Member Log In  



Promo Code

The Leader in providing information for Thoroughbred Horse Racing since 1970
 Home Today's Racing Digest Products Thoroughbred Analytics Products Professional Handicapper Reports FREE Products and Reports Educational Center Book Store

Horse Racing Industry News

Santa Anita News and Notes March 8

Week 12 is in the books at the Great Race Place and this past week it was the Great Race Place, as management was able to put out three good race cards with an exceptional one on Saturday. Of course it didn’t all go according to Hoyle as they cancelled Friday due to some rainfall (it wasn’t very much) and moved that race program to Monday. The good thing is that they didn’t change a thing and left the card in tact without redrawing entries. There was some light rain on Saturday but not enough to change track conditions in any way. Yes, the state of California is still in drought conditions. Both the main track and the turf course played fair for the most part last week. Racing resumes this Friday with their normal three day week and there is no rain fall in the forecast, just blue skies and warm temps. The Rainbow pick six pool has climbed up to $261,767 for any single ticket winner.

STAKES RECAP: They had six graded stakes on Saturday and we will touch on four of them. The big one of course was the Big Cap, as 7 went to the post to try and get the winners share of $650,000, which was $390,000.  It came down to a dueling stretch drive between the favorite, Express Train, and the invader, who was the third choice in the wagering at 4/1 for Brad Cox named Warrant. “Express” was on the outside all the way down the lane and that advantage was just enough to get the job done under Victor Espinoza, as he prevailed by a head over an extra game runner up. The winner paid $4.20 on the front end and it was his third straight graded stakes tally and he earned a career high Beyer number of 104 in the process. Although this race has been dwarfed by the big money races in Saudi Arabia and Dubai, it is still a Grade 1 and Express Train will join such immortals as Round Table, Seabiscuit, Affirmed, and many others who have appeared in the Winners Circle following this, the 85th edition. Warrant ran a gallant race in defeat, missed by just a head at the wire under Flavien Prat, and it was 9 lengths back to the third horse, Stilleto Boy, who is in deep need of a rest after five consecutive races against the top horses in the country. One of the other Grade ones on Saturday was the Frank Kilroe Mile on the turf for older runners. Count Again went off as the 2/1 choice in a field of 11 and was all out to get the win in a three horse photo right on the wire. It was vintage Prat all the way as he had the favorite covered up early down the back side, saved all the ground on the fence, angled out at just the right time at the top of the lane , and just did get up to win by a head on the outside. Space Traveller, one of our two Best Bets on the day that ran second, had the lead at the 1/16 pole and just couldn’t hold off the hard charging Canadian bred. Subconscious ran a gallant race to be third and was only beaten a half length for all the money. Space Traveller’s jockey, Jamie Spencer, travelled all the way from England, just for this race. The winner got a 102 Beyer number and the time for the mile on a firm course was a quick 1:33.24. It was also Prat’s third winner on the day as it was for his trainer, Phil D’Amato.

There were two really good Grade 2 races where the early leaders sped wire to wire in both races to beat solid fields. The San Felipe for sophomores with Derby aspirations was run at a mile and a sixteenth on the main, and Richard Mandella’s ultra quick Forbidden Kingdom waved bye bye at the 3/8 pole and was never threatened, as he went wire to wire in 1:43.98 over a dull but fast race track. He won by six over Doppleganger, who ran his race but couldn’t catch the speedy “Kingdom.” He went quick early in 22.66 and 45.90, but speed is his weapon and he proved he could get two turns with this performance. Next stop will be the Santa Anita Derby, which will be at 9 furlongs, just a sixteenth further than he ran on Saturday. Speed is always a solid weapon on the main track and there are few horses that can stay with this one early on. Juan Hernandez fits him like a glove and wins at a 40% clip for Mr. Mandella. It was another five lengths back to the third horse, Happy Jack at 26/1. The winners circle looked like it had half the grandstand as the owners are the large syndicate, The other Grade 2 that caught our eye was the impressive performance of Leggs Galore in the Grade 2 Buena Vista at a flat mile on the turf for older fillies and mares. Ricky Gonzalez gave this speedster her head early on and they sizzled early with fractions of 23.18 and 46.70 for the half, opening up as much as 8 lengths down the back side. The 2/1 choice in the race, Going to Vegas, had her in her sights at the 1/8 pole though and looked like she was going to get to the leader, but “Galore” found another gear and held her safe at the wire to win by ¾. It was another ¾ back to the fast closing Closing Remarks who has been a tough luck filly for Carla Gaines. The winner also went off at 2/1 and paid $6.80 on the front end. It was her first graded stakes win after winning four Cal bred stakes and was her 8th victory in just 13 trips to the post. The winning time was 1:34.29 for the mile and Galore received an 89 Beyer number for her effort.

