On Track With Johnny D: Millie Ball Sets High Bar for Jon White & Santa Anita Pick 4 Picks

Millie Ball, talented XBTV and Santa Anita simulcast personality, turned in a strong performance Saturday as the host-to-beat in Week 2 of Xpressbet’s Beat the Host competition. Ball impressively selected 5 winners in 10 races.


While Ball is based in SoCal and delivers post parade observations from Santa Anita on the track’s simulcast feed, her richest Saturday winner came with Grey Charlotte in the 11th at Gulfstream Park, returning $23.50 (based on a $5 contest wager). She also selected Ride a Comet ($6.20) in the 10th at Gulfstream. Her mutuel total of $80.50 was strong enough to reduce the number of Sweep the Host candidates to a mere 8 after two weeks of competition.


Jon White, Santa Anita’s morning line maker and a Beat the Host target since the competition’s inception nearly a decade and a half ago, is the host-to-topple this week. Historically, he’s been a ‘tough out,’ nearly always showing a profit with BTH contest wagers. Ball set the bar high but White’s eligible to clear it.


Hoping to match a hot hand against White is tournament veteran Steve Glynn. He topped all players Saturday with $157.50 in earnings to collect a $1,000 weekly prize. Glynn earned $55.50 in Week 1 and leads all players in seasonal cumulative earnings with $213. He’s also among those eligible for a $6,000 Sweep the Host Bonus that goes to any player who defeats hosts in all 9 weeks. Steven Moses, Randy Murphey, Darlene Wolfson, Lou Kotzman, Scott Shore, Zackary Agamenoni and John Maskel remain alive for the lucrative Sweep Bonus.


After two weeks, Andrew George and Andrew Ma ($175 each) are Glynn’s closest pursuers in total mutuel earnings. Stephen Hausmann ($170.50) and Larry Cartwright ($170) are next. The top two cumulative seasonal earners will win seats to the 2022 Pegasus World Cup Betting Championship ($6,000 value each). The next three finishers will receive seats in the Ultimate Betting Challenge March 6, 2021 ($3,000 value each).


Christopher Cupples ($148.50) and Andrew George ($146) won $750 and $250 each, respectively, by finishing second and third behind Glynn Saturday. They join Week 1 $1,000 prize winner Karen Toyama ($110.50); runner-up and $500 prize winner Terry O’Brien ($105.50) and a trio of players that tied for third–Frank Urbiha, Ralph Rozanski and Thomas Burchfield ($104.50) collected $83.33 each.


Overall, 258 players have defeated either hosts Jeremy Plonk or Millie Ball and have qualified for the Beat the Host Championship Round. A total of 7 rich tournament seats will be awarded to top BTH Championship finishers, including 1 seat in the 2022 Pegasus World Cup Betting Championship ($6,000 value) and 6 spots in either the Florida Derby (March 27, 2021) or Santa Anita Derby (April 3, 2021) tournaments ($1,500 value each).


Make sure to punch your ticket to the BTH Championship by defeating a host just once. Seven chances remain beginning Saturday with Jon White and continuing each Saturday in January and February. BTH registration is free and all it takes for a crack at $2,000 in weekly prizes is a single ‘live’ $5 win wager on one horse in each of 10 competition races ($50 total). And, since competition wagers are ‘live,’ you could show a profit even if you don’t win a prize!


You know you’re going to play Gulfstream and Santa Anita Saturday. Why not take a shot at making some extra moolah along the way? See you Saturday!


Perhaps, Beat the Host players will find some helpful information below as yours truly analyzes the Santa Anita Late Pick 4.


Santa Anita Late Pick 4 Analysis and Suggested Wager


Race 7

Begin this late Pick 4 with the $200k California Cup Derby and a field of 9 going one mile and one-sixteenth. On paper, this looks like a race that could include a ‘single’ for small budget players and act as a ‘spread’ for contrarians with deeper pockets. That’s because #1 The Chosen Vron has shown talent but it’s been just once and only around one turn against fellow maidens. Today, as they say, the water is deeper.


