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Santa Anita Handicapping News and Notes Closing Week

•    The long 26 week meet at the Great Race Place came to an end on Sunday with a three day carryover in the pick six of just over $821,000. Fans poured another $5.2 million into the wager and the pool swelled to just over $6 million. 208 tickets got it right and the payout was a shade over $20,000 with only one play that was really tough to find, and that was Storm the Hill winning the Wilshire stakes at $21. On Saturday, the Triple Crown winner Justify, paraded before the fans between races and probably brought an additional 5000 patrons to the track. They gave out 4000 posters of the undefeated sophomore and jockey Mike Smith signed about 3500 of them. His right hand must have been awfully sore from signing so many posters, but he still had enough left in the tank to win the feature race by a nose with American Anthem for who else, but Bob Baffert.  “Money Man Mike”, who only rides about 2 or 3 races on the weekends now, also won the final race of the meet on Unapologetic, with a perfectly timed ride over 10 furlongs on the lawn and paid a nice $14.60. Santa Anita finished the meet up 8% in overall handle and went over the $1 billion mark. On track attendance was up 1% for the meet. Due to the $75 million increase in overall handle, the track raised purses 10% for the last 4 weeks of the meet. The track ran 70 more races on the turf than they did in the same time frame last year and zero days were cancelled due to lack of entries. Racing resumes on the Southern California circuit on Thursday with 3 weeks of racing at Los Alamitos. Then on July 18, Del Mar opens their doors for their dynamite 7 week meet which brings out the best thoroughbred racing that California has to offer. This will be our final News and Notes until Del Mar gets under way, as we need to re-energize the batteries after six months of racing at Santa Anita. Details for the Del Mar meet are on our web site at myturfdom.net.

•    There were two graded stakes over the weekend with American Anthem winning the Grade 2 San Carlos on Saturday at 7 furlongs on the main track and then Storm the Hill taking the Grade 3 Wilshire at a flat mile on the grass for older fillies.mares on Sunday.  “Anthem” got the head bob right on the wire to prevail on Saturday as the 4/5 favorite over St. Joe Bay, who fought gallantly down on the inside the entire trip. The runner up was coming off a $62,500 claim by John Sadler and was the longest price in the race at 42/1. The horse to take out of this race was the third place finisher Horse Greedy. He completely missed the start at 18/1, was dead last down the back side, rallied to get third only beaten two lengths, and is still eligible for the second allowance condition. He was the only runner in the race that was closing as the winner and runner up ran one-two all the way. In the Wilshire, it was trainer Phil D’Amato all the way as he saddled both the winner and the runner up. Storm the Hill made his first start for D’Amato coming in from back East in very poor form, but he trained well for the race, got a fast pace to run at, got a perfect ride from Bejarano, who hasn’t forgot how to ride, and got the money at $21.00. Our Best Bet of the day was Ancient Secret, who was second at 5/2, ran well, but had no excuses.

•    Jockey Flavian Prat easily won the riding title by 11 victories over Geovanni Franco for the Spring/Summer meet 39 to 28. His win percentage was 26% for the meet. The only other rider in the top 20 to win at over 20% was Mario Gutierrez, who finished 4th in the standings at an even 20%. Apprentice Asa Espinoza, who is Victor Espinoza’s nephew, finished fifth with 21 wins. He is just 18 years old, never won anywhere before, doesn’t even have a drivers license, but is fast becoming a very good rider. Trainer Phil D’Amato, who got the hat trick on Sunday, still came up two short in the training standings losing to Doug O’Neill 31 to 29. O’Neill had at least 10 winners at the meet with two year olds while D’Amato is strictly the best turf trainer on the circuit, bar none. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who had somewhat of an “off” meet, won six races over closing weekend. He is and has always been, “deadly”, in those starter allowance races for claimers.

•     There is a battle brewing up north at Golden Gate Fields between the California Horse Racing board and the Stronach Group, which own the race track. The owners want to do away with sending their signal to the satellite locations in the northern half of the state, made up of mostly fair sites where county fairs are held in the Summer. These sites make up about 40% of the purse revenue for Golden Gate. The Stronach Group wants to set up wagering “cafes” where people would place bets that would be treated as account wagers. They own Xpressbet, an account wagering company, and would try to tie in wagers through them. This is all fine and good except I doubt that those “cafes” would make up for that 40% revenue. And the purse structure at Golden Gate is very low to begin with as it is. However, both parties have legitimate points, as people are staying home and making their wagers these days by phone or computer, rather than fight the traffic and pay the exorbitant prices at the track for food, admission, etc.  Have you ever tried to travel to Golden Gate Fields along interstate 80? It is a nightmare morning, noon, and night. The same goes for the satellite fair locations. That revenue is getting smaller and smaller each year. The future is advance deposit wagering. The Stronach Group says they will shut down the track if they don’t get their way, and they just might. The California Horse Racing Board says they will not grant a license for racing days if the fair satellites are not included. At this point, they are at a stalemate, and neither side is budging. The next meet at Golden Gate starts in late August and runs for six weeks. Like most things in racing, decisions are made at the midnight hour, and this will probably be the case here. In my humble opinion, both Northern and Southern California cannot survive long term with independent year round racing. Some day there will be only ONE year long meet and this decision by the Stronach Group may lead to that scenario, sooner rather than later.

•    New trainers are coming in for the Del Mar meet this year beginning July 18. Todd Fincher, a leading trainer in New Mexico, will be here for the first time. James DeVito and Ian Wilkes, both based in Kentucky, will also have stables here. Tom Proctor will continue to send turf horses here as he always has, and Phil Oliver and Wesley Ward are also expected to participate.     Del Mar’s “Ship and Win” program is getting some notice around the country. Once again, details for the Del Mar meet can be found on our web site at myturfdom.net. See you in three weeks,

Rod Young, Turfdom.

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