Handicapping the $100,000 Sweet Life Stakes at Santa Anita Park

Santa Anita Park bettors will observe two significant trends before the Friday-Sunday cards at the Arcadia oval, just north of Los Angeles.

  1. Speed has returned. Frontrunners are again doing well as the track has appeared to drain from the rain deluge of December and January. That’s a handicapping tool bettors will put into their assessments.
  2. Juan is gone — long gone, regarding the top jockey’s competition. Breakout star Juan Hernandez continues to be money for Santa Anita bettors, leading the pack with 33 victories and an astonishing in-the-money percentage of 64%.

What that means is that someone who did nothing but wager on Hernandez on the win, place, and show line would  have cashed a ticket 64% of the time this season. Hernandez’s $2.7 million earnings is more than double his nearest competitor, Flavien Prat, at $1.164 million.

He not only wins on favorites, but longshots. Hernandez guided 19-to-1 bomb Post Facto to victory in Friday’s first race and guided 12-to-1 shot Genius Jimmy to a Saturday triumph.

Hernandez is named on five mounts on Friday and on nine of the 10 races Saturday. The hardest-working man at Santa Anita will try to keep bringing money to his bettors.

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While Hernandez runs away with riding honors, gamblers have honed in on leading trainers Bob Baffert, Phil D’Amato, and Doug O’Neill.

Baffert leads the way with 17 victories, more than $9.1 million in earnings, and an impressive 69% in-the-money performance.

O’Neill has 12 triumphs.

D’Amato, who captured three straight races last Friday, has 11 victories and is just shy of $1.4 million earnings.

Gamblers like to weigh in behind these trainers, especially when one of the top riders on this list rides for them.

California horse race betting enthusiasts can access the action at Santa Anita, through varied simulcast facilities, or the TVG app.

Here is the weekend lineup and a couple scheduling changes.


A nine-race card with 12:30 p.m. post.

There are five turf races and a big dose of Hernandez.


A 10-race card highlighted by the $100,000 Sweet Life Stakes with a huge field of 11 horses.

Big fields will be prominent late in the card.

There are 10 horses in the finale and a field of 12 entered in the sixth for a level $10,000 claiming race. A big field and a lower level means betting confidence on some longshots and a nice potential payout.

Hernandez is listed in all but the sixth race.


A nine-race card with a unique starting time, 11 a.m. Track officials don’t want to compete with the Super Bowl, which begins at 3:30 p.m. PT.

Schedule Update

Santa Anita will conduct live racing on Friday, Feb. 24, which was originally scheduled to be a dark day. First post time will be at 12:30 p.m. The card has been added as a makeup for weather-related cancellations earlier in the Classic Meet.

READ MORE: When Will California Make Sports Betting Legal?

Sweet Life Stakes

Here’s a breakdown of the weekend’s biggest race, the Sweet Life Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs on turf. Post time is set for 4:30 p.m.

This is how they will break from the rail out, horse and jockey.

Satin DollEdwin MaldonadoMakes turf debut after strong start to her career. Comes off an excellent second-place finish on dirt in the $200,000 Santa Ynez Stakes in January.

Has class edge if she can take to the turf. Sometimes that’s a big if, but if she likes it, she can be in this. Usually rallies.
Ragtime RoseHector BerriosWill be hard to make a case for. Was 10th in the Blue Norther, far behind Manhattan Jungle, who she faces here.
Havana AngelJuan HernandezHighly regarded, but hasn’t broken through yet. Good middle move but finished sixth in the Juvenile Fillies Turf at Del Mar. Might be overplayed because Hernandez rides him, might also be ready for his breakout race. Mixed signals.
Manhattan JungleFrankie DettoriGetting Dettori on a horse that finished second at Santa Anita on his 1-mile turf debut in December? A lot of bettors will like that.

