Best Bets: Day After Christmas Plays at Santa Anita, Fair Grounds

America’s Best Racing and handicapper (and avid gambler) Monique Vág team up to provide horseplayers with their best bets of the weekend.

Vág will identify her top picks as well as at least one longshot play of the weekend, a nice opportunity to swing for the fences on a win bet or to take a shot with a show bet. She also will occasionally look for strong exacta plays for the weekend or try to spot a nice opportunity for other wagers.

This Weekend’s Bets

Sunday, Dec. 26

Longshot Play

Santa Anita Park, Race 1, 2:00 p.m. ET

#13 Thirty Four Coupe: This colt has a difficult draw out of post 13, but I think that this post, along with perhaps judging him too harshly off his most recent race, could provide a lot of value for bettors looking to play against some of the shorter-priced runners in here.

His two best efforts have come without blinkers, so I like that they will be removed for this contest. I also like that he will be taking a drop down in class out of the stakes ranks to compete versus other maidens. We know he’s capable of showing early foot and I think if he does exactly that and flaunts some gate speed, the outside draw disadvantage could be alleviated early on.

Best Bet

Santa Anita Park, Race 4, 3:37 p.m. ET

#6 Shaaz: It doesn’t get much tougher than this for a maiden contest, with two Bob Baffert-trained horses entered who have looked untouchable in morning works. Both are extremely expensive purchases and both have visually looked like they will be tough in their debuts. I lean with the morning-line favorite in this contest as that is also the way John Velazquez went for the same owner of the great Gamine.

Drawing outside makes this colt the one to beat, especially if we see a runner like #1 Hopkins (the other Baffert entry) setting the pace early on. It could help set up very well for his stablemate to track him down late and that’s why I give Shaaz the slight nod in here.

Longshot Play

Fair Grounds, Race 8, $100,000 Tenacious Stakes, 4:33 p.m. ET

#3 Trident Hit: He didn’t fire in his most recent outing at Remington Park despite being well situated heading around the final turn. It’s surprising he came up so flat as the favorite given how good he looked in the start prior at Churchill Downs off a similar type of trip. Although he’s yet to record a stakes victory, this field has not come up too tough and I think he’s one of the runners in here who benefits from a great draw and should be able to execute his ideal type of trip.

If jockey David Cabrera could get him positioned well, he should be in with every single shot to play spoiler here and pull off a minor upset.

Best Bet

Santa Anita Park, Race 7, $200,000 Santa Anita Mathis Mile Stakes, 5:12 p.m. ET

#8 Beyond Brilliant: He’s one of only two horses in here who consistently show early speed, and I think that’s going to play to his advantage. I think he should get to the lead easily in this contest and I think with what we’ve seen out of his turf efforts, he’s more than good enough to defeat this group, especially if he’s able to set some manageable fractions early on.

Another appealing factor shortening up in distance. Although his most recent win in the Hollywood Derby was at a mile-and-eighth, he seems better suited going shorter, which at the very least should make his early speed even more valuable.