#1 The Chosen Vron was 2-1 favorite in his first start going six and one-half furlongs at Santa Anita Dec. 27 and he didn’t disappoint. Away quickly, he established the lead and drew off late for a six and three-quarter length win while posting an impressive 87 Beyer Speed Figure. Jockey Joel Rosario takes over for John Velazquez and probably will employ similar front-running tactics from the advantageous rail post in this mile and one-sixteenth test. Will The Chosen Vron duplicate his maiden voyage and negotiate two turns as easily as he handled one bend? Don’t know. That’s why they call this gambling. One thing’s for sure, he will be included on a vast majority of Pick 4 tickets. Beat him to exponentially increase the payoff of this sequence.


#3 Big Fish hopes a few of these get silly up front and force #1 The Chosen Vron to go faster earlier than he’d prefer. If that happens, Big Fish might have something to say about the outcome. He’s got a closing style that has worked most effectively on turf—both wins on that surface. He’s chased open-stakes company the last four times out, so he’s acted with much better than most of these have. JJ Hernandez takes over for Umberto Rispoli. Blinkers, worn for all but the last 2 races, will return for trainer Dave Hofmans. This guy has upset potential.


#4 Good With People has faced mostly Cal-bred stakes foes in 5 starts since breaking maiden first out in July at Del Mar. He tried 2 turns last out in a one-mile test at Los Alamitos. He forced the early pace but faded a bit at the end. Can he handle an extra sixteenth of a mile? The more important question might be: How much early pressure will he apply to #1 The Chosen Vron? Trainer Peter Miller usually isn’t a guy to wager against, but this seems a tough spot for Good With People.


#5 Play Chicken has won 2 of 3 starts, already successfully negotiating 2 turns on turf to break maiden at Santa Anita and last out in the King Glorious at Los Alamitos while defeating #4 Good With People in the process. He’s got enough speed to be just off whatever pace develops and blinkers added last out may have helped turn the tables on ‘People who had defeated ‘Chicken in the 7-furlong Golden State Juvenile. This fellow’s not flashy, but he’s got some things going for him.


#6 None Above the Law is a second Peter Miller runner in here. This one lacks speed and would appreciate an early pace battle between #1 The Chosen Vron and Miller’s other entrant #4 Good With People. This gelding broke maiden for a state-bred $50k tag first out and would need to do better than he has before to win this but Miller’s pulled rabbits out of hats before. Comeback Hall of Fame jock Kent Desormeaux rides. A reach.


#7 Positivity broke maiden first out and then promptly won the state-bred Graduation Stakes. Those were for 2-year-old specialist trainer Luis Mendez. In two starts for new conditioner Pat Gallagher, he’s been second and sixth. The former was a close runner-up finish behind #4 Good With People and the latter was a stumbling start troubled trip in the Gr. 2 Los Alamitos Futurity. It would be easy to dismiss that last race and unearth a colt who has run 3 solid races in as many starts. All things considered, not too shabby.


#8 Warrens Candy Man is a maiden with 5 starts under his belt. Yours truly isn’t in the habit of playing maidens against winners, let alone maidens against stakes runners. If things should get heated up front, this guy could come running with a vengeance. Unlike many of these, he’s proven around two turns, even though they all were on turf. He was nearly 9 lengths behind #1 The Chosen Vron last out. That’s a lot of ground to make up.


Race 8

The $200k Unusual Heat Turf Classic Presented by City National Bank has attracted an intriguing mix of proven state-bred star fixtures and fresh, up and coming prospects. The mile and one-eighth turf distance will force a few of these to stretch out a bit further than they’d prefer and others to cut back from successful long-distance appearances.


#1 Brandothebartender seems best suited for an in-the-money finish. He’s 0-2 at the distance and was third last out going six furlongs in a $62,500 optional claimer. That effort was just two weeks ago, and blinkers come off for this, so you know he’s fit. However, he’s 8-years-old and was 0-8 in 2020. Note that the last 5 times jockey Umberto Rispoli has ridden the gelding they’ve produced 2 seconds and 3 thirds.


