Santa Anita Handicap 2014 Contenders & Odds

Dave Bond | OTB Writer
Updated: March 7, 2014 -- 1:05 PM ET

Las Vegas, NV - The main event in Santa Anita Park's winter meet - the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap goes down this Saturday, March 8. Horses four years old and upward will be featured as they go 1 1/4 miles on Santa Anita's main track looking for the winner's portion of the very nice $750,000 purse.

A field of eight will line up in the Big Cap - race 9 on Santa Anita's Saturday card. Post time is 4:00 PM. Let's take a look into the credentials of all eight entries for this lucrative and intriguing Grade 1 stakes - the most highly anticipated race so far this year.

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2014 Santa Anita Handicap Race Favorite Entries

Mucho Macho Man - is coming off a dominant 14 length win in the Florida Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream January 18 after the biggest win of his life - an impressive score over Will Take Charge in the Breeders' Cup Classic and after looking terrific in his previous 11 starts overall as well - five wins, two second, three thirds and 1 unfortunate DNF at last year's Sunshine Million Classic at Gulfstream in January. He had a win in the Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes here September 28 after a good third in the Grade 1 Whitney Invitational at Saratoga August 3 and a third in the minor Criminal Type Stakes at Belmont Park in June. He also had a good second to Fort Larned in the 2012 Breeders' Cup Classic. Mucho Macho Man has nine wins, five seconds and six third place finishes in 24 career starts and has won three races in a row ahead of the Big Cap. He is the morning line favorite at 9-5 odds, has two wins and a second in three starts on this track and will have the legendary Gary Stevens in the saddle from post 2.

Will Take Charge - 2013 Eclipse Award winner for three year old colt was one of the only colts to race all three legs of the Triple Crown finishing eighth in the Kentucky Derby, seventh in the Preakness and tenth in the Belmont. This after an impressive win in the Grade 2 Rebel at Oaklawn Park in March. A lot was expected of this colt in the Triple Crown for trainer D. Wayne Lukas but he had fallen flat on the biggest stage before a two race win streak after the Triple Crown - in the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby at Parx September 21 and a tremendous win in the Grade 1 Travers at Saratoga August 24 after a good second ahead of Moreno and behind Palace Malice in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes July 27. Last time out was a second in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream February 9 after yet another win in the Grade 1 Clark at Churchill Downs November 29 and a good yet disappointing second behind Mucho Macho Man in the Breeders' Cup Classic. His last six months have been terrific - three wins and three seconds. Will Take Charge starts from the rail with Luis Saez aboard as the 2-1 second choice.

Santa Anita Handicap 2014 | Remaining Contenders

Game on Dude Bob Baffert trained gelding is a multiple Grade 1 winner and is the defending champion in this race (he also won the Big Cap in 2011 by a record 7 3/4 lengths). He had nine graded stakes scores in his last 14 starts - five straight last year including the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic over Clubhouse Ride back in April, the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup in July, the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar August 25 in the second fastest time recorded in that race in the last 10 years. He enters on a three race losing streak - a disappointing fifth last time out in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes here February 8, a second to Will Take Charge in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs November 29 followed a very disappointing ninth as 8-5 favorite in the Breeders' Cup Classic. He was the most impressive horse on the planet last year and will be looking to gain his first win in over six months Saturday. He will be looking for a little respect when he departs from gate 7 with Mike Smith guiding him. Game On Dude is the 5-2 third choice this weekend.

Blingo - John Sherreffs trained gelding had his first win in 20 months three back - at the I'm a Banker Stakes at Belmont Park October 14 after failing to place in his previous four starts and won again last time out in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes at 16-1 odds here February 8. This after a sixth in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes on this track January 11. His other stakes starts in his 11 race career resulted in a fourth in the Grade 2 La Jolla in August 2012 and a pair of sixths. Blingo, off two terrific wins the last four months is squarely in the Big Cap radar but he will have a difficult time against such a talented field. Blingo is being sent off at 8-1 odds from post 3. Aaron Gryder gets the call.

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Imperative - improving George Papaprodromou trained gelding has 13 career starts with two wins, four seconds and a third place finish and is coming off his career best performance - a second behind Blingo in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes here February 8. His only other stakes start came in September 2012 - a tenth in the Grade 1 FrontRunner but he has placed in his last four starts overall. Kent Desormeaux gets the mount from post 4 aboard the co-fifth choice at 12-1 odds.

Rousing Sermon - was deemed a contender at the beginning of 2012 but has not shown the expected form so far. He had an eighth in the 2012 Kentucky Derby to follow a decent third in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby and has been just OK since. He had 10 starts in 2013 for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer - the last was an OK third in his only graded stakes action - a length behind Blueskiesnrainbows the Grade 3 Native Diver at Hollywood Park December 14. Other results included a win in the minor On Trust Handicap November 24 after a second in the minor Big Bear Stakes here October 31 and an Allowance Optional Claiming score four weeks earlier. Last time out was a disappointing fifth in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes here January 11. Rousing Sermon has will be looking to avenge a poor outing in January and will have Rafael Bejarano aboard from post 5 at 12-1 odds.

American Blend - has 11 career starts for trainer Carla Gaines with three wins, a second and two third place finishes. He is coming off an OK third in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes behind Blingo and Imperative after one of his wins - an Allowance Optional Claiming on this track January 1, a sixth and a fourth respectively in Allowance races. He had failed to place in five starts before his last two outings and looks to be trending upward before the Big Cap. Joe Talamo has the call from post 6 aboard the longest shot in the field - 20-1

Hear The Ghost - lightly raced Jerry Hollendorfer trained gelding has just seven career starts - a good second in the San Pedro Stakes at Santa Anita last January 21 after a Maiden Special Weight score in his debut at 16-1 odds here December 15. In March he won his graded stakes debut - the Grade 2 San Felipe and then was forced to the sidelines for eight months. Hear the Ghost returned November 7 to a second as even money favorite in an Allowance Optional Claiming on this track and had another very good second behind Blueskiesnrainbows as 5-2 favorite in the Grade 3 Native Diver at Hollywood Park December 14. Last time out was a third in an Allowance Optional Claiming here February 1 after another third in the Grade 2 Strub Stakes on this track January 10. Hear the Ghost has placed in all seven career starts with two wins, three seconds and two third place finishes but is still the longest shot in the field at 20-1 odds.


2014 Santa Anita Handicap Entries & Odds

Race 9 on Santa Anita Park's Saturday card with a Post Time of 4:15 PM.

Entry Horse Jockey Trainer ML Odds
1 Will Take Charge L. Saez D. Lukas
2-1
2 Mucho Macho Man G. Stevens K. Ritvo
9-5
3 Blingo A. Gryder J. Shirreffs
8-1
4 Imperative K. Desormeaux G. Papaprodromou
12-1
5 Rousing Sermon R. Bejarano J. Hollendorfer
12-1
6 American Blend J. Talamo C. Gaines
20-1
7 Game On Dude M. Smith B. Baffert
5-2
8 Hear the Ghost J. Rosario J. Hollendorfer
20-1

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