Liam the Charmer is most appealing in San Gabriel

The Grade II, $200,000 San Gabriel Stakes is the feature race this Saturday at Santa Anita. A 1 1/8-mile turf event, the San Gabriel attracted a field of 10. It will go as the seventh of 10 races, with post time estimated for 6:04 p.m. EST. In addition to watching and wagering, feel free to take part in FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game!

#1 LIAM THE CHARMER (4-1) makes his 2019 debut in a relatively cozy spot after being eased in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Prior to that effort he won two straight starts, both at Santa Anita, including the John Henry Turf Championship. LIAM THE CHARMER is probably better off at the 1 1/4-mile distance, but compared to his main rival in the San Gabriel, CHICAGO STYLE, he should be more comfortable at this trip. Kent Desormeaux picks up the mount on Saturday.

#5 CHICAGO STYLE (3-1, morning-line favorite) was last seen acing the 1 1/2-mile Hollywood Turf Cup at Del Mar. He’s taken a liking to the marathon trip, so this race could be a tune-up for a spot down the line like February’s 1 1/4-mile San Marcos Stakes. CHICAGO STYLE used the one-mile Lure Stakes (placed fifth) two starts back to prep for the Hollywood Turf Cup. The fact that there’s not much speed for him to close into here only compounds his problems. CHICAGO STYLE might be the best horse in the race, but circumstances appear to be working against him. Drayden Van Dyke has the call though.

#7 NEXT SHARES (7-2) has hit the board in each of his four career starts at Santa Anita but has never won here. He will try to make amends on that and a lackluster effort in the Breeders’ Cup Mile on Saturday. Before his last-out flop, NEXT SHARES upset the Shadwell Turf Mile. However, he was sixth in his only career effort at the San Gabriel distance. Joel Rosario lands the assignment.

The play: $4 exacta 1/5,7, $2 exacta 5/1 ($10)

DFJ analysis: Kent Desormeaux will attempt to recover from a slow start to the meet (1-for-19 through Jan. 3) with his five mounts on Saturday. Liam the Charmer gives him a good shot at stakes glory in the San Gabriel. Three of Desormeaux’s remaining four mounts are 4-1 or less on the morning-line. He has a mount in the Sham, the only other stake on the card, but it’s 20-1 longshot Sueno. Coliseum is the prohibitive favorite there.

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