Gave a good honest run in his last. Was forwardly placed throughout. Figures to run well and be heavily bet here.
Pleasant WaveKazushi KimuraRan an entertaining 6 early furlongs, not far from Manhattan Jungle, in the Blue Norther. Flattened out and finished ninth. Looks better suited for sprints, tries an in-between distance of 6 1/2 furlongs.

Not easy to recommend, but should perform better than in her last race.
Decorated My LifeJoe BravoSecond in the Jimmy  Durante Stakes, a distant eighth in the Blue Norther.

That finish was surprising in light of the strong Jimmy Durante effort. Another in the group that must make up several lengths on Manhattan Jungle.
ItzelUmberto RispoliConnections like the progression from her first race to second. After finishing fourth  in a dirt race at 6 1/2 furlongs, she triumphed at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf in claiming company.

Race No. 3 is a step up. Owners don’t know what they have yet. This race will tell them.
ExceliaGeovanni FrancoA distant eighth in the $200,000 Surfer Girl Stakes but rebounded for third at 6 1/2 furlongs on the turf at Santa Anita in allowance optional claiming.

Comes back up in class but a race over the distance will be in her favor. Logical to be in the exotics conversation.
Naughty LottieKent DesormeauxWas the best of the rest in this pack chasing Manhattan Jungle in the Blue Norther. Finished sixth, but did run hard for a little more than 6 furlongs.

This distance should be more to her liking. Still will have a hard time topping Manhattan  Jungle, but could hit the exotics board.
Fun MoneyMario GutierrezMaybe her name should be In the Money. Has hit the board in eight consecutive trips. Has  a nice second at this distance, beating Excelia.

Ran out of gas in the 7-furlong Golden State  Juvenile Fillies, getting nipped at the wire for second. Steps up  in class but likes this distance.
Happy GirlTiago PereiraWill be hard-pressed, having lost to Fun  Money and Excelia in  allowance company.

    Pick 6 Payout Update

    Track officials anticipated a $3 million wagering pool for the mandatory 20-cent Rainbow Pick 6 payout last Sunday.

    They got nearly 50% more.

    An avalanche of new money made the $391,631 carryover skyrocket to $4,359,099. That’s the magic of compounding interest on the mandatory payout day. Handle on the last day for this pool was more than 10 times the carryover, as bettors knew there would be a considerable payout.

    And there was.

    There were 3,655 tickets with six winners, each worth $935.70.

    Bettors love this pool because the 20-cent wager means they can experiment with longshots and avoid an expensive ticket. They have to select the winners of the finals six races. The pool starts from scratch this weekend.

    In a higher-limit realms, the Coast to Coast Pick 5, a joint venture between Santa Anita and Gulfstream Park in Florida, returns Saturday and Sunday. It’s a $1 minimum wager, picking five straight races between the two tracks. The pool has a player-friendly 15% takeout

    Racing Highlights From Last Weekend

    Baffert won both $200,000 races, the Robert Lewis Stakes with Newgate and the Santa Monica Stakes with Fun to Dream.

    D’Amato hit paydirt with Earl’s Rock at 7-to-2 in the $100,000 Thunder Road Stakes we previewed last week.

    As projected, some big longshots ran underneath. DuJour got up for second at 15-to-1, nipping 9-to-5 favorite Air Force Red, who was third. Irideo, at 30-to-1, was fourth. That completed a $2 superfecta of $7,099. The $1 trifecta was worth $232.

    The $7,099 payout was strong, but it wasn’t the biggest of the weekend.

    That happened when Hernandez led Genius Jimmy to victory. It set off the weekend’s highest superfecta payout of $12,861 for a $2 wager. The 10-center was thus $643.

    Escape Artist finished second at 5-to-2, Maltese Falcon rallied for third at 6-to-1, and Excel Calculator won a photo for fourth at 20-to-1.

    There’s more opportunity sitting out there this weekend. Good luck finding your angle.

    About the Author
    Handicapping the $100,000 Sweet Life Stakes at Santa Anita Park 1

    Dave Bontempo

    Dave Bontempo is a writer for California Casinos, 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 California Casinos.