Santa Anita News and Notes for April 7

The Great Race Place continues to be closed for the second consecutive week for racing, however, training continues each day in the hope that the track will reopen sooner rather than later. In a nutshell, the L.A. County Dept. of Health has decided that thoroughbred racing at this facility is not an “essential” business to stay open in light of the current pandemic. The Stronach Group, which owns and operates the track, has done a very good job of outlining the reasons why the track should remain open for racing, but that has pretty much fallen on deaf ears so far. They continue to try and get the Department back to the negotiating table and iron out the differences, but have made little headway. The California Horse Racing Board should have been the one making the decision whether to race or not, but they pawned it off to the local counties within the state, who have no idea what goes on behind the scenes in taking care of 1700 horses, who need to train and race. If ever this country needed a national commissioner for our sport, now is the time. The issue has been kicked around that Santa Anita and Los Alamitos could switch racing dates, as Orange County continues to race quarter horses and thoroughbreds in the evenings. That would require approval from Los Alamitos, Orange County, and the CHRB and that does seem like a possibility. Of course the CHRB doesn’t meet again until April 22, so nothing can be done till then. They are awfully busy doing God knows what to call an emergency meeting. Since last week, Alameda County Dept. of Health shut down Golden Gate Fields for the same reasons. They have 1200 horses on the grounds and about 400 employees to care for them. The horsemen throughout the state are in a quandary, and if this continues for any length of time, it will certainly damage the industry within the state. I for one certainly take the Coronavirus very serious, and I understand the reasons why the racing business has been shut down in California. This is probably the worst crisis I have seen in my lifetime. But why do states like Florida, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and parts of California continue to race? This virus doesn’t play favorites, and it can nail any person, any place, at any time.

SELECTIONS: With both Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields shut down from racing, and no immediate solutions in sight, we will start offering selections from the three major tracks back east that continue to operate i.e., Oaklawn Park, Gulfstream, and Tampa Bay Downs. Starting this Saturday, April 11, we will offer selected races from each track, but will not be doing the entire card from any one track. We will focus on Best Bets, Most Probable Winners, and race ready longshots. As most of you know, Oaklawn does not have turf racing, but they have full fields, and horses don’t automatically scratch if the track is “off” like they do in Southern California. And because of full fields, the pick 3’s, pick 4’s, and pick 5’s pay very well. Just last week when they ran the Florida Derby at Gulfstream, the 50 cent pick 3 on the final three races paid $557.70 with the heavy favorite, Tiz the Law, paying $4.80 in the third leg. The first two winners were $20 and $14.40. Why such a high payoff you ask for a 50 cent wager? Full fields is the answer. If rain is likely at the Florida tracks, we will stay away from turf racing, as those races may come off the grass resulting in a lot of late scratches. ;

As I mentioned earlier, horses continue to train at Santa Anita, and if they can’t race here, they will be looking to ship east for some big money races in the very near future. 206 horses had drills at Santa Anita on Saturday and the following will be looking for spots to enter. Ce Ce and Ollie’s Candy, who both come out of the Beholder Mile, with the former winning the race, both worked 5/8. Ce Ce went in 1:00 flat and “Ollie” went a quick 58.60 for Sadler. Both mares are looking at the Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn on April 18 for their next start. Two other Sadler stakes stars also went 5/8 and are looking at Oaklawn for their next start. Flagstaff went in 1:01.20 and is looking at the Grade 3 Count Fleet on April 18 while Combatant, who won the Big Cap, went 5/8 in 1:01 and is looking at the Oaklawn Handicap on May 2nd. Peter Eurton’s juvenile champion, Storm the Court, went a half mile in 48 flat and is being considered for the Arkansas Derby on May 2nd. Richie Baltas’s very fast filly, Venetian Harbor, who would have been favored in the Santa Anita Oaks, went 5/8 in 1:00.20 and is looking at the Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn on May 1st. Two Baffert sophomores also worked Saturday, with Thousand Words zipping ¾ in 1:12.40 while Eight Rings went 7/8 in 1:27.80. The former may go in the Arkansas Derby, while the latter does not have a race to point for at this stage in his training. On Sunday, Baffert brought out the big guns, with both Charlatan and Nadal putting in quick works. Charlatan, who now is the co-choice in the futures book for the Kentucky Derby along with Tiz the Law, went 5/8 in 1:00 flat. He is undefeated in two starts, won both races in lopsided fashion with Beyers of 105 and 106. Nadal, no stranger to Oaklawn, as he won the Rebel stakes there, went ¾ in 1:11.60. Both horses may run in the Arkansas Derby as well on May 2nd. Another Derby candidate is Honor A.P. and he worked an easy half mile in 49 flat for John Shirreffs. Simon Callaghan’s Bellafina was also on the work tab Sunday going a half mile in 48.40. She was going to run in the Grade 1 Madison at Keeneland but that meet never got off the ground. Then she was going to race in the Las Flores at Santa Anita yesterday, but of course that didn’t happen at the Great Race Place. Now Callaghan doesn’t know what to do with her, but she is raring to go. Fashionably Fast, as game a runner as there is on the back side, and the winner of six straight, went a half mile on Sunday in 48.40 and is also looking for a spot to run. Dean Pederson was looking at the Grade 2 Kona Gold on April 19 here at Santa Anita, but of course that race is up in the air, along with everything else.