There are just two stakes this weekend, one each Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, older runners will travel a mile and a half in the Grade 3 San Luis Rey stakes on the grass. On Sunday, older fillies and mares go ¾ on the main track in the Grade 3 Las Flores stakes.

The news broke late Saturday that Flavien Prat, the best rider in California far and away, was packing his bags to ride on the east coast. He will stay here until Keeneland opens on April 8, race there thru April 29, and then be ready for Belmont Park in New York and Saratoga for the summer. His agent, Brad Pegram, is also going with him. The plan is to return to Southern California for winter racing only on Dec. 26. Prat was one of the three finalists for the Eclipse award this past year as the nation’s outstanding rider, but he didn’t win it, as Joel Rosario won the award and deservedly so. Prat thinks he’s good enough to win that award, and he is, he just needs to go where the big money is and that’s not California these days. He also needs to ride more than three days a week and California does not give him that opportunity 9 months out of the year. For one as talented as Prat, it is the right move. He is in a rut here winning all the time and consistently securing the best mounts day after day. All of the riders  in the jocks room can’t wait for him to go, as the better mounts will now open up to others. He is not the only one leaving. Umberto Rispoli is also packing his bags and will leave at the same time for Keeneland’s opening. Rispoli, who has ridden all over the world, is a top ten rider, and a superb grass rider most of the time. He has been in a bit of a slump this winter here at Santa Anita. Through Monday’s program, Prat leads all riders with 62 victories, which is 26 more than Juan Hernandez who has 36. Johnny Velasquez is third with 28 while the bug boy, Diego Herrera, who got the hat trick on Monday is 4th with 21. Prat has the best win percentage of anyone in the top 20 at 31% closely followed by Velasquez at 27%. However, the trainer’s title is much closer. Bob Baffert and Phil D’Amato both entered last week tied for first with 21 victories each, and they come out of the week tied at 25, with each of them getting a three bagger on Saturday. Doug O’Neill is third with 22. Baffert continues to win at an amazing 37% clip, followed by Bill Spawr at 33%, Vladimir Cerin at 32%, and Leonard Powell at 31%, for those trainers in the top 20 through 12 weeks of the meet. It’s certainly lucrative for the riders when they knock down graded stakes wins and receive 10% of the winning purses, even after paying their agents 25% of that number. But now the stews step in with their fines and take a big cut of that money for whip violations. Both Victor Espinoza and Ricky Gonzalez had to cough up $1500 each for over whipping their mounts (Express Train and Leggs Galore respectively) in their Saturday’s stakes wins. Six whacks of the whip is the maximum allowed in any given race. Espinoza was in a stretch long duel with Space Traveller and won by a head, while Gonzalez  had a big lead that was shrinking fast in the Buena Vista. And the English rider, Jamie Spencer, was suspended for five days for overuse of the whip on Space Traveller, who had the lead at the 1/16 pole and couldn’t stave off Prat and Count Again. Edwin Maldonado was suspended for three days for using the whip in an over handed motion in Saturday’s opener on See Through It who finished fifth. The only ones happy about this are those PETA people who think it’s a form of animal abuse to hit a horse with a whip, even if the whips made these days are so soft a horse can barely feel the impact.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR: The date is July 22, and that’s when Del Mar opens their 8 week season of outstanding racing, and it will be better this year than ever before, if that’s possible. The popular Ship and Win program actually works at Del Mar and many eastern stables send strings out here for the summer. Overall, total purses will increase 15% this year and will be the highest in the track’s history, which does go back all the way to 1937.  Why the optimism? Because last summer the track averaged $18.4 million in handle daily with field size of 8.5 runners per race. Those are big numbers for average, not just in California, but anywhere in the U.S. Top level allowance purses go from $76,000 to $86,000, bottom level maiden claimers go from $25,000 to $30,000, and claiming races have an additional 15% increase. Those numbers will increase field size even more so. Plus you get great weather all summer long and the safest race track in the country. Del Mar will race four days per week with the exception being just three days the first week and five days the final week. Del Mar doesn’t have just a few good days of racing, they have outstanding cards day after day, week after week. Why mess with the rain and humidity that Saratoga offers? Del Mar, where the surf meets the turf really is as “COOL AS EVER.”

By Rod Young (Turfdom)

« Back to News Articles

Contact Us   |   Privacy Policy   |   Distribution   |   Proprietorship/Disclaimer   |   Account Summary |   Handicapper Login

© 2022 Today's Racing Digest - All Rights Reserved

Download the FREE Adobe Reader