#2 Ward and Jerry is another 8-year-old attempting to turn back the clock. He has been facing better–5 races against open graded stakes company in his last 7 starts. He’s 0-4 at this distance and has done his best work at longer trips. Flavien Prat aboard for Mike Puype (21% combo) is interesting. He was a well-beaten second in this race last year.


#3 Fly to Mars hails from the potent Peter Miller barn, has some pace, is drawn inside and has some back races that fit well in here. He’s 7 and still successful—he won his last start easily at the $25k claiming level going one mile on turf—but these seem tougher. He’s never tried this distance on turf and is 4 for 10 over SA green. Back to the future for this guy as his 2018 races fit but recent stuff seems below what’s needed.


#4 Indian Peak deserves a long look in here. He’s 4 and this will be his first race against elders. That’s a hill he needs to climb, for sure, but he’s got a decent enough record to think his future should be bright. He’s won 4 of 11 starts, is 2 of 5 on grass with 2 seconds, including 1 for 1 at today’s distance and 1 for 2 on SA turf with a second. Joel Rosario rides for Brian Koriner in the colt’s first away from the Howey Quinn barn. He won the Snow Chief at this distance over this surface in June and hasn’t raced since August.


#5 Mackie’s Water is a Gr. 2 winner with 5 wins in 12 starts over the SA turf course. He’s also won 3 of 8 on turf at this distance. At 7 he’s another that might be seeing his best years in the rear-view mirror. He made just 2 starts last year and both were for claiming tags. He was claimed by the sharp Tim Yakteen outfit last out, maybe with this race in mind. Can he produce a blast from the past? That’s the question a few of these need to answer.


#8 Acclimate is a 7-year-old gelding that missed 2020 entirely…almost. He squeezed in an appearance on Nov. 27, 2020 and it was a good one. He set the pace and finished fourth, beaten just 2 lengths, in the Gr. 2 Hollywood Turf Cup at a mile and one-half over the Del Mar turf course. That’s the best recent race in the field. He like SA turf with 4 wins in 11 starts and is 1 for 2 at the distance. His most recent 3 wins all were accomplished going wire-to-wire, so expect jockey Tyler Baze to have him hustling early.


#10 Margot’s Boy is a 4-year-old with a decent record against state-bred foes. All 3 of his wins have come in wire-to-wire fashion and that clashes with #8 Acclimate’s plans. Perhaps these 2 will tangle early with #7 Heck Yeah and #3 Fly to Mars to produce a decent early pace that might set things up for a closer.


Race 9

The $150k Don Valpredo California Cup Sprint at six furlongs has an emphasis on speed and that’s how it should be. The Golden State is the home of speed and that’s been proven time and again whenever east coast invaders attempt to ‘run early’ with west coast flyers. With all the speed signed on here some may look for a closer to upset the applecart in the lane. Either way, horseplayers will have options to consider.


#1 Tigre Di Slugo needs a hot pace to set up his closing style and he’ll get one in here. There’s a ton of speed in this race and jockey Joel Rosario, who won aboard this gelding last out, is an expert at timing a closing charge. Obviously, Tigre Di Slugo has some physical issues, this will be just his sixth start and he’s 6-years-old. When he shows up, he’s for real with 3 wins in 5 starts.


#3 Fashionably Fast has the most impressive resume. He’s won 7 of 18 starts, 3 for 6 at SA and 3 of 6 at the distance. From late 2019 through early 2020, he won 6 in a row, including 4 state-bred stakes races. No other runner in this field can claim that kind of achievement. He’s been gone since August but has a notable work tab with moves at 7-day intervals that include two nice five panel moves and a pair of six-furlong leg stretchers. He has earned respect.


#6 Loud Mouth has developed nicely into a capable 5-year-old whose last 2 races fit very nicely here. Those were upsets at nearly 11-1 in a $40k SA optional claimer and 13-1 in the $100k state-bred Cary Grant stakes at Del Mar. Both of those victories were at distances at least a half furlong further than this. The good news is that Loud Mouth has enough speed to be in contention early just off the lead.


