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Las Vegas, NV - The Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap or "The Big Cap" is on tap for this Saturday, March 2 from Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California on a day in which three Grade 1 races will be contested at the California track. Horses four years and older will be after the winner's share of the $750,000 purse when they go 1 1/4 miles on Santa Anita's dirt track.
The Big Cap has attracted a strong field of 10 for race 10 on Santa Anita's packed Saturday card. Post time is 4:30 PM. Here is a brief glance into the past performances of all 10 combatants ahead of this Grade 1 stakes. Two horses have caught the oddsmakers' eyes with the others being viewed a fringe contenders.
Game on Dude Bob Baffert trained gelding is a multiple Grade 1 winner. He has five graded stakes scores in his last eight starts - the Grade 2 Californian Stakes on June 2 over Kettle Corn, the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup July 7, the Grade 1 Awesome Again here September 29, the Grade 3 Native Diver Stakes at Hollywood Park December 1 in gate-to-wire fashion and last time out in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes here February 3. He also had a decent second in the Grade 1 Pacific Stakes in 2012 but struggled on the biggest stage in the Breeders' Cup Classic where he finished seventh. Still, game On Dude was a consideration for last year's Eclipse Award for older male and if not for Wise Dan, he may have been in the running this year again. He is by far the most accomplished entry in the field, has won six of seven starts on this track (the Breeders' Cup being the lone exception) and is definitely the one to beat Saturday. He won the 2011 version of this race and will be looking to beat last year's winner...
Ron the Greek - is the defending champion in this race and had looked very good in 2012 with two wins and three second place finishes in five starts before a sixth in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park September 29 and an OK fourth in the Breeders' Cup Classic in November. The other win last year was the Grade 1 Steven Foster Handicap and the seconds came in the Florida Sunshine Millions, the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap and the Grade 1 Whitney Invitational. Trainer Bill Mott saw Ron the Greek bounce back with a very convincing repeat win by 11 1/4 lengths in the Sunshine Millions Classic Stakes last time out at Gulfstream - 11 1/4 lengths!
Guilt Trip - has only seven career starts for trainer Bob Baffert but his last performance was a career best. He won as favorite in the Grade 2 Strub Stakes February 2 to follow a good third in the Grade 2 San Fernando in January also on this track. This followed a pair of fifths in his two previous outings and two straight wins before that. Distance could be an issue but Guilt Trip looked awful good last time out and could be a threat in the Big Cap.
Called to Serve - comes into the Santa Anita having won two straight - the minor Broad Brush Stakes last time out at Laurel Park December 31 and the Grade 3 Discovery Handicap at Aqueduct in November. He has placed in his last five races with the two wins, a second and two third place finishes. He has looked great working up to the Big Cap and is certainly in the best form of his career - he will have Gary Stevens in the saddle which helps his cause as well.
Stephanoatsee - has placed in six of his last seven starts over the last year and is coming off a nice second place finish in the Strub Stakes here February 2. Before that was an OK third in the Grade 3 Discovery Handicap at Aqueduct behind Called to Serve in November. Prior to that Stephanoatsee won two of three starts including the minor Barbaro Stakes at Delaware Park three back. He will be looking for his first graded stakes win Saturday.
Richard's Kid - Has certainly had his issues with Game On Dude in the past. Last year was an OK third in the Grade 1 Awesome Again behind Game on Dude after another third in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic right behind Game on Dude again. He had a win before that in the Grade 3 Cougar II Handicap on July 27 to follow another second to Game On Dude in the Hollywood Gold Cup and a win in the minor Prove It Stakes. He has really struggled of late for trainer Doug O'Neill - a fourth two back in the Grade 3 Native Diver was followed by an ugly tenth last time out in the Grade 2 San Marcos here February 9.
Santa Anita Handicap betting at Santa Anita Park with OffTrackBetting.com
Handsome Mike - has just two wins in 14 career starts - a Maiden Special Weight score at Santa Anita in October and out of nowhere in the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby five back. Last time out was an OK fourth in the Grade 2 Strub Stakes to follow a pedestrian fifth in the competitive San Fernando and a disappointing tenth in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby in November. He had a ninth in the Breeders' Cup Classic before that. Handsome Mike placed in just two of his last ten starts and after an improbable Pennsylvania Derby win, he has not looked great.
John Scott - has six wins, a second and two third place finishes in 12 career starts but he has zero career graded stakes wins. He was an OK fourth in the Breeders' Cup Mile three back and followed that with a decent third in the Grade 2 San Pasqual on this track January 5. Last time out was a good win in the minor Crystal Water Stakes here January 26.
Clubhouse Ride - enters the Big Cap having three straight runner-up finishes. Last time out was in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes February, in the Grade 3 Daytona Stakes three back and an Allowance Optional Claiming here on January 10. He has looked OK recently but distance may be an issue Saturday. He has just three wins, six seconds and eight third place finishes in 25 career starts.
Deacon Speakin' - multiple stakes winner has placed in his last three starts - a third last time out in the minor Starter Stakes here February 3 followed a second in a Claiming on this track January 6 and a Claiming score three back December 9 at Hollywood Park. He has a staggering 56 starts with eight wins, 13 seconds and six third place finishes.
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