Top Handicap Runner, Rides Three-Race Win Streak Into Stake
Express Train is the heavy 4-5 morning-line favorite in the horse racing odds to win the Grade II Californian Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita. Four rivals line up in the 1⅛-mile race for 4-year-olds and older. They are seeking a win against Express Train, which is fresh from victory in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap, on March 5. Express Train’s biggest threat is expected to be the lightly-raced Shaaz, formerly trained by Bob Baffert.
Smooth Trip Likely For ‘Train’ At the Great Race Place
Express Train- who is trained by John Shirreffs and ridden by Victor Espinoza, comes in hot with a career-best three-race win streak that includes a win in the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes on Feb. 5 at Santa Anita. The 5-year-old is 7-for-17 lifetime with earnings of $1,325,800 after winning the “Big Cap’ by ‘Head over Warrant’, as the even-money favorite when betting online.
Express Train has hit the board in 9 of 10 starts at Santa Anita with four wins. The son of Union Rags, worked five furlongs in a snappy 58.40 seconds on April 17 before a more maintenance-type five-furlong move in 1:01⅘ on Sunday. “He cruised along and galloped out very strong,” Shirreffs told the Daily Racing Form after the first workout. “I thought his work was very excellent.” Express Train should fall into his typical stalking/midpack trip in the Californian from post three.
Shaaz Could Step Up and Steal It on the Front End
A pair of former Baffert horses who have moved to the Sean McCarthy barn are entered, and one has a shot at upsetting the field. Shaaz (7-2, post four) makes his fourth career start and will be ridden by Mike Smith. The 4-year-old ‘Uncle Mo’ colt cost $1.1 million and looked like a bargain in earning a 105 Beyer when winning his debut on Dec. 26.
Shaaz is 3-for-3 after prevailing in a couple of optional claimers and may try to take them all the way on the front end. Shaaz was wound tight after a strong four-furlong work in 47⅕ seconds on Sunday.
Spielberg (6-1, post one, Abel Cedillo), the other ex-Baffert charge, was fourth by 10¼ lengths in the ‘Big ‘Cap’. The $1 million Union Rags colt was on the 2021 Kentucky Derby trail before finding the waters too deep. Spielberg won his 4-year-old debut but has not been within 6½ lengths of Express Train in two starts since.
Stiletto Boy disappointed, as the 2-1 second choice in the ‘Big Cap’ by finishing third, nine lengths behind Express Train. ‘Stiletto Boy’ had a big move down the backstretch and was within 1½ lengths of the lead before fading. The ‘Son of Shackleford is a 2-for-14 lifetime, and he has finished in the money 11 times. He is 5-2 from post five. Juan Hernandez replaces John Velazquez in the irons.
Holden the Lute (12-1, post two) rounds out the field. Holden the Lute, trained by John Sadler and ridden by Ramon Vazquez, tries ‘stakes company’ for the first time after an easy win in a $50,000 claimer on April 3.
‘The Californian’ is Race 6. Post time is 6:30 p.m. ET. Check the racebook in the minutes prior for live odds and exotic will pays.