Santa Anita News and Notes Jan 27
• Week five at Santa Anita went along without incident for their three day stint as both the main track and the turf course played fair for the most part. However, on Friday the outside lanes were the place to be on the main track as four of the five winners rallied wide, well out in the middle of the racing surface. It also triggered a $71 winner in the finale as a first time starter from the Hector Palma barn went from last to first and provided a single ticket winner in the pick six that paid out at $784,772 for the 20 cent wager. The winning ticket was purchased in Brazil of all places, and cost $4500, which gives you a lot of action for a 20 cent wager. It was quickly pointed out by one of our customers, John Melting in Sacramento, that the $71 winner could have been easily found with our So. Cal. 2020 Jockey/Trainer patterns that list Palma with a positive ROI with first time starters. No, I did not have him in our selections for that day. Racing resumes this Thursday with a four day race week and there will be three graded stakes on Saturday. The pick six c/o starts all over again and will be at $38,207 for Thursday.
• They had two stakes at Santa Anita over the weekend and they were both sprints. On Saturday, they ran the Grade 2 Palos Verdes at six furlongs on the main track for older runners. This race has been around as long as I can remember and that dates back to the late sixties. They had six runners signed on and it looked like a good race, but after two late scratches, only four went to post and just like that, Captain Scotty became the lone speed, and we all know what that means. He broke on top and was long gone at 7/2 after setting moderate fractions of 22.39 and 45.22. He then sizzled home with a final quarter in 23.84 and closed the door on Flagstaff, who ran a winning race, but came up a neck short. With a mutual of $9.80, “Scotty” was an overlay in just a four horse field. Then on Sunday they ran the Clockers Corner stakes, a five and a half furlong sprint on the grass for older runners. Lil Milo, at $14.20, got the money with a good trip from just off the pace under Ruben Fuentes. Ghoul went off as the 2/1 favorite under Rosario, but got disqualified for interference in the stretch while bothering our choice in the race, Double Touch. Even without the interference, Double Touch wasn’t going to catch Lil Milo today, who was coming off a troubled trip and made our Horses to Watch list. The winner is trained by 71 year old Alfredo Marquez and is his first stakes winner on this circuit since 2006 at Hollywood Park.
• Although trainer Bob Baffert didn’t win either sprint stakes at Santa Anita over the weekend, he did win the biggest race in the country this past week, and he didn’t even show up for the race. His Mucho Gusto scored easily in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup under a heady ride by champion rider Irad Ortiz. He won by five, paid $8.80 to win, and received a Beyer figure of 107 for the race, his highest number in his career. Of course the luster came off the race when both Omaha Beach and Spun to Run were both late scratches due to various ailments, but nonetheless, it was a superb effort by “Mucho” and now he gets an invitation to run in the $20 million Saudi Cup, the richest race on the planet. John Sadler’s Higher Power went off as the favorite in this race and just plain didn’t fire, as he ended up last and either didn’t handle the track, or he didn’t handle the cross country trip. He came out of the race fine and both horses returned to California the following day. “Omaha” headed straight to Kentucky for the breeding shed and this is one horse we will never know how good he really could have been, as he had gobs of talent, but always had some minor issue bugging him and preventing him from getting to the gate for the big races.
• Saturday should be a very good day of racing at the Great Race Place with three graded stakes led by the San Marcos and Richard Mandella’s United, who came within a neck of Horse of the Year Bricks and Mortar in the Breeders Cup Turf. The San Marcos will be a mile and a quarter on the turf and is a Grade 2. United will probably be the post time favorite and other contenders will be Campaign, for John Sadler, Oscar Dominguez, for top turf trainer Richie Baltas, and Cleopatra’s Strike, who won a Grade 2 over this turf course. Also on Saturday will be the Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap at 9 furlongs on the main track and a prep for the Big Cap on March 7. Baffert’s Roadster will head up that field along with King Abner, the improving Midcourt, Restrainedvengence, Two Thirty Five, Instagrand, and a new arrival in the Sadler barn named Combatant, who is in from Kentucky. Then sophomores take center stage in the Grade 3 Robert Lewis stakes where Baffert will unveil his unbeaten and untested Thousand Words, who won the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity last month.
• The California Horse Racing Board met last Wednesday and a lot was covered, but most of it centered around medications. The Board acted to severely limit medications in timed workouts where a trainer may be trying to mask any sort of injury. Rather than working a horse, I think more and more trainers will be doing what’s called “two minute licks”, where a horse will not be timed and they will only be asked to run near the end of this drill. Plus this saves the owners an additional $25 for vet inspections. This is something to watch now in your handicapping, especially in claiming races where you see a “sketchy” work tab. The horse may be light on works, but the trainer has been using these two minute licks which go unrecorded and the animal is still fit. Just another thing to keep the player guessing on what is really going on. The CHRB is doing everything they can to limit horses on race day to hay,oats, and water, but of course Lasix is still on the menu. Two year olds racing this year at both Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields will not be allowed Lasix when they start running in late April. And the goal is to phase out the drug with older runners over time; we’ll see how that goes. It was also announced at the meeting that the long awaited report on all the fatalities at Santa Anita last winter will become available to the public by January 31, this coming Friday. The board also made it mandatory now that all trainers be involved in the “post mortem inspection” when a horse has to be put down along with at least one steward and a member of the CHRB. Most of the trainers are up in arms over all the restrictions now put on them by the board, and some may even flee to the eastern tracks where it’s easier to do business. But this is a national problem, and it’s just a matter of time before all the tracks in this country will have to adhere to these stricter regulations or there will be no racing for any of us. The animal activist groups are picking on California right now, but they are six million people strong, and there voice will be heard all over this country, including Kentucky.
By Rod Young (Turfdom)