Santa Anita News and Notes Nov. 6
• The Great Race Place concluded their six week Fall meet on Sunday with some very good racing the final three days of the meet, coinciding with the B/C in Louisville, Kentucky. The Breeders Cup will return to Santa Anita in 2019. We don’t have the final numbers yet for the meet, but handle had to be driven up by the popular 20 cent pick six, which no single player was able to hit the entire meet. The jackpot was over $1.1 million going into closing day and over $6.7 million was added to the pool on Sunday. Favorites won five of the six races and the total pool was paid out to 10,466 customers. The pick six ticket paid $601 and there was no consolation payout. Flavian Prat won the riding title winning both of the graded stakes races Sunday. He finished three ahead of a rejuvenated Rafael Bejarano 20-17. Jerry Hollendorfer won one on Sunday to share the training title with Peter Miller at 15 apiece. Doug O’Neill was one back with 14. Jockey Joel Rosario, who won three B/C races this past week, will return to riding in California on December 26 for the Santa Anita winter meet. Del Mar opens their doors this Friday for a four week meet they call their “Bing Crosby” season, and will race four days the first week including Monday, which is Veterans Day.
• There were three graded stakes over the weekend and they were all on the grass and all were won by favorites who came off the pace. Vasilika, the tremendous $40,000 claim for Hollendorfer, made it 8 straight in the Grade 2 Goldikova stakes on Sunday under another smart ride by Prat. She returned $4.20 by running down Fahan Mura by a length and a half, who had it all her own way on the front end. The winner has won over $591,000 since being claimed and will probably run next in the Grade 1 Matriarch at Del Mar on December 2nd. She has won 3 graded stakes in a row, but not a Grade One yet. Then River Boyne won the Grade 2 Twilight Derby ($5.20) besting a very game Have At It by a neck later in the program. He is now five for five on the Anita turf course and will go next in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby at Del Mar on December 1st. Then on Saturday, Storm the Hill rallied from dead last and took the Grade 3 Senator Ken Maddy stakes at six and a half down the hill and paid $6.80 to win. Painting Corners, who ran second by two lengths, got a bad ride from Roman, and went way too fast too early to set it up for the winner. Fractions of 20 and change and 42 and change are way too fast, even for this down hill course. But the winner loves this course and will stay put until the winter meet starts up the day after Christmas. It was her third stakes win at Santa Anita. On Friday, Kencumin got the money in the Lure stakes and he wasn’t the favorite. He was a Turfdom Best Bet that paid $12.00 and he wore down a stubborn Kenjisstorm to win by a half length in a driving finish. Brice Blanc was filling in for Gary Stevens who was riding in the B/C that day. Kencumin is trained by the underrated Peter Eurton.
• Breeders Cup Notes: All in all, I’m sure it was a very good B/C this year at Churchill. Although handle was down 4% vs. last year, attendance was up, and the maintenance crew did a fantastic job of getting the main track back to fast after there was so much rain on Wednesday and Thursday. The turf course was rated good but was much closer to soft or yielding based on the comments of the riders. What surprised me the most was the number of favorites that won races over the two days, including Accelerate taking down the Classic. The B/C has always been ripe for plenty of $20, $30, and even $40 winners, but not so this year. Accelerate, Enable, Mononmoy Girl, Roy H, Game Winner, Newspaperofrecord, etc. etc. continued to find the winners circle race after race. If ever a favorite had to be vulnerable, it was certainly Accelerate in the Classic. He drew post 14 in a field of 14, he had never won outside of California, and his trainer was 0/44 in B/C races heading into race 11 on the day. He’s also a very bad gate horse and that was on full display Saturday. Yes, he had won four Grade Ones during the year, but most of them were small fields with very little competition. Now, I’m glad to see trainer John Sadler finally get a Cup win, and the Hronis brothers have been great for the game, but this horse looked very beatable going into the race. I guess the really good horses are just much the best. The most difficult race to win is the Arc de Triomphe in France, yet Enable won it back to back, then comes over here and wins the B/C Turf with the widest trip I’ve ever seen in racing. She is a tremendous filly. And the most impressive winner on Friday was Newspaperofrecord, who just demolished her field in the Juvenile Fillies Turf by seven lengths at 3 to 5. She has won all 3 of her races by at least this margin and is a total monster. The B/C is getting like the Kentucky Derby, where the post time favorite has won five years in a row. How does that happen when 3 year olds in the spring are still developing, the field is made up of 19 or 20 horses, and they are all traveling 10 furlongs for the first time in their lives. Go figure. Oh well, maybe it will even out over time. I do know players now have more information available to them than ever before and that probably accounts for some of it. I was glad to see trainer Peter Miller get the double/double by winning both the sprints with the same two horses that won those races at Del Mar in 2017. That’s hard to do. Both are six year olds and Roy H and Stormy Liberal bring their “A” game every time to the post. Southern California trainers won five Cup races in all and that was a good showing out of 14 total races. Game Winner (Baffert) and City of Light (McCarthey) were the other two we hadn’t mentioned.
• Southern California racing returns to Del Mar on Friday with four weeks of good racing which includes two holidays, Veterans Day this Monday, and of course Thanksgiving with an early 11 AM post. They will run 8 races on the weekdays and 9 on the weekends. Overnight purses will be raised 5% for this meet due to the overall success they had in handle during the summer. They will run 14 stakes during the meet of which 9 will be graded. That includes the Kathryn Crosby stakes this Friday, a mile on the turf for older fillies/mares, the Let it Ride stakes on Saturday, for sophomores at a mile on the turf, and the Betty Grable stakes on Sunday, for older fillies/mares going 7 furlongs on the main track. Unfortunately, they are not staying with the 20 cent pick six and I think that’s a mistake. They are going with the $2.00 pick six and that wager is dead in California. The popularity of exotic wagers is in the 20 cent and 50 cent amounts, i.e. the pick four and the pick five. It lets more people in the game with a better chance to cash, and the everyday player is what keeps this game going, year after year.
By Rod Young (Turfdom)