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June 22 Santa Anita News And Notes

Santa Anita Park’s long six month meet came to an end on Sunday with a good 11 race program highlighted with four stakes races and a mandatory payout in the Rainbow pick six. In fact, the track carded 11 race programs for the last four days of the meet and for the most part, the field size was adequate, but overall Santa Anita struggled with a horse shortage and there were too many four and five horse fields which made for poor wagering opportunities. Throw in the fact that they never did get their “timing” issues resolved, as most of the races had to be hand timed, and the creditability of those times left a lot to be desired. Turf races, which made up almost 50% of the cards, had to be handicapped on pace and class, as the times just couldn’t be trusted, and that included any Beyer numbers. For a track that has been listed as an “A” track, this was all very “bush league.” However, to the track’s credit, the new turf chutes which extended sprint races to six and six and a half furlongs were a rousing success. I’m not sure if they will ever race down the hill again in sprint races, but at least for now, there is no need to. And for the first time in three years, they were able to complete the meet, from start to finish, without any week long closures. In 2019 they had to shut down racing for some time due to excess fatalities and in 2020 they had to shut down for 7 weeks due to the pandemic. Management has a pretty good handle on the fatalities and the pandemic is getting closer and closer to being in our rear view mirrors. With fans being back at the track, they had just under 10,000 on Sunday, there is a great deal of excitement building for the upcoming Del Mar meet on July 16. With just a c/o of $277,000 in the pick six pool, the fans stepped up to the plate Sunday and added just over $3 million to that number. The largest mutual in the sequence was $12.20, which was in the very first leg, but the payout was still a decent $536 for the 20 cent wager. There were 4864 winning tickets and even the “little” guy had a good chance to hit this wager with a very minimal investment, and that’s a good thing. Phil D’Amato, who had been head and head with Bob Baffert and Peter Miller for the training title, most of the meet, pulled ahead in the final week to easily notch his second award. D’Amato was just about unbeatable on the grass the entire meet. Flavien Prat had wrapped up the riding title over a month ago. Juan Hernandez was a distant second but had an outstanding meet and won numerous stakes throughout the season. Racing moves over to Orange County this Friday with the start of a two week meet at Los Alamitos. Then there is a week off before Del Mar starts their 8 week meet on July 16. We will be off until the start of Del Mar to re-energize our handicapping brain pool.

STAKES RECAP: There were 8 stakes over the final weekend of the meet, but only three of them were graded. We will touch on some of the highlights of those races as they ran 4 stakes on both Saturday and Sunday. The biggest race on Saturday was probably the 81st running of the San Juan Capistrano at a mile and three quarters on the turf for older runners. This race had been reduced all the way down to a Grade 3 and just a $100,000 purse, but when I was growing up, this was one of the top races to be won at the winter meet and it was a Grade 1 with a $400,000 purse. Of course, they don’t breed horses to run this far any more like they once did. The great Charlie Whittingham won this race a record 14 times, with horses of both sexes. This year Phil D’Amato had two runners in the race, and both had won this race in previous years, Acclimate in 2019 and Red King in 2020. This time it was Acclimate’s turn, as he easily wired the field to win by four as the 2/1 favorite in a field of six. Ridden expertly on the lead by Ricky Gonzalez, D’Amato won this race for the third consecutive year. He’s got a long way to go to catch Whittingham, but the way he wins turf races, he is fast becoming the Chad Brown of California. Astronaut, an 8/1 shot, ran well to get second, a length in front of Red King, the defending champ. In the Siren Lure stakes, at six and a half on the turf for older runners, Kanderal won his second straight race for trainer Richard Mandella with a last to first run from far back under Juan Hernandez. He was still five lengths behind the leaders at the 1/8 pole, but got there with a big run late to win by a half at 4/1. The winner paid $10.60 and has become a different runner since being gelded and dropped back to sprinting on the turf. Commander, ridden by newcomer Joe Bravo, ran well to get second, while the favorite, Chasin Munny, a Turfdom Best Bet, ran third. The latter was the absolute lone speed in the race, but was taken well back off the pace by Prat and never did run his race.

