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Santa Anita News and Notes April 30

•    It’s now been four straight weeks of racing at the Great Race Place without a fatality and over 5000 workouts over the main track without an incident. The track is slow and deep and even tiring, but the track is as safe as they can possibly get it. The track is playing fair. It seems to favor early speed early in the program, but after a few races, horses start winning races from off the pace. Management and the TOC started increasing purses this past weekend by $10,000 for all races other than stakes, and though it didn’t have much effect on entries this past weekend, it is starting to take hold. They have 11 races scheduled for this Saturday, Kentucky Derby day. The turf course continues to hold up well and the turf is playing fair, regardless of where the inner rails are placed. Racing resumes this Friday with an 8 race card and the carryover in the single ticket jackpot of the pick six has climbed to $293,240. I think Santa Anita has turned the corner (knock on wood).

•    They had only one graded stakes over the weekend and it was the Grade 2 Santa Margarita for older fillies/mares at 9 furlongs on the main track, and Paradise Woods won the race the way a 3 to 5 shot is supposed to, by 10 widening lengths and just galloping the final furlong. It was her first win since 2017 and brings her bankroll to almost $1 million. However, the truth of the matter is that the field was very weak for a Grade 2 race. Secret Spice and Marley’s Freedom both skipped the race in favor of running this weekend at Churchill Downs, and Beholder and Unique Bella have long since retired. The strength of the handicap division for older distaffers is very weak right now in California. Nonetheless, it was nice to see “Woods” rate kindly off the speed of another horse and under an expert ride by Big Money Mike, just toy with the field. She will run once more before the end of this meet, once at Del Mar, then prepare for the Breeders Cup in the fall for new trainer John Shirreffs.

•     There are two stakes lined up for this Saturday and Hostess, Maxim Rate (HTW List), and Lady Prancealot head the field for the Grade 3 Senorita stakes at a mile on the turf for 3 year old fillies. All 3 finished within a neck in the Grade 3 Providencia stakes here on April 6. Hard Not to Love, Miss My Rose, and Sneaking Out head the field for the Angle Flight stakes, also for 3 year old fillies, but at 7 furlongs on the main track. They do not have any stakes lined up for Sunday.

•    People who no nothing about horse racing ask me all the time, “who’s going to win the Kentucky Derby”? Right now, my only response to that questions is, “Baffert”.  Out of the 20 horses that will go to the gate, it seems like at least half of them have some sort of reasonable shot this year. As most people know, Baffert will enter three on Tuesday, and his chances of having one of them win, are quite good. Right now I’m between Roadster and Improbable, and I will probably let the tote board make the decision for me, whichever one has the best price at post time. And if they both offer good odds, I’ll bet them both. Of course, they draw post positions on Tuesday, and that may factor into the equation. What amazes me about the Derby is that the post time favorite has won the race for five consecutive years. Here you have 3 year olds, which are still improving, going a mile and a quarter for the first time in their life, and most of them have never raced on this track, and none of them have encountered a 20 horse field before and never will again. Yet the chalk has won five straight years. For the record, Southern California based runners have won 5 of the last 7 Derbys. And both Improbable and Game Winner both have wins at Churchill Downs. It’s going to be some race.

•    Frank Stronach, who USED to own the five race tracks in the U.S. NOW owned by the Stronach Group and run by his daughter Belinda, held a meeting this past Tuesday at the Embassy Suites in Arcadia. He took out an ad in the L.A. Times about the meeting and the future of Santa Anita Park. Over 200 people showed up and it was standing room only. His idea is to put the track in a trust where the only thing that can be done with the property is to use it exclusively for horse racing. He says his daughter wants to sell the property for development and is not interested in keeping racing alive long term at any of the tracks. That may be true, but the problem is that he is not the owner, even though he has a lawsuit in the courts to try and become the owner once again. The horsemen at the meeting loved the idea of the trust and of course they want to see racing at Santa Anita well into the future. Frank Stronach is 86 years old and his lawsuit could be tied up in the courts for years to come. The one positive thing that did come out of the meeting was that Santa Anita Park is considered a historical landmark within the State of California. The city of Arcadia is not a large city by California standards and this is what Arcadia is famous for, as racing started here on Christmas Day back in 1934. If all of that is true it would be difficult to develop the property for anything but horse racing. They may be able to sell off portions of the land as the parking lot is extremely large and nearly circumferences the race track. But personally I don’t buy all this historical poppycock. One can get just about anything through the courts these days if there is enough money involved. Just ask the people who loved going to Hollywood Park, or Bay Meadows, or Longacres, or Garden State Park, or Ak-Sar-Ben, and so forth and so on. Just look at the way this country is run today, “It’s All About the Money”.

•    One of the reasons Santa Anita had a very slow weekend this past week was that Golden Gate Fields up in Berkeley had a very busy weekend. They hosted their Gold Rush Weekend with six stakes on Saturday and many of the horses and riders from So. California participated. Their total handle for Saturday was over $8.1 million and it was one of the largest days in the track’s history. Blitzkrieg, who has now won 3 times since he made our HTW list in February, easily won the Grade 3 San Francisco Mile for Bejarano and Doug O’Neill, while Kingly took down the California Derby for Baffert and jockey Mario Gutierrez. Blitzkrieg was claimed for just $25,000 by O’Neill from Richard Mandella and has now won 3 straight since the claim. The purse for the S.F. Mile was $250K with $150,000 going to the winning owner. Now that’s how one can make money in this game.

•    As mentioned earlier, Santa Anita will have an 11 race card this Saturday and our selections will be mailed out on Friday evening, along with our selections for the Kentucky Derby.

By Rod Young (Turfdom)

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