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Santa Anita News and Notes February 11

•    Week seven at Santa Anita was completed on Sunday and for the third consecutive week, there were no racing mishaps. Both the turf course and the main track continue to play fair. Racing will return on Friday with a four day week including Presidents Day and they will have a stakes each day Saturday through Monday. But due to the shortage of race ready horses right now, they will not race for the next four consecutive Thursdays. In fact this week should present a challenge for them with the four days. Both Friday and Sunday this past week had mostly small fields and most days have been pretty chalky. The late pick five on Saturday, which had some pretty good quality fields, only paid $87 for the 50 cent wager. The single ticket jackpot of the pick six will be at $229,500 when racing resumes on Friday.

•    They had three stakes at Santa Anita over the weekend and the best one from a wagering standpoint was the Thunder Road at a mile on the turf for older runners. Under a clever ride from Abel Cedillo, River Boyne slipped through between horses at the top of the lane and ran down the pacesetters at $11.60 on the front end. He won off by two and a half in the solid time of 1:33.78 for the mile. A 50/1 shot got up for second and nosed out our Best Bet of the day, True Valour, who was off at 4/1. The winner is approaching millionaire status as his earnings are up to $972,000 and will point to the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile for his next start on March 7. Earlier in the day Venetian Harbor took down the Grade 2 Las Virgenes on the main track, winning off by 9 lengths as the heavy 3 to 10 favorite. She was coming off an 11 length win in a maiden sprint race and she proved two turns was no problem, as she opened up six on the field down the back side, saw that lead dwindle to one length at the quarter pole, then re-broke and easily disposed of a fairly weak field for a Grade 2. Her next stop will be the Santa Anita Oaks, a Grade 1 on April 4 and the water will get deeper. Then on Sunday, the sophomores were in the limelight as Nadal faced off against the juvenile champion Storm the Court in the Grade 2 San Vicente at 7 furlongs on the main track. But the race turned into a match race between Nadal and Ginobili and they dueled through awfully quick fractions of 21.81 and 44.09 with Nadal down on the inside taking the worst of it. But the 3 to 10 favorite prevailed by a length in the end and the runner up ran huge for Richie Baltas at 12/1. The next step for Nadal will be the Rebel stakes at Oaklawn as the undefeated son of Blame will try and stretch that speed to two turns for trainer Bob Baffert. That race may actually be easier for him than this one as 7 furlongs is a tough distance, especially when you have to run head and head through such quick fractions the entire trip. They have run three Derby preps so far at this meet and Baffert has won all three of them, i.e. Nadal in the San Vicente, Thousand Words in the Robert Lewis, and Authentic in the Sham stakes. And all three horses are undefeated. As usual, Baffert is loaded with sophomores for Kentucky.

•    There are three stakes lined up this week at the Great Race Place with one each day over the holiday weekend. The Grade 2 Santa Monica for older fillies and mares is on Saturday at 7 furlongs on the main track where Hard Not to Love squares off against Queen Bee to You. The former has just one eye and came from far back on opening day to capture the Grade 1 La Brea at the same distance. Mike Smith is the rider for trainer John Shirreffs, who is just loaded this meet with top flight talent. The latter is a hard knocking Cal bred that is in peak form these days for Andrew Lerner. Mother Mother and Lady Ninja are both targeting the Santa Monica as well where entries will be drawn on Wednesday. The next two days will be turf sprint stakes with the Grade 3 Sweet Life on Sunday for three year old fillies and the Wishing Well on Monday for older fillies and mares.

•    Joel Rosario remains the leading rider at the meet even though he lost 3 days this past week due to a suspension. His first racing day back was Sunday and he quickly threw up a double to boost his lead to four over Abel Cedillio, who has had 45 more mounts than Joel. Flavien Prat remains in third with 19. Rosario will be gone again this Saturday as he rides Anneau d’Or for trainer Blaine Wright in the Risen Star stakes for three year olds at the Fair Grounds. Jockey J.C. Diaz, who has been riding some for Baffert recently, loses his apprentice allowance this past week and will now have to ride as a journeyman starting this Friday. Newcomer Umberto Rispoli, who is currently in fifth place at the meet with 14 wins, has 13 of them on the turf, and leads all riders at the meet with turf victories. If you like a horse on the lawn, and he is up, bet him. He also got his first stakes win on Friday as he won the Baffle stakes at five and a half on the turf for Peter Miller with Billy Batts. This ungraded stakes was named for the great turf sprinter named Baffle, who just loved coming down the hill at six and a half and held the course record for many years in 1:11and 4/5, which he set in 1970. He was trained by Hall of Famer Johnny Longdon and was owned by Frank McMahon, who also owned Majestic Prince, who almost won the Triple Crown in 1969, but was second to Arts and Letters in the Belmont after winning both the Derby and the Preakness. On the trainer’s side, Richie Baltas is having a fabulous meet and is five up on Baffert 19 to 14. Peter Miller is third with 13 wins. Miller and Baffert are both tied with the best win percentage at 28% for trainers in the top 20. Unsung Paddy Gallagher, who once was an assistant to the great Willie Shoemaker, won three races Sunday.

•    How many times have you bet a horse to win at 3/1 or 7/2, he grabs the lead on the far turn, and you look up at the board and he’s 8/5 while the race is in progress. If you’re like me, it’s happened way too many times and nothing irritates me more than not knowing what price you get when you make your wager, no matter how late you make it to post time. Well there may be some light at the end of the tunnel. When Monmouth Park opens their spring meet in May of this year, the track has made an agreement with an Australian bookmaking company for fixed odds wagers. It will only apply for win, place, and show wagering, at least in the beginning, and the bets must be made at Monmouth, but it will also include any tracks that are available with their signal. Fixed odds wagering has been legal in New Jersey since 2018, but they have never been able to come up with an outside bookmaking company to handle the action. In other countries, fixed odds wagering is offered right alongside pari-mutuel betting. Monmouth has signed onto a 10 year agreement with Betmakers and there’s no reason this shouldn’t take hold throughout the country in due time. If this industry is to survive over time, they have to make it more fan friendly for the players.

By Rod Young (Turfdom)

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