On Sunday, six lined up for the Grade 3 American stakes at a mile on the turf for older runners. Neptune’s Storm was making his first start for trainer Peter Miller and his first start since last September, but he had been training well and Prat was up, so he was made the 4/5 favorite. He tracked the leader, Sash, for much of the race, took over at the 1/8 pole and looked like a winner in mid stretch, but the hard knocking Restrainedvengence came and got him late at 3/1 and pulled away to a length and a half win under Tyler Baze, who was winning his 2nd stakes on the day. The winner has now earned over $768,000 winning minor stakes all over the Southwest and coming off a good third in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile. He is the star of Val Brinkeroff’s barn and is a tough horse to train, but he tries hard every time he goes to the post. Neptune’s Storm will be tough to beat down at Del Mar, as he needed this race off the long layoff. In the other Grade 3, the Wilshire, for older fillies and mares at a mile on the lawn, the favorite got the money at 2/1 in a field of 8. Warren’s Showtime, a Cal bred, who has had to chase lone speed in her last 4 races, finally got a fast pace with plenty of speed in front of her, and won from well off the pace with the talented Juan Hernandez, who is fast becoming a top turf rider on this circuit. Leggs Galore, who had already won three stakes at this meet, set quick fractions of 22.45 and 45.97 for the half, did well to hold second and was only beaten a length and a half. This was the 2nd graded stakes for “Showtime” and this hard tryer dances all the dances and is now up to $697,000 in earnings. The winner was trained by Craig Lewis and is out of millionaire winner Clubhouse Ride, while the dam was a Grade 1 winner, Warren’s Veneda.

Del Mar, which opens their gates on July 16 this year, are switching their pick six format to the Rainbow pick six, which has been quite successful at Santa Anita and other tracks around the country. The 20 cent wager, which pays out for any single ticket winner, will have two mandatory payouts in their 8 week season, Pacific Classic day on August 21, and closing day on September 6. The track also announced they will be at full capacity with their seating area on opening day as well as the Breeders Cup, scheduled for their fall meet. Tickets are on sale now for their summer meet online at Prices vary from reserved seats in the grandstand vs. the clubhouse and weekdays vs. weekends.

As the Bob Baffert/Medina Spirit saga continues, a judge has ordered the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to allow further testing on a urine sample at the request of Baffert and his owner. The drug, betamethasone, which is a regulated anti-inflamatory, was supposedly in an ointment which was used to treat a skin rash and not an injection in the horse’s joints to alleviate swelling and pain. Even if that is the case, this is still all smoke and mirrors. It doesn’t matter how the drug got in his system, it only matters that the drug was there. I really don’t believe Baffert is trying to cheat in this particular instance, he doesn’t need to. But it’s still negligence on his part for the drug being in the horse’s system at race time. Especially with all of the other cases that are starting to pile up. And then the news comes out from the Washington Post this past week that since the year 2000, Baffert has had 74 horses die in his care. When factoring in the number of races run, his fatality rate is 8.30 per 1000 starters. That’s the highest in the entire state. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer has been banned from racing in California, at least at the major tracks, and his rate is 6.25 horses per 1000 starters. Public opinion is not going to be in Baffert’s corner as this drags out through the court system. To add insult to injury, Baffert was recently voted off the board of directors of the Thoroughbred Owners of California. Over 6000 ballots were sent out to members and he received the fewest votes. Ed Moger Jr., a Nor Cal trainer and breeder, received the largest amount of votes. Terms are for three years and are effective on July 1st.

In the last four days of racing at Santa Anita, we did not have a single Best Bet win a race for us here at Turfdom. However, from Sunday June 13 in race two, to Saturday June 19 in race 3, we had the winner from our contenders list in 23 consecutive races. And no, they were not all favorites. We list 3 or 4 contenders in each race and some of the winners in this streak were Hapi Hapi on top at $14.20, Basilia, on top at $15.00, Rideforthecause at $16.00, Constant Conflict at $14.40, Peace Pipe at $17.40, and Cider Apple at $15.00. On June 13 we had the late pick five at $848 for the 50 cent wager and the pick six at $732 for the 20 cent wager along with 8 exactas on the day. As we ran the card on June 18, we had
the early pick five at $551, the late pick five at $1452, and the 20 cent pick six at $1237. We had 7 winning exactas on that day and in race 4 we had the super tri that paid $3587 for a $1 ticket. Not too shabby. Then on closing day we had the winner in 10 out of 11 races from our contenders list, missing only the post time favorite in race 8. We will be back at it on July 16 when Del Mar opens their gates for an exciting 8 week session. Last summer at Del Mar, BOTH of our Best Bets had a winning ROI of a plus 85% for the entire meet. In the Fall meet last year, our Best Bet, the one with 3 stars, won on 8 consecutive race days. Yes, we do well at the seaside track and we love their logo, Del Mar, “Cool as Ever”. Prices for our selections are on our website at Thank you for reading our News and Notes along with our Horses to Watch list.
Rod Young, Turfdom

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