizing this up. On the flip side, this is a stiff test with many good horses. Maybe the odds go north of even money.

Gamblers will have to decide how low they can tolerate the win line going before they hook her up in exotics instead.

Every horse in this race shows the capacity to hit the board.

A Look Back at Last Week

Santa Amita played the role of kingmaker and the venue for a couple of heartwarming stories last Saturday.

Early on the card, Practical Move captured the San Felipe Stakes and punched his May 6 Kentucky Derby ticket.

In the last race on the card, Stilleto Boy produced a Cinderella story for the fans and a colossal payday for nine fortunate bettors in the 20-cent Rainbow Pick 6.

First, he delivered aesthetically in winning the $500,000 Santa Anita Handicap.

The popular California horse had always run game when overmatched against Breeders Cup winners like Flightline, Life is Good and Knicks Go.

But he found momentum a couple of races back and later ran a good third behind second-place Defunded in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup at Florida’s Gulfstream Park.

He met Defunded again in the Big Cap, but jockey Kent Desormeaux changed his tactics.

Sent off at 13-1, Stilleto Boy broke sharply and then settled fourth along the rail. Instead of running hard but fading in the stretch, he saved enough ground for a sustained finishing burst that nipped Defunded in the final two strides.

The change in tactics was so dramatic that race broadcaster Frank Mirahmadi gave it just as memorable of a call.

“Stilleto Boy has won the Santa Anita Handicap under a Hall of Fame ride by Kent Desormeaux.”

Indeed it was.

The Hall of Fame Ride Led To Hall of Fame Payday

Stilleto Boy paid $29.40, the largest on the Pick 6 portion of the card, and completed a dream payout.

Each of the nine winners who picked all six races right obtained a life-changing $208,011.84 slice of the mandatory payout pool. Short of the lottery, where else can you notch a score like that?

Imagine screaming for Stilleto Boy to make up three lengths in the final strides, when it looked like Defunded was home, and having it happen, just before the wire.

The pool began on Saturday with a $237,774 carryover. And the bettors, knowing the pot had to be paid out, wagered $2,141,520 on it Saturday. That formed a final pot of $2,379,294.

Winning numbers and payoffs in the six-race sequence were as follows: R7, #6 ($8.20), R8, #5 ($54.60), R9,#6 ($5.40), R10, #2 ($10.20), R11, #1 ($23.60) and R12, #4 ($29.80).

It was a perfect ending. Stilleto Boy got his moment in the sun and nine bettors hit the big one.

Photo by Shutterstock
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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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