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Santa Anita News and Notes March 5

•    Another weekend of rain at the Great Race Place, which is really hurting business because there is no grass racing to speak of and short fields on the main track keep many customers away. They did run one turf race on Sunday over a yielding course, but only six went to post and the winner was 2 to 5. And more rain is on the way this week. In fact, they anticipate so much rain on Wednesday, they have cancelled the 8 race Thursday card. So they will run just 3 days this week with Saturday one of their signature days, “Big Cap” day. The weather appears to be clear for Saturday but rain is anticipated Wednesday through Friday to some degree. They have had 20 inches of rain so far this meet and in comparison, they only had two inches of rain last year in the same time period. They are going to pay out the pick six on Saturday as a mandatory payout and the pool has climbed to $601,540 going into Friday’s card. The main track played fair over the weekend even when it was sealed.

•    They ran just two stakes over the weekend and both were ungraded and both were worth $100K. The Pasadena stakes was run on Saturday but only five went to the post when it was moved from the turf to the main track. Stubbins, breaking from the rail in this one mile event, went right to the lead under Tyler Baze and made every pole a winning run cruising through fractions of 23.14 and 46.02 for the half. He finished up a mile in 1:36.15 and won off by 8 widening lengths. He made our HTW list in the process and received an 83 Beyer for the trip. This one is still on the improve and in five trips to the post has never run a bad race. He paid $5.80 as the second choice in the wagering. On Sunday, on a drying out track labeled as “good”, five went to the post in the Tiznow stakes, in honor of the runner who won back to back Breeder Cups some years past. This was a real gutty performance by the winner Edwards Going Left, who broke last and then was rushed up by Rosario to grab the lead coming out of the clubhouse turn. He and the second choice in the wagering, King Abner, went at it from there posting quick fractions of 23.11 and 46.20 over a drying out race track. Edwards had all the worst of it down on the inside and Abner started to pull away turning for home. But Rosario is so strong in the saddle and this horse is so game, they battled back the length of the stretch and pulled it out by a half length at the wire. It was another 8 lengths back to the third horse. Rosario, who was just getting back from Florida where he ran off the board with two odds on favorites, was winning his third race in a row on Sunday here at Santa Anita. John Sadler, who trained the winner, said he will try and keep Edwards Going Left in Cal bred races as much as possible.

•    Let’s hope the Gods keep the rain away this Saturday as Santa Anita has four graded stakes on tap, along with the China Doll for three year old fillies on the grass for Big Cap Day. McKinzie is high weight for the Big Cap at 124 pounds, closely followed by Gift Box at 122 pounds. Others who will take a shot at the two favorites in this Grade 1 at 10 furlongs on the main track will be Dabster, Mongolian Groom, Noble Commander, and Sonneteer, along with a few others. The purse is $600K. However, the big race of the day has to be the San Felipe, where Baffert’s two undefeated colts will go at it at a mile and a sixteenth on the main track for a purse of $500K. Both Game Winner and Improbable are rated one-two in most polls around the country for the Kentucky Derby and both will be making their first start of 2019 in the San Felipe. As much as Baffert would like to keep them separate, the timing of their next race, (one going to Arkansas and one staying here) makes them meet this Saturday here at home. Hollendorfer’s undefeated Instagrand was supposed to join them, but instead he is shipping out Wednesday for the Gotham stakes in a one turn mile at Aqueduct. Others to face the dynamic duo for Baffert will be Extra Hope, Gunmetal Gray, and possibly Easy Shot for Desormeaux. Even though it will be a small field, the talent in here is exceptional. Well worth watching. Also on tap Saturday is the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile on the turf. The talented River Boyne, Hunt, Ohio, Caribou Club, and True Valour head up that field. Then some of the top sprinters on the grounds will vie in the Grade 2 San Carlos at 7 furlongs on the main track. Ax Man, Dr. Dorr, Giant Expectations, St. Joe Bay, Kanthaka, and Touching Rainbows will square off in what is shaping up as a very good race. Santa Anita is the place to be this Saturday, and don’t forget, the payout of the 20 cent pick six to boot.

•    Everyone knows Baffert is loaded with talented three year olds at this time of the year with such top sophomores as Improbable, Game Winner, and Mucho Gusto, all pointing for the first Saturday in May back at Churchill. Well, it’s time to throw one other name in the mix as Roadster, who had not raced since losing to Game Winner last September, came back and won an allowance race in good fashion last week under Big Money Mike Smith. He raced just off the pace and won quite easily by two and a half lengths and he wasn’t even the favorite in the race. That belonged to Nolo Contesto, who had a miserable trip coming out of the one hole and did not like being down on the rail. Smith kept him boxed in most of the way in some very good race riding. If you like “Contesto”, don’t give up on him just yet. Sadler will probably ship him out of town next time and try and find an easier spot for him. He’s still on the Derby trail. Roadster will go next in the Santa Anita Derby on April 6 and join either Improbable or Game Winner, depending on how they do this Saturday.

•    Jockey Joel Rosario had a pretty disappointing Saturday on his trip back to Florida as he ran 4th with two odds on favorites in the two biggest stakes on the Gulfstream card. But he bounced back Sunday at Santa Anita with a four bagger and has now opened up five big wins over Flavien Prat for the riding title 51-46. It is a very long way back to third place as Prat and Rosario are getting all the “live” mounts these days. However, Mike Smith continues to win at the highest percentage of any rider on the grounds and he is now up to 36%, and they are not all favorites. When favorites dominated the cards on Friday and Saturday here, Smith booted home Proud Emma at $12.40 late in the program Saturday. But Rosario is doing everything right these days with agent Ron Anderson. His win in the Tiznow stakes Sunday was something to behold. He reminds me so much of Pincay with his upper body strength. He can literally carry a horse across the wire and he’s very tough to beat in a close finish. And he uses the whip very little. It’s a shame he’s leaving us in mid April to ride at Keeneland and probably stay back east the rest of the year.

•     Santa Anita Park has made national news this past week but not for the reasons that they want. Since the beginning of the meet they have had 19 horses euthanized due to injuries suffered either while racing or in training. They shut down the track this week for two and a half days, brought in the best trackmen from around the country, and did every test imaginable to try and identify the problem, and they came up with nothing. They deemed the track 100% safe on Thursday and racing returned that day. Then on Friday, another horse broke down in a claiming race while leading on the back stretch (Eskenforadrink) and had to be put down, making it 20 for the meet. In comparison, they had 37 fatalities last year and that was for a whole year. The problem has got to be the rainfall in my humble opinion. In order to not lose the track completely, when the forecast is for rain, they “seal” the track and roll it so the rain will roll off it and down toward the rail. However, this makes the track almost as hard as concrete and this is extremely hard on a horse’s joints. No matter how sound a horse may be, just one wrong step on this type of surface, and they will have an issue. They have to seal the track, otherwise it would be much worse and the surface would become a quagmire very quickly. Then you would really see some breakdowns. The good news is that we are now in March and the rainy season will soon be at an end, so there is light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s just hope the light is not a freight train coming right at us from the other direction.

By Rod Young (Turfdom)

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