Cleopatra’s Strike, United tough to split in San Marcos

The Grade II, $200,000 San Marcos Stakes puts California’s best turf horses in the spotlight at Santa Anita this Saturday. The 1 1/4-mile heat will see six older runners go postward, including former stakes winners CLEOPATRA’S STRIKE and OSCAR DOMINGUEZ and rising star UNITED. Post time for the San Marcos, the seventh of a scheduled nine races, is 6:31 p.m. ET.

#2 CLEOPATRA’S STRIKE (2-1) charged to finish a close second in the San Gabriel Stakes over this course last month. That brought his career record at Santa Anita to 3-1-2-0. CLEOPATRA’S STRIKE is only just getting started in 1 1/8-mile heats like the San Gabriel; the 1 1/4-mile distance of the San Marcos should move him up. He won the John Henry Turf Championship over this course and distance last fall. Abel Cedillo rides for Phil D’Amato.

#4 UNITED (8-5, morning-line favorite) has yet to win at the graded level but has been knocking at the door. In four attempts against graded company last year, UNITED hit the board in every instance, including his runner-up finish to Horse of the Year Bricks and Mortar in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. He’ll have to turn the tables on CLEOPATRA’S STRIKE, who beat him in the John Henry three starts ago, but he’s been training exceptionally for the San Marcos for Richard Mandella. Flavien Prat maintains the assignment.

#7 OSCAR DOMINGUEZ (5-2) upset the 1 1/2-mile Hollywood Turf Cup at Del Mar in his most recent outing. However, he was a distant fourth in the John Henry behind the top two choices two starts back and has hit the board in less than half his career starts at Santa Anita (22-4-3-3). OSCAR DOMINGUEZ is best used underneath in the San Marcos despite Joel Rosario climbing aboard.

The play: $5 exacta box 2/4 ($10)

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