Santa Anita News and Notes Oct 29
• As if the Winter/Spring meet wasn’t bad enough, the Fall meet at Santa Anita limps into their final week starting this Thursday. For the most part, the meet has been plagued by short fields and a quality of racing that is more like a “B” track rather than an “A” one. Then to add insult to injury, two more horses had to be euthanized over this past weekend bringing the total to 36 since Santa Anita started way back in December of 2018. G Q Covergirl, a $40,000 claimer for Doug O’Neill, had to be put down Saturday morning from a training accident, and then Bye Bye Beautiful, a two year old maiden for Eric Kruljac, was pulled up in Sunday’s race 3, and suffered from a condylar fracture of her right front leg and could not be saved. All of this with the World Series of horse racing just five days away. If ever a race track seemed to be jinxed, Santa Anita Park fits that label in the year 2019. Hopefully a successful Breeders Cup will change all of that this coming week. The main track continues to play fair overall, but the times remain slow and on the sluggish side. Hopefully management will keep it this way for the final week of the meet. A hard, fast racing surface that produces fast times are not in the best interest of the horses. We’ll see if Santa Anita really is putting the horses “first” this week. The turf course has been rock hard all meet and the times have been very fast. The course is playing fair and the rails will be all the way in for both Friday and Saturday. Racing resumes this Thursday with a 9 race card and the single ticket jackpot of the 20 cent pick six is up to $395,207 and will have a mandatory payout this Sunday, closing day of the meet.
• The Cup kicks off this Friday with a 10 race program starting at 10:45 AM PST with five races on the undercard and five Breeders Cup races. Entries will be drawn for all 10 races this Monday afternoon. Then Saturday they will have a total of 12 races, 3 on the undercard and 9 Cup races. First post Saturday will be 10:07 AM PST and the final race will conclude with the Classic at 5:44 PM if all goes well. Weather will be no factor as the skies will be clear and the temps hovering around 80 degrees in the afternoon. From a wagering standpoint, 50 cents is the key denomination to remember. This will be the minimum wager for all trifectas, pick threes, pick fours, pick fives, and the Super High Five. The Superfecta will be a 10 cent minimum. A one dollar minimum applies to all exactas and the pick six each day, along with some special daily doubles carried from some races on Friday into ones on Saturday. There are even some $10 head to head wagers selecting one horse against another on select races. There will be many guaranteed pools on both Friday and Saturday for exotic wagering such as the pick fours, the pick fives and the pick six. As of Monday morning, there are 188 horses entered for the B/C races both days with 46 arriving from overseas. Irish based trainer Aidan O’Brien leads all trainers with 17 total entries. NBCSN and NBC will televise the Cup on both days.
• There are a number of B/C races that are intriguing this week and none bigger than the $6 million Classic on Saturday. 11 horses are expected to enter and the race appears to be wide open. There is no standout like Arrogate, Gun Runner, or Accelerate this year. McKinzie appears to be the program favorite for Baffert but he is far from a lock. The Classic is at 10 furlongs and this horse has never raced beyond 9 furlongs. In fact he seems best at 7 furlongs to a mile and a sixteenth. Plus he was soundly beaten in his last race by Mongolian Groom, a 25/1 shot who had never won a graded stakes prior. Shug McGaughey sends out the good 3 year old Code of Honor, and he recently beat older in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup, but he won that race due to the disqualification of Vino Rosso, and they were noses apart at the wire. Bill Mott has the five year old mare Elate in the race and she relishes the 10 furlongs. She has won three Grade 1’s at 10 furlongs and to me, she looks like the one to beat, and it may be with a price. Zenyatta did beat the boys exactly 10 years ago in this race and of course, she was very special. But Elate is also special and I think she runs big in the final race on Saturday. Vino Rosso, Seeking the Soul, Yoshida, Higher Power, and the good sophomores, War of Will and Owendale round out the contention. Another race I’m really looking forward to is the Sprint. There are a number of dynamite sprinters signed up for this six furlong dash. Mitole should be the favorite and deservedly so. He beat McKinzie in the Met Mile in New York on the square, and though that race was at a mile, it was a one turn mile at Belmont, which is just an elongated sprint. The pace is going to be “hot” with Shancealot doing the proceedings. He sizzled a half at this track on Saturday in 46.27 and this track was not fast that morning, but rather on the dull side. If this track is “souped up” at all this weekend, they won’t catch him. Imperial Hint is all race horse and he enters this race off a Grade 1 win in the Vosburgh, and then prior to that won the Grade 1 Alfred Vanderbilt at Saratoga and established a new track record. Throw in John Sadler’s very talented Catalina Cruiser, and you have a horse race. The Dirt Mile is also coming up very tough with Richard Mandella choosing this race over the sprint for his good sophomore Omaha Beach. That’s a smart move but, “Omaha” was all out to beat Shancealot in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship after coming off a long layoff. He has “bounce” written all over him in this race. Baffert has Improbable in this race but he has been a major disappointment all year long. He’s training well now but he’s still a hard horse to like. Penn Derby runner up Mr. Money might just be the right choice. The Breeders Cup Turf at a mile and a half has “Euros” written all over it even though the favorite may be Bricks and Mortar, who is five for five this year for the talented Chad Brown. But he’s never been beyond 10 furlongs and he hasn’t been facing the type of stock that Magical, Villa Marina, Old Persian, and Anthony Van Dyck have been up against. If ever in doubt in any B/C turf race, side with the Euros, they are just plain classier in distance races. The Breeders Cup Distaff is another good race on Saturday and Midnight Bisou, 7 for 7 this year, is bound to be the wagering choice. California has Paradise Woods and Ollie’s Candy, but they both seem a cut below Bisou, even with the home court advantage. I mean just look at the home court advantage so far in the World Series. All five games have been won by the road team. Blue Prize and Street Band ship in from back East but the “Bisou” may just be a “single” in your horizontal exotic wagers. And then there’s the Turf Mile and as good as Bowies Hero, Got Stormy, and El Tormenta look, go with the Euros that feature Circus Maximus, Iridessa, and Lord Glitters. The one U.S. horse on the turf that will take a lot of beating is Sistercharlie in the Filly/Mare Turf. She has won all three starts this year for Chad Brown and won them all in impressive fashion. I don’t think the Euros have an answer for her.
• On Friday the signature race is the Juvenile at a mile and a sixteenth on the main track and will end up having the pre Derby favorite for 2020. Baffert’s Eight Rings will probably be the favorite but it’s hard to separate him from Dennis’ Moment and Maxfield. The winner should come from one of those three horses. Baffert will probably have the favorite in the Juvenile Fillies race as well in Bast, who won the Del Mar Debutante by 9 lengths. Steve Asmussen has Wicked Whisper shipping in from New York and trainer Doug O’Neill will have two in the race, Comical and Lazy Daisy. Bast is the one to beat. There are also three juvenile turf races on Friday. Trainer Wesley Ward has the sprint surrounded with three entries and the Grade 1 Turf and the Grade 1 Fillies Turf both look wide open.
• The great thing about the Breeders Cup is the wagering. Because the fields are full and the quality is top notch top to bottom, often a favorite will pay $9 or $10 on the front end. And when playing the exotics, you don’t need to try and hit a home run with every play. If you normally play a pick five or a pick six, you can cut back to a pick four or a pick three and still find “value”. And if you normally play a trifecta or a superfecta, one can still find value in an exacta. And remember, have a game plan for the two days, don’t blow all your money on Friday so you don’t have anything left for the good races on Saturday. Play within your budget and have some fun. This might just be the best two days of racing all year long.
by Rod Young (Turfdom)