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Chips All In, above (center) winning the Eddie D Stakes, is a top contender for the Daytona Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita Park. (Benoit & Associates photo)

By Ellis Starr – National Racing Analyst for Equibase

The Daytona Stakes on opening weekend at “The Great Race Place,” otherwise known at Santa Anita Park, brings together a talented field of eight turf runners to compete on the signature 6 ½-furlong hillside turf course that is unique among North American tracks. Chips All In just missed in the Hollywood Turf Express Handicap last month and won both the similar Grade 3 Eddie D Stakes as well as the Grade 3 San Simeon Stakes down the hill this year and deserves top billing. Unbridled's Note led late and settled for second (in a dead heat) in the Turf Express. He also won the similar Joe Hernandez Handicap last winter so Unbridled’s Note is another logical contender. Another runner with a shot is Ain’t No Other, who won the Sensational Star Stakes last February on the downhill course. Gallant Son enters the race off a pair of wins, most recently in the Oakland Stakes in Northern California, and has won on the Santa Anita downhill turf course previously. Handsome Mike earned nearly $1 million in his career but has not won since April when victorious in the Grade 3 Commonwealth Stakes. El Commodore cuts back from a mile off a runner-up effort and was competitive at this level in April when second in the Grade 3 Miami Mile Handicap. Next Speaker and Truest Legend round out the field.

Chips All In has proven to be a “horse for the course.” In this case, with all four of his career wins on turf and with four of his seven career victories having come on the Santa Anita grass, Chips All In is the perfect example of such a horse. Chips All In enters this race off a big effort when finishing in a dead heat (tie) for second (beaten just a half-length for the win) in the Hollywood Turf Express Handicap last month. Having won both the Eddie D Stakes in September and the San Simeon Stakes in April on this unique downhill turf course, as well as missing by a nose to Unbridled’s Note prior to the San Simeon last February in the Joe Hernandez Handicap with a career-best 114  Equibase Speed Figure, Chips All In looks to be very tough in this year’s Daytona Stakes.

El Commodore is another competitive turf runner, one of five in the field who, between them, have earned more than $1.5 million on the turf to date. El Commodore recently finished second on the turf at a mile with a solid 108 Equibase Speed Figure, so running a shorter distance in the Daytona could have some extra energy that could help him run even better. Earlier in his career, El Commodore won a turf sprint, following a longer race, so there is history to suggest he could post the upset in this situation.

Unbridled's Note has only finished worse than third one time in five races down this hillside turf course and was one of two that ended up tied for second in a rare three-horse dead heat last month (including Chips All In) in the Hollywood Turf Express. Unbridled's Note won the similar Joe Hernandez Handicap in February when equaling a career-best 114 Equibase Speed Figure and, as he enters the race in top form, is yet another who adds depth to the field in the Daytona Stakes.


Unbridleds Note Inside

Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire

Ain’t No Other gets the services of recent Hollywood Park riding title winner Rafael Bejarano, who rode him to victory in February in the Sensational Star Stakes. Ain't No Other earned a 106 Equibase Speed Figure in that effort and returns to the turf today after a poor effort on the main track in Northern California in the Oakland Stakes. Prior to that, Ain't No Other missed by a half-length in the California Flag Handicap down this hillside turf course. From an advantageous outside post, he is yet another with a right to win this race. 

The rest of the field (with their best representative Equibase Speed Figure): Gallant Son (109), Handsome Mike (107), Next Speaker (113) and Truest Legend (105).

My Selections:

Chips All In

El Commodore

Unbridled's Note

Ain't No Other

$100,000 Daytona Stakes

Saturday, Race 8, Santa Anita, 7 p.m. ET

About 6 1/2 Furlongs (turf), 3-year-olds and older







El Commodore

Gary Stevens


Mike Machowsky


Chips All In

Aaron Gryder


Jeff Mullins


Next Speaker

Joe Talamo


Bob Hess Jr.


Unbridled's Note

Corey Nakatani


Steve Asmussen


Handsome Mike

Mario Gutierrez


Doug O'Neill


Gallant Son

Isaias Enriquez


Frank Lucarelli


Truest Legend

Brice Blanc


Jeff Mullins


Ain't No Other

Rafael Bejarano


Jerry Hollendorfer


Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

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