Santa Anita News and Notes October 20

• Four weeks are in the books of the six week fall meet, but the Great Race Place doesn’t seem like a great race place this past week. The most races the track could muster over the weekend was eight for both Saturday and Sunday and even then, the fields looked more like Grants Pass up in Oregon than a major league racing oval. And just when the track seemed really safe and all the fatalities were behind us, a three year old gelding named Satchel Paige went down on the far turn Saturday and had to be euthanized from an open fracture to his left front ankle. Of course the track and the Stronach Group said they will do a full necropsy report at U.C. Davis and all constituents, including the public, will be advised of their findings. Trust me, thats the last the public will hear about Satchel Paige, the race horse. There are just too many owners/trainers in our game that would rather inject a horses’ joints, rather than give the necessary time off to recover from whatever ailment there might be. Too many issues just get swept under the rug by both the California Horse Racing Board and the Stronach Group, which operates a number of race tracks throughout the country. I guess if everyone really knew what was going on behind the scenes, no one would ever get involved in the sport in any capacity.
• For the most part the main track continues to play fair at Santa Anita, but there are days like Saturday when early speed dominates in all main track races for both sprints and routes. The turf course continues to play fair, but when the rails are out all the way to 30 feet, front end speed has the advantage. I firmly believe the main track is as safe as they can get it. The times are slow and the surface is deep and tiring, and if they keep it that way, the fatalities will be at a minimum. However, the Breeders’ Cup is less than two weeks away, and if history repeats itself, they will want that surface fast and firm. If that happens, the track will be less safe than it is today, and you really don’t want any breakdowns on Nov. 1st and 2nd when the whole world is watching. Remember, the Breeders’ Cup is all about “breeding”, making today’s stars more valuable in the breeding sheds. It’s not just about winning Grade Ones, it’s about running a mile in 1:33 flat while winning the Grade 1. If the track gets “souped up” for those two days, they will probably live to regret it. Racing resumes this Thursday with a four day week. There are two carryovers in the single ticket jackpots for Thursday, the 20 cent pick six at $271,354 and the Super High Five at $120,262. I have bet just about every wager at the track, but never have I bet a Super High Five. One has to bet the exact order of the first five finishers in a given race. It’s hard enough to pick an exacta, why would anyone wager on such a lottery type bet?
• This week is much the same on the stakes calendar, one for Saturday and one for Sunday. They do have a Grade 3 on Saturday and they are projecting a full field. It’s called the Autumn Miss stakes at a mile on the turf for three year old fillies. They had 22 nominations and the field is headed up by Mucho Unusual, a very consistent filly trained by Tim Yakteen and a Grade 2 winner at Del Mar. Others who figure to have a say about the outcome will be Apache Princess, Hidden Message, Holly Hundy, K P Slickem, Raymonds Secret, and Vibrance. On Sunday, older runners will compete in the Comma to the Top stakes at a mile on the main track. Ground Attack, Leading Score, Midcourt, Oliver, and Two Thirty Five are the principles.
• Jockey Abel Cedillo had a sizable lead in the rider standings heading into this past week. Then the best rider on the circuit, Flavien Prat, went to work. He won four on Saturday, from just five mounts, and then two on Sunday. Now Cedillo only leads by one, 15-14. The bug boy, Jorge Velez is third with 12 victories. Trainer Doug O’Neill leads all conditioners with 18 wins and he just keeps pouring it on. It isn’t very often when a trainer has more wins than the leading rider. Phil D’Amato is a distant second with 10 victories.
• It is less than two weeks to the Breeders Cup on November 1st and 2nd. After a sharp drill on Saturday by Catalina Cruiser, trainer John Sadler has decided on the sprint race And what a race that will be, as Mitole, Imperial Hint, and the ultra quick Shancealot will all be in the same race. Richard Mandella, who just beat Shancealot in the Sprint Championship at this track with Omaha Beach, has decided on the Dirt Mile. He will retain jockey Mike Smith for this race and will face such stars as Mr. Money, Coal Front, and Improbable, who was the wagering favorite this past year in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. Paradise Woods worked ¾ on the main track Saturday in 1:13.60 for trainer John Shirreffs and looks to be the second choice in the Distaff to Midnight Bisou, who just happens to be 7 for 7 this year. Turf sprint favorite Eddie Haskell went a half mile in a leisurely 49.60 on Saturday for trainer Mark Glatt. Catapult, who was second in the Turf Mile last year, went a half on Saturday in 48.60 for John Sadler, but he is a decided outsider this year. Higher Power, who won the Pacific Classic at Del Mar in August, worked 5/8 for Sadler in 1:01 flat and is headed for the Classic in a match up with McKinzie, Mongolian Groom, Owendale, etc. Sadler’s Ollie’s Candy worked 5/8 in a bullet 59.40 and is headed for the Distaff. Bellafina, with Prat aboard, went a quick half in 47.60 and is headed for the filly/mare sprint along with Sadler’s Selcourt, who went a half in 47.80. Bowies Hero, who just won a Grade 1 back east for D’Amato, worked a half on the training track in 50.80 and is headed for the Turf Mile. However, the biggest announcement this week regarding the Cup was that Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was not going to be able to compete. He has been banned from all of the Stronach tracks this year and he had two contestants ready to go. Vasilika in the Distaff Turf and Danuska’s My Girl in the Distaff Sprint. The Breeders Cup committee decided to go along with the host track and keep the Dorf on the sidelines. His horses can compete under assistant Dan Ward, but Hollendorfer will have to release his ownership in both horses in order to do so. The “Dorf” is the scapegoat for all of Santa Anita’s problems this year, as he had 4 fatalities under his care out of 34 that had to be euthanized at this track. Jerry made plenty of mistakes this year in racing unsound horses, but this type of punishment he did not deserve. The longer we live, the more we realize, life just isn’t fair.
By Rod Young (Turfdom)