2023 Santa Anita Handicap Cheat Sheet: Get to Know the Horses

Saturday’s $500,000, Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap Presented by Yaamava’ Resort & Casino is an important early-season test at Santa Anita Park for older horses on the road to the 2023 Breeders’ Cup World Championships,  which will be run at this track on Nov. 3-4.

The 1 ¼-mile “Big ‘Cap” is one of the most prestigious races in California and has been since it was first held in 1935, with winners including Seabiscuit, Round Table, Hill Rise, Nodouble, Ack Ack, Affirmed, Spectacular Bid, John Henry (twice), Alysheba, Best Pal, Tiznow, Lava Man (twice), Game On Dude (three times), Shared Belief, and Accelerate. Last year’s winner was Express Train.

Sign up today and bet the 1/ST Racing Tour and the Santa Anita Handicap with 1/ST BET, the Official App of Santa Anita Park. That way, once you get to know the Big ‘Cap horses in this Cheat Sheet,  you can stop by 1st.com/bet/cheatsheet and make your bets on Saturday, March 4.

This year’s race will be televised on FanDuel TV and has a scheduled post time of 8:30 p.m. ET. Read on for information on all 11 Big ‘Cap starters for 2023.

1. There Goes Harvard

Jockey: Kazushi Kimura

Trainer: Michael McCarthy

Owner: Cannon Thoroughbreds

Career record: 14 starts – 4 wins – 5 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $456,090

Earnings per start: $35,577

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 109

Pedigree: Will Take Charge – Soul Crusader, by Fusaichi Pegasus

Age: 5

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This horse’s claim to fame was a Grade 1 win in the 2022 Hollywood Gold Cup on this racetrack and at this 1 ¼-mile distance. Unfortunately for There Goes Harvard, however, he has raced only twice in the nine months since then and neither effort was indicative of his ability, including a ninth-place finish in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap last July and then a comeback race off a six-month layoff last time out when he finished 11th in the Grade 3 Thunder Road Stakes, which is a mile turf race at Santa Anita. Can he win this race based on his proven ability? The answer is yes, we’ve seen him win in a similar spot at this track/distance as recently as last summer. The real question, however, is what is his current form looking like, and will he be back to anything close to his best in time for a big effort in the Big ‘Cap? We’ll soon find out the answer to that question, but at this point it sure is looking like a longshot.

2. Parnelli

Jockey: Victor Espinoza

Trainer: John Shirreffs

Owner: C R K Stable

Career record: 17 starts – 3 wins – 3 seconds – 5 thirds

Career earnings: $213,320

Earnings per start: $12,548

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 108

Pedigree: Quality Road – Sip Sip, by Bernardini

Age: 5

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Jockey Victor Espinoza teamed up with trainer John Shirreffs to win last year’s Santa Anita Handicap with Express Train. Can they do it again? Parnelli exits a solid third-place finish in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes, which is the local prep for the Santa Anita Handicap and perhaps the most relevant race to look at when handicapping this year’s race. The San Pasqual featured a close three-horse finish between Parnelli and rivals Newgrange and Hopper, who were all separated by a length. Hopper set the pace with both Parnelli and Newgrange in close pursuit at 1 1/8 miles. In the stretch, Newgrange had the kick to get past Hopper for the win but Parnelli fell a head short of ever passing Hopper and settled for third. The added furlong of the Big ‘Cap at 1 ¼ miles may help Parnelli a bit, but perhaps not as much as some of the others in this race with more graded stakes experience. Parnelli has yet to win a stakes race, and this Grade 1 race at a distance further than he’s ever run before is looking like a difficult spot for that breakthrough kind of an effort. Espinoza also won the Big ‘Cap in 2004 on Southern Image and in 2018 on Accelerate.

3. Newgrange

Jockey: Frankie Dettori

Trainer: Phil D’Amato

Owners: David A. Bernsen, Little Red Feather Racing, Rockingham Ranch

Career record: 8 starts – 5 wins – 0 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $747,334

Earnings per start: $93,416

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 108

Pedigree: Violence – Bella Chianti, by Empire Maker

Age: 4

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Newgrange is approaching Santa Anita “horse for the course” status, now sporting a perfect 3-for-3 record on the Santa Anita main track including a key win last time out over some of these same rivals in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes at 1 1/8 miles. Newgrange has always been a talented performer on the racetrack. You might remember that he was on the 2022 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve trail last winter with wins in the Grade 3 2022 Sham Stakes and the Grade 3 2022 Southwest Stakes before going to the sidelines for a significant part of the 2022 season. He seems to be back to his best form now, however, first with a big allowance optional claiming win at Santa Anita last Nov. 6, and then with the win in the San Pasqual. Frankie Dettori picks up the mount in the Big ’Cap as he continues his farwell tour of many of the world’s preeminent races in 2023. Newgrange has been regarded for quite some time as a potential top-class horse, and he’ll finally get a legitimate shot at earning his first Grade 1 win on Saturday.

4.  Stilleto Boy

Jockey: Kent Desormeaux

Trainer: Ed Moger Jr.

