Santa Anita News and Notes June 11

• It’s Monday morning, June 10, and as I write my News and Notes for the week, I have the Santa Anita entries for this Friday and Saturday available to me from the Racing Form. However, this week I’m not even going to begin to tackle the handicapping, as three more horses died this past week at Santa Anita and the public pressure is going to be huge for them not to run the final two weeks of the meet. Yet the three deaths at the track this past week have little to do with the safety of the main track or the turf course. A heart attack with a race horse can happen anywhere, anytime, just like in a human being, and a horse taking a bad step can happen anytime, anywhere, at any track in the country. No, the damage was done back in January and February, when all those horses died and the race track was not safe due to the heavy rains and the way they sealed the surface. The management at Santa Anita was to blame during those two months by conducting racing in an unsafe manner, and to this day, they have never accepted responsibility for that. Today I’m confident the track is as safe as any in the country, but the train has already left the depot. After a horse went down in Saturday’s finale from a fractured pelvis and later had to be euthanized, the California Horse Racing Board asked Santa Anita to stop racing for the final 7 days of the meet, for the good of California racing. They said horses could continue to train but no racing. Santa Anita management said “no dice”, we’re going to continue to run. Then Truffalino goes down and collapses in the very first race on Sunday, right in the stretch for all the world to see of an apparent heart attack. How bad is that? Now we’re up to 29 deaths for the meet. The CHRB, for all their power, cannot make the track close their meet. I never thought I would say this, but closing down right now is the right thing to do, for the sake of California racing. Give up the last two weeks, move onto Los Alamitos for three weeks, and then onto Del Mar. If you want the Breeders Cup in November and if you want a Fall meet, you better cut your losses and let the industry catch their breath, because any more fatalities, whether it’s your fault or not, is totally unacceptable to the public. As much as I love the sport, abolishing horse racing in California is only a heartbeat away.
• They had no graded stakes over the weekend at Santa Anita as all eyes were on New York for the Belmont stakes Saturday and the tremendous race card NYRA put together. As good as Tacitus looked coming into the Belmont, the race had the look of an upset, which happens so often when you ask sophomores to run a mile and a half for the first time in their lives, and maybe the only time. With all eyes on War of Will and Tacitus, Mark Casse’s other horse, Sir Winston, ran the race of his life and got the money at $22.80 under a crafty ride from Joel Rosario, who is riding as well as any rider in the country this year. Tacitus was caught wide all the way, sometimes as much as five or six wide, but came up a length short at the wire. The track was amazingly fast throughout the day and just like in the Preakness, the inside was the place to be. War of Will did nothing and was probably dead tired from being the only horse to run all three races of the Triple Crown in just five weeks. So the three year old picture remains up in the air and will probably be decided at Saratoga this summer when they run the Travers stakes. Omaha Beach should be ready for that along with Maximum Security and the rest of the Triple Crown winners. But the race of the day had to be the Met Mile, with 8 graded stakes winners in the lineup and a field comparable to the Breeders Cup Classic. The only difference was this race was a one turn mile which is an elongated sprint. Mitole won his 7th straight race with a perfect trip sitting second early, but McKinzie was at least three lengths best in this race with a very rough trip from the two hole. He got bottled up in traffic as did the third place finisher Thunder Snow, and finally got clear very late in the race, but the wire came up too soon. Mitole, the sprinter, was a deserving winner, but anyone who saw the race knows who the best horse was. But the best horse seldom wins the race, which is why anyone should never take a short price in a race. There are just too many variables in this game and once those gates open, anything can happen.
By Rod Young (Turfdom)