Santa Anita News and Notes June 4
• For the second time this meet, Senator Dianne Feinstein called on Santa Anita Park to take a moratorium on racing and fix their issues regarding fatalities at the track. Santa Anita went six straight weeks of racing and over 7200 horses working on the main track without incident, but then had three fatalities within a 9 day stretch to bring their total to 26 for the meet, which began way back on December 26. That was on Monday, but then they had a conference call with the Racing Board on Friday and the moratorium was never brought up. It’s clear the Senator is getting lots of pressure from the animal activist groups and is forced to respond to them in a positive manner. And of course, the Governor had to weigh in as well and told racing they had to be held accountable. Santa Anita has done just about everything they can to keep the fatalities at a minimum. It’s like telling the players in the NFL they can’t have any injuries. Unfortunately, it’s part of the game. The track is about as safe as a track can be made for thoroughbred racing. However, there are still trainers that run “sore” horses and not all “sore” horses can be detected as sore prior to racing. The trainers need to police themselves and this is something they have never been good at. The last horse to be euthanized at this track was a 9 year old running for a $10,000 claiming tag and I doubt that he was one of the “soundest” animals on the back side. He was trained by a leading trainer who has 3 of the 26 that have been euthanized at the meet. Until some of the bad apples are weeded out of the game, they will continue to have break downs. Maybe the government should intervene because the ones running the game right now might just run the game right into the ground. All of the reforms to racing are in place and that will be beneficial to all in the long run. It’s the short term that we all have to worry about. Racing in California is only about two or three fatalities away from the “poop” really hitting the fan.
• The main track continues to play fair with a slight edge toward early speed. They must have dug the track up prior to Friday as the times have slowed down once again. The turf course continues to play fair and early speed is winning more than their fare share. Favorites are winning at a 32% clip through this past weekend with the main track at 38% and the turf course at 28%. They had two graded stakes on Saturday and there were some minor upsets in each of them. Paradise Woods went off as the 1 to 5 choice in the Grade 2 Santa Maria on the main track, stumbled at the start, and never did quite recover. Instead of being on the lead and/or pressing the pace, she was last into the clubhouse turn, and that is not her style. La Force got the jump on her at the ¼ pole, circled the leaders and went on to win rather handily to pay $12.80. It’s a bit ironic, but the owner of the winner, is Chuck Winner, and he is the President of the California Horse Racing Board and was on the conference call with Senator Feinstein the day before. Paradise Woods did rally to get second but was not a threat to the winner. In the Grade 3 Honeymoon stakes at 9 furlongs on the turf for 3 year old fillies, Lady Prancealot came from dead last and got up very late to win by ¾ over the hard trying Hostess. The pace was very slow with a second quarter in 25.19, but she still overcame it and paid $8.20 for the victory. Hostess moved too soon into the dawdling pace and couldn’t hold off the stretch running “Prancealot”. Both should run well at Del Mar this summer on a course that historically favors late runners.
• Two ungraded stakes head up this weekend’s activity and both are for a $75,000 purse. There’s a claiming stakes on Saturday called the “War Horse” and on Sunday three year old fillies will run 5/8 on the turf in the Desert Code stakes. However, the real racing will be at Belmont Park on Long Island on Saturday. And not just because of the Belmont Stakes which seems sort of anti climatic this year. It’s the undercard at Belmont this Saturday that is really, really good headed up by the Met Mile. It’s a Breeders Cup type race card that they call their Racing Festival. The Met Mile is a one turn mile on the main track and has six Grade 1 winners headed up by McKinzie. Thunder Snow, Firenze Fire, Promises Fullfilled, and Mitole, who has won six straight races, will all have their following. Coal Front is also in the field and although he hasn’t won a Grade 1, he has won five graded stakes. It’s a dynamite race. As far as the Belmont goes, it looks like 10 will go to the post as the stretch running Bourbon War has been added to the field. Favoritism will probably come down between Tactitus, who was third in the Derby, and War of Will who just won the Preakness, albeit was bias aided. The former looks really tough to beat coming off the five week break while War of Will will be the lone runner to compete in all three legs of the Triple Crown. Everfast, who ended up second in the Preakness at 25/1 is also in the field, but her last race was bias aided as well.
• Los Alamitos was to start their three week summer meet on Thursday June 27, but will now move that out to Saturday, June 29 as they perceive a shortage of race ready horses this year. Once Santa Anita closes on June 23, too many owners/trainers save their horses for the Del Mar meet, which starts on July 17 this year. That will leave Los Al with just 10 racing days rather than their normal 12. The first week will be Saturday and Sunday only. Post time will be 1 PM each racing day just as it is at Santa Anita.
By Rod Young (Turfdom)