Owner: Steve Moger

Career record: 20 starts – 3 wins – 4 seconds – 8 thirds

Career earnings: $1,411,675

Earnings per start: $70,583

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 112

Pedigree: Shackleford – Rosie’s Ransom, by Marquetry

Age: 5

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Presser

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Stilleto Boy finished hird in this race last year, but he wasn’t close – he ended up nine lengths behind the winner and the runner-up, Express Train and Warrant. Stilleto Boy seems to dance every one of the big dances in southern California and is almost always a contender, but his last win came way back last April in the Grade 3 2022 Californian Stakes. Since then he was fourth in the 2022 Hollywood Gold Cup, third in the Grade 2 2022 San Diego Handicap, second in the Grade 2 2022 San Antonio Stakes, and he even shipped back east and ran a creditable third last time out in the Grade 1 $3 million Pegasus World Cup Stakes presented by Baccarat. That’s not a bad résumé until you realize that he lost to half the challengers in this field in those races, including Defunded who beat him in the Pegasus. He’s a hard-trying horse who always shows up, and is always dangerous to hold on for a slice, but it would take a big effort from him to get better than a small share against this field. Stilleto Boy stays on well enough to handle the 1 ¼-mile distance, but in terms of winning, take note that he’s 0-for-4 in his career and all four of those losses were in Grade 1 spots, including in this same race last year. Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux has won the Big ‘Cap twice, way back in 1992 on Best Pal and in 2002 on Milwaukee Brew.

5. Defunded

Jockey: Juan Hernandez

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Owners: Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman

Career record: 14 starts – 5 wins – 4 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $1,168,100

Earnings per start: $83,478

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 109

Pedigree: Dialed In – Wind Caper, by Touch Gold

Age: 5

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Speed/Presser

Notable achievements and interesting facts:  Defunded is on a roll right now, and he’s the deserving favorite and horse to beat in the Santa Anita Handicap based his strong second-place finish last time out in the Grade 1 $3 million Pegasus World Cup Stakes presented by Baccarat. Before that, Defunded earned recent victories in California, including a win in the Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes back in October followed by a rout in the Grade 3 Native Diver Stakes at Del Mar on Nov. 27. He earned a career-best Equibase Speed Figure of 109 in both of those victories, which, along with the Pegasus, came at 1 1/8 miles. Defunded also ran a good second in the 2022 Hollywood Gold Cup last year at 1 ¼ miles. The level of competition he faced in in the Pegasus against the likes of Art Collector and Cyberknife was legitimate. Remember that the Big ’Cap is, in fact, a handicap, and Defunded will carry high weight at 125 pounds, meaning that he’ll concede anywhere between two and 11 pounds to his rivals. Trainer Bob Baffert has won the Big ’Cap five times, but has gone winless since Game On Dude’s third win in 2014. Defunded is a speed horse, but he has learned to rate and he can be expected to sit off the pace set by his barnmate Hopper on Saturday. From there, of the two Baffert horses, it looks like Defunded will have the best chance to run on in the stretch and put up a fight to the finish to hold off the closers.

6. Warrant

Jockey: Flavien Prat

Trainer: Brad Cox

Owner: Twin Creeks Racing Stables

Career record: 13 starts – 4 wins – 5 seconds – 3 thirds

Career earnings: $937,325

Earnings per start: $72,101

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 108

Pedigree: Constitution – Whisper Number, by First Samurai

Age: 5

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Warrant comes into Saturday’s race off a promising beginning to his 2023 campaign with a win in an allowance optional claiming race at Fair Grounds on Jan. 26. Warrant competed in the 2022 Santa Anita Handicap and finished second by a head to Express Train in what was his standout performance in an otherwise disappointing season where he failed to win a race in five outings. His 3-year-old campaign in 2021 was a good one for trainer Brad Cox, winning both the Texas Derby at Lone Star Park and the Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park. He also finished second in two other stakes races. In his first start at age 4, he was beaten by the likes of Mandaloun and Midnight Bourbon but finished a clear third in the Grade 3 Louisiana Stakes at Fair Grounds on Jan. 22, 2022. If the victory last time out at Fair Grounds really was an indicator that a return to Warrant’s best form is imminent, then he’s got a big chance to win and get revenge this year.

7. Heywoods Beach 

Jockey: Ramon Vazquez

Trainer: John Sadler

Owner: Hronis Racing

Career record: 22 starts – 5 wins – 3 seconds – 4 thirds

Career earnings: $439,376

Earnings per start: $19,971

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 111

Pedigree: Speightstown – Unfold the Rose, by Catienus

Age: 6

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Heywoods Beach brings serious long-distance credentials into the 2023 Santa Anita Handicap, and if some of his competitors can’t get the 1 ¼-mile distance, there’s certainly no doubt that he can. Heywoods Beach earned two victories in 2022, and they both came with pace-pressing efforts in 1 ½-mile graded stakes on dirt, first in the Grade 3 Cougar II Stakes at Del Mar last July and then Grade 3 Tokyo City Cup Stakes on Oct. 2 here at Santa Anita. He does own a career win at this 1 ¼-mile trip at Santa Anita, and the veteran often holds his own against good caliber competition even when he doesn’t win, as was the case when he finished third last time out in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes here on opening day Dec. 26. His ceiling in a spot like this seems to be some sort of in-the-money finish, and as such he could prove dangerous if left entirely out of the exotic wagers. Trainer John Sadler won this race three times in a row with three different horses from 2018-2020, scoring with Accelerate (2018), Gift Box (2019) and Combatant (2020) – all for Hronis Racing.

