November 27, 2022

Express Train defends title in San Pasqual; Ce Ce back for Santa Monica

Express Train wins the 2021 San Pasqual Stakes (photo by Benoit)

Multiple Grade 2 victor Express Train and Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint winner Ce Ce are among the top draws from three graded stakes at Santa Anita Saturday.

San Pasqual (G2) – Race 8 (7 p.m. ET)

Following a game nose victory over Hot Rod Charlie in the Dec. 26 San Antonio (G2), Express Train will seek his second consecutive edition of the $200,000 San Pasqual (G2).

Victor Espinoza will be up on the five-year-old horse, who captured last year’s San Pasqual by a 3 1/4-length margin from just off the pace, and Express Train will square off against five rivals in the 1 1/16-mile race. John Shirreffs trains the son of Union Rags.

Third in the San Antonio and Native Diver (G3) in his last two outings, Eight Rings looks like the one to catch on the front end. John Velazquez will be up on the Bob Baffert-trained frontrunner. American Theorem, a convincing allowance scorer over the track and distance on Jan. 2, will return to stakes competition for George Papaprodromou. Mike Smith guides the gray five-year-old.

Law Professor, winner of the off-the-turf Mathis Mile (G2) on Santa Anita’s opener, will seek his third straight victory for Michael McCarthy. Grade 2 hero Kiss Today Goodbye, second in the Native Diver two back, and last-out allowance winner Spielberg complete the field.

Santa Monica (G2) – Race 6 (6 p.m. ET)

Ce Ce concluded 2021 on a high note, rallying to win the Breeders’ Cup, and chestnut daughter of Elusive Quality will attempt to carry her strong form forward when opening her six-year-old campaign in the $200,000 Santa Monica (G2) at seven furlongs.

A finalist for champion female sprinter, Ce Ce has won three of her last four starts, all graded stakes, and Espinoza retains the mount for McCarthy.

Her four rivals include defending champion Merneith, who will make her second start back from a lengthy layoff for Baffert. Last seen recording a decent second in the Jan. 2 Kalookan Queen, the five-year-old American Pharoah recorded a 9-1 surprise in last year’s Santa Monica two starts back. Edwin Maldonado has the return call.

Baffert will also send out Kalypso, a three-time stakes queen at Santa Anita who steps up to face elder rivals following a 4 3/4-length upset in the La Brea (G1) on Dec. 26. The chestnut daughter of Brody’s Cause should be prominent from the start with Velazquez. Park Avenue, a non-threatening second in Jan. 1 La Canada (G2), and reformed claimer Full of Grace round out the lineup.

Thunder Road (G3) – Race 1 (3:30 p.m. ET)

Turf milers open the racing program in the $100,000 Thunder Road (G3), and Grade 2 winner Subconscious will compete for favoritism among six runners.

A convincing winner of the Twilight Derby (G2) in his stakes debut two back for Richard Mandella, Subconscious exits a fifth, beaten only 2 1/4 lengths, in the Hollywood Derby (G1) in late November. The four-year-old Tapit gelding figures to be forwardly-placed from his rail post with Juan Hernandez.

Other contenders include Count Again, Delaware, and Ready Soul.