TURFDOM NEWS AND NOTES for June 16, 2020

  • Maybe the Racing Office at Santa Anita was just playing “possum” with us. After two straight weeks of short fields, they are saving the best for last, as they have 8 stakes scheduled for the last two days of the meet this weekend, with 9 races for Friday and 10 each for Saturday and Sunday. Plus there is an excellent chance that the single ticket winner of the pick six will be still be intact and the pot will be well over $1 million for Sunday and the mandatory payout. For a 20 cent wager, it is much, much better than the lottery. Both the main track and the turf course have continued to play fair but inside speed with the turf sprints has been very good lately. Next Saturday is also Belmont stakes day at Belmont Park with the first leg of the Triple Crown and we’ll have selections for that race. As of now they expect 8-10 horses for the race at 9 furlongs on the main track headed up by Florida Derby winner Tiz the Law, who may be odds on at post time. Jockey Flavien Prat won four on Sunday including the feature race in the finale and has run away with the riding title, but the trainer’s title is close. Peter Miller leads by one over Bob Baffert 31 to 30 with Richie Baltas at 27 wins. Baltas won the San Francisco Mile up at GGF on Sunday with Neptune’s Storm and paid $8.00. When racing resumes on Friday, the pick six single ticket jackpot will be $924,314.                                                                                                                    
  •  They had three stakes over the weekend and all three were ungraded but still very competitive just the same. The largest purse was on Saturday with the Thor’s Echo, a Cal bred event at ¾ on the main and Carla Gaines held all the cards with the heavy favorite Desert Law and the third choice in the wagering, Tiger Dad. Well the latter got the money in wire to wire fashion in the good time of 1:09.56 going wire to wire under Victor Espinoza. “Tiger”, who was a Turfdom Best Bet on the day paid $7.60 to win and was in front by one length at the wire over Principe Carlo, a recent claim by Ryan Hanson, who is very much on the improve. Desert Law, at even money under Prat, checked in a distant third. In the other stakes on the program, the Angels Flight for three year old fillies at six and a half on the main, the race came down to the two favorites, and Gingham put in a big rally late under Mike Smith to prevail by a length and paid $5.60 on the front end. At the 1/8 pole it looked like the race was over as Been Studying Her made a big move at the top of the lane and looked home free, but Smith timed his move perfectly to get the money. This was the winner’s first sprint in 9 races and she made our Horses to Watch list for the week. On Sunday they saved the best for last as the $75,000 Pleasantly Perfect stakes went as race 9 on the program. A mile and a quarter on the turf for older fillies and mares, 7 lined up to the post, and Dogtag went off as the 4 to 5 favorite under Prat and he won easily on a well rated ride by the leading rider. He finished a length in front of Don’t Blame Judy, who was a head in front of our choice in the race, the 9/1 shot Pretty Point. This was Dogtag’s first try at 10 furlongs for trainer Richard Mandella, who won the last two races on the card, both with Prat up.                                                                                                                                          
  •   Of the four stakes listed for Saturday, there are two Grade 3’s and two Cal bred events. Collusion Illusion, who is on our Horses to Watch list and was so impressive in his last, heads up the field for the Laz Barrera stakes for three year olds at six and a half on the main. Flavien Prat has the mount on “Illusion”. The other Grade 3 is the Wilshire stakes for older fillies and mares at a mile on the turf. Margots Boy and California Kook head the lineup for the Snow Chief stakes at 9 furlongs on the grass for Cal bred sophomores and the Dream of Summer stakes is the other Cal bred race for older fillies and mares at a flat mile on the main track. On Sunday, they come right back with four more stakes with two more Grade 3’s, a Cal bred event and then an overnight stakes. The closing day feature has always been the San Juan Capistrano at a mile and three quarters on the turf and they used to have full fields for this race. Now they’re lucky if they can find four horses that can run that far. It’s gone from a Grade 1 down to a Grade 3 and Ward ‘n Jerry heads up that field with Prat up. Can you believe the great Charlie Whittingham won this race 14 times? Now that’s a trainer, and he even won it with mares against colts and he won it with just workouts and no races coming into the race off of layoffs. True Valour and Border Town head up the other Grade 3 called the American stakes at a mile on the turf for older runners. Big Sweep is one of the choices in the Melair stakes for three year old fillies at a mile and a sixteenth on the main track, and then sprinters go to the lawn for the Siren Lure stakes at five and a half on the turf for older runners. Should be a very good weekend of racing before they take 3 weeks off and head for Del Mar.                                                                                                                                              
  • As if California racing didn’t have enough problems with a shortage of horses, the Covid19 issue, and smaller purses that are moving owners/trainers to other states, the California Horse Racing Board reared its ugly head once again, this time on the jockey’s use of whips. This past Thursday they voted on a resolution which passed the board 4 to 2 prohibiting a rider from using his whip no more than six times in a race and even then, only in an underhanded motion, and then no more than two times in succession. The Jockeys Guild had asked the board to wait at least one more month before taking their vote, which was ignored by the chairman, Greg Ferraro. The problem once again with the Board is the perception of the people, many who think that it is inhumane to strike a horse during the race with a whip, instead of listening to the riders who are mainly trying to control the horse and their own safety. It is very obvious that the CHRB has no respect for the riders who put their lives at risk every time they climb up on these 1100 pound animals. To add insult to injury, Chairman Ferraro said that the jockeys are part of the problem and that the riders don’t want to change anything, which of course is not true. The Board thinks that by forcing this resolution through, California will be a leader with whip control in the country and other states will follow, while pleasing the PETA people as well. However, the only way PETA will be pleased is if California racing is completely abolished and this Board is doing everything they can to make that happen. The resolution goes into effect on October 1st of this year. A sad state of affairs for California racing.