8. Hopper 

Jockey: Mike Smith

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Owners: Lanni Bloodstock, Madaket Stables, SF Racing

Career record: 4 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $140,700

Earnings per start: $35,175

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 105

Pedigree: Declaration of War – Irridescence, by Caesour

Age: 4

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Pacesetter

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Often in a big race, it’s the “other” horse from a trainer’s barn that wins instead of a more heralded stablemate, and in this year’s Big ‘Cap the “other Baffert” as opposed to Defunded is this up-and-coming 4-year-old who will be making only his fifth lifetime start on Saturday. Hopper is lightly raced, but he usually makes his outings count, as he did two races ago when winning the Grade 3 Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita on June 11, 2022. Following a seven-month layoff, Hopper came back against classy competition last time out in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes and led much of the way until settling for second, beaten only a length behind Newgrange. Now making his second start off the long layoff and adding Mike Smith aboard, there is a big chance that Hopper will go even and faster and further today. Baffert is a five-time winner of the Santa Anita Handicap, while Mike Smith has won this race three times, doing it in a row in 2013-15 aboard Game On Dude (twice) and Shared Belief.

9. Scarlet Fusion 

Jockey: Edwin Maldonado

Trainer: Joe Sharp

Owners: Carl R. Moore Management and Brad Grady

Career record: 20 starts – 4 wins – 4 seconds – 7 thirds

Career earnings: $427,918

Earnings per start: $21,395

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 106

Pedigree: Curlin – Scarlet Tango, by French Deputy

Age: 5

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Presser/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Emboldened by a stakes win last time in the Grade 3 John B. Connelly Cup Stakes at Sam Houston, trainer Joe Sharp sees enough potential in Scarlet Fusion to see fit to ship the 5-year-old to California and try his hand at Grade 1 competition in the Santa Anita Handicap. We’ll see how it goes. The Connelly win came as part of a solid nine-horse field, but his foes were not in the same class as what this horse will face Saturday, and it was, after all, a turf race. Now Scarlet Fusion will be switching back to the main track, and while he does have dirt track ability, his 2-for-15 record in dirt races against lesser competition really doesn’t stack up against the Big ‘Cap field, even at what should be a nice price on the tote board.

10. Tisquantum 

Jockey: Hector Isaac Berrios

Trainer: Rolando Quinonez

Owner: Rebecca Young

Career record: 6 starts – 3 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $101,280

Earnings per start: $16,880

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 104

Pedigree: Constitution – Lady Micaela, by Empire Maker

Age: 6

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Closer, but pressed the pace in most recent start

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Tisquantum comes into the Big ‘Cap on a two-race winning streak and seems to be improving by leaps and bounds in every race, so if you are the connections of this horse, why not take a shot in a spot like this and use it as a barometer of where your horse really stands in the pecking order of the best dirt horses in training in California? The most recent speed figure earned when winning a $50,000 allowance optional claiming race at Santa Anita on Jan. 28 at least puts him in the ballpark with some of his Big ‘Cap competition, and if his improving trajectory continues then anything could be possible. Looking at this race through more of a realistic lens, on the other hand, Tisquantum probably still has a bit of a way to go until he reaches legitimate Grade 1 status, and this test will be an extremely ambitious and difficult undertaking. He’s a longshot, for now.

11. Proxy 

Jockey: John Velazquez

Trainer: Michael Stidham

Owner: Godolphin

Career record: 14 starts – 4 wins – 5 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $1,055,220

Earnings per start: $75,372

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 109

Pedigree: Tapit – Panty Raid, by Include

Age: 5

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This well-bred horse by Tapit invades for Godolphin and brings Johnny Velazquez along for the ride. Proxy was always a nice stakes-caliber performer, having hit the board in such notable races as the Grade 2 2022 Stephen Foster Stakes at Churchill Downs, but his big breakthrough really came when he won the Grade 1 Clark Stakes Presented by Norton Healthcare last Nov. 25 at Churchill. That was actually Proxy’s first career stakes win despite racing at a high level throughout 2022 with his Equibase Speed Figures reaching well into the triple digits five times in a row in the 104-109 range. Proxy doesn’t have a blazing turn of foot, but he is a grinder who should be making up ground in the stretch. Look for Johnny V. to be making a late run and in perfect position if the pace falters badly in this 1 ¼-mile race. Proxy was well bet last time out in the Grade 1 $3 million Pegasus World Cup Stakes presented by Baccarat, but he failed to fire that day and finished fifth behind both Defunded and Stilleto Boy. Now he’s thousands of miles from home and facing those horses at their home track, breaking from post 11. This may be a difficult task and the odds on this horse won’t be great.