#8 Brickyard Ride will add some spice to early proceedings. The 4-year-old has won 5 of 11 starts, including 3 of 4 at SA and 3 of 5 at the distance. He’s got to be respected off those figures alone. This will be his first stakes challenge, so that’s new territory for him. He’s really fast, though, and speed always is dangerous. Note that apprentice jockey Centeno rides in here without a weight break.


#10 Jamming Eddy enjoys the talents of the Peter Miller/Flavien Prat combination (31%). He’ll need to step things up in her off recent performances when he finished behind #1 Tigre Di Slugo and #6 Loud Mouth in respective races. The 5-year-old gelding would need to do better than he ever has to win this.


Race 10

This is an interesting 3-year-old maiden race going six furlongs on turf…or it’s not. #6 Another Eddie and #7 Omg It’s Jessica are obvious choices off December first-out efforts against each other. Aside from them players could go in a multitude of directions.


#1 Squared Shady more racing experience than any filly in the race. That’s sometimes a negative. She’s had chances—two on turf—and hasn’t been able to get the job done. She’s got speed, is drawn inside and that’s the shortest way around there, however, she doesn’t seem to have enough ‘stick’ to get the job completely done. Racing a half-furlong further than ever probably won’t help. Exotics only.


#5 Miss Baylee was purchased at the ’19 Keeneland September sale for $32,000. That’s notable because all but 3 of these 14 are home breds (#1 Squared Shady brought $30k as a 2yo and #14 Our Little Tiger cost $6,500 as a yearling). This daughter of Dominus made her first start for 2-year-old specialist trainer Luis Mendez and was bet down to even money. She raced evenly to finish second to next-out winner My Girl Red. Brian Koriner is the new trainer (0-6 1st time with him) and Kent Desormeaux rides off a string of works that includes a 5 furlong move in 1:01 4/5. Interesting.


#6 Another Eddie hails from the Reddam Racing outfit and is trained by Ben Cecil. She was third first-out behind next stall neighbor #7 Omg It’s Jessica. Dispatched at 9/2 she broke a bit slow and gained ground toward the finish. Trainer Cecil is solid with 2nd time out runners (2 for 6). Another Eddie is by Square Eddie, a solid turf sire. She’s posted steady works since raced. Obvious inclusion.


#7 Omg It’s Jessica finished more than three lengths in front of #6 Another Eddie when they met Dec. 13 at Los Alamitos. This filly showed speed that afternoon and was caught late. That was at five and one-half furlongs and today’s race is at six. Will the experience she gained first out help her to hold her speed for an extra half furlong? And, of course, this time she’s racing on grass. J. J. Hernandez replaces Umberto Rispoli in the saddle. Obvious inclusion.

#10 Annietown, owned and bred by Al and Sandee Kirkwood, is interesting for several reasons. The first-time starter is by a solid turf sire in Speightstown, who demands a hefty $90k stud fee. That’s a pretty penny in this Calbred field context. She has two Santa Anita works worth mentioning—:59 3/5 Nov. 23 and 1:01 1/5 gate move Dec. 14. Flavien Prat has been recruited to ride and trainer Mark Glatt and jockey Prat are a powerful 24% over 54 mounts. Lots to intrigue.


#13 Big Claire must draw into the race from the also-eligible list, but she has some angles in her favor if she does. Trainer Phil D’Amato has given her a series of nice five-furlong breezes to show that she’s very fit and that she has some talent, too. The breezes came at Los Alamitos and those works usually are a bit on the faster side, but 5 consecutive works at that distance since Dec. 5 is a statement. Recruiting jockey Flavien Prat is another sign pointing toward a decent performance.


Suggested ($.50) Late Pick 4 Ticket ($48)

Race 7

#1, #3, #5, #7


Race 8

#4, #8


Race 9

#3, #6, #8


Race 10

#6, #7, #5, #10


Race On!


On Track With Johnny D: Millie Ball Sets High Bar for Jon White & Santa Anita Pick 4 Picks

On Track with Johnny D |