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Santa Anita News and Notes May 21

•    The streak is over!! After six weeks of racing and 7249 workouts on the main track, an unraced three year old gelding broke down after a morning gallop and had to be euthanized. Commander Coil, who began his workout schedule on May 10, was pulled up after a training session at Santa Anita on Friday morning, was vanned back to the stable area, but could not be saved. In no way was this a reflection on the safety of the race track. Some breakdowns are inevitable and unavoidable. Zero fatalities in this sport are an unrealistic goal. Santa Anita just may be the safest track in the country at this period of time. Based on horse inventory, it looks like the track will play out the meet with a three day per week schedule. They will race four days this week as they have special racing on Monday, Memorial Day, with three Grade 1 stakes. Management estimates they lost about 200 horses to Kentucky four weeks ago and though most of them are still there, they plan on returning for the summer Del Mar meet. Field size is about the same as it was before the three week shutdown in March, but that’s based on 3 days per week instead of 4, and that’s holding at 7.46 horses per race. That figure got hurt a bit on Sunday, as there were numerous scratches due to overnight rains and four turf races were cancelled. The increased purses of $10,000 per race for those races other than stakes, has been extended through June 9. The turf sprints coming down the hill have been cancelled for the remainder of this meet and will start up again in the fall. All races scheduled for the hill will be run at five furlongs on the turf. Nobody has hit the single ticket jackpot of the pick six since the meet began back on December 26, and the only way the wager has paid out is when the track announced a mandatory payout. Friday’s pot will be at $637,163 when racing resumes this week.

•    The only race of any real significance over the weekend was the Preakness at Pimlico and War of Will got his revenge by slipping through on the inside at the top of the lane and going on to win by a length and a quarter. Normally, drawing the one hole was not the place to be for War of Will, but the inside lanes were far and away the best at Pimlico on Saturday. Everfast, who went off at 25/1 and should have been at least 50/1, also ran well down on the inside to grab second by just a head over the fast closing Owendale who had to take the overland trip. In fact, based on the strength of the bias, Owendale just may have run the best race. The winner, who was involved in the Derby inquiry, certainly deserved the victory. From a morning line of 4/1, he was an overlay at 6/1 and paid $14.20 on the win price. It was amazing that he didn’t go down in the Derby when Maximum Security impeded him at the 5/16 pole. But he was athletic enough to stay up and avoid the mishap. And now it’s on to the Belmont in three weeks and it looks like he will be the lone runner to compete in all three races of the Triple Crown. Improbable went off as the 5/2 favorite, but once again did not kick it in when it counted. He needs some time off to regroup. Wagering on the Preakness stakes set a new record of $62.84 million and the total card was just a tad shy of $100 million, also a new record for the day. And there was no horse going for the Triple Crown like last year with Justify. Record handle was also recorded for the Derby this year, so the sport is not entirely dead just yet, at least not for the big events.

•      With four days of racing this week Santa Anita is loaded with stakes for the three day weekend. On Saturday they have three graded stakes headed up by the Grade 2 Triple Bend at 7 furlongs for older horses. They also have the Grade 2 Charles Whittingham at 9 furlongs on the turf for older horses, named for the famed trainer who ruled the stakes scene in Southern California for half of a century. Also on Saturday they have the Grade 3 Daytona stakes for older runners at five furlongs on the turf, and the weather should be good. On Sunday, the females take over with the Grade 2 Monrovia at five furlongs on the grass for older fillies/mares and then Flor de la Mar, Sneaking Out, and Colonial Creed will meet My Majestic Rose, an eastern shipper in the Grade 2 Summertime Oaks for 3 year old fillies at a mile and a sixteenth on the main track. Then on Monday the stars come out with the three Grade 1 events, the Gamely, the Gold Cup, and the Shoemaker Mile. The local sensation Vasilika will head up the Gamely, but trainer Chad Brown will have at least one in there, probably Rymska, and maybe another. The Gold Cup field will be headed up by Gift Box, and among the challengers will be Core Beliefs, Fight On, Mongolian Groom, and eastern shippers Vino Rosso and Lone Sailor. Prat has the mount on the latter and John Velasquez will come out to ride Vino. Rosario has the mount on Gift Box, who will probably be favored in the race at 10 furlongs on the main track. Eastern shipper Delta Prince, who won the Grade 1 Makers Mile at Keeneland will head up the field for the Shoemaker Mile and Rosario will be the pilot. Others in the race will be Blitzkreig, who just won the San Francisco Mile up at Golden Gate, Bowies Hero, Catapult, Desert Stone, Le Ken, Ohio, River Boyne, Sharp Samurai, and Synchrony. Should be some terrific racing for the weekend.

•    As the Eagles would sing, “there’s a new kid in town” and though this one has been here awhile, he hasn’t been on top of the rider standings in a long time, if ever. But Smokin’ Joe Talamo is now on top of the jockey standings with 14 wins for the spring/summer meet, one more than Flavien Prat. And a host of others are just one more back with 12 wins, i.e. Bejarano, Ruben Fuentes, and Tiago Pereira. The best win percentages are the same as last week, Desormeaux at 34% and Victor Espinoza at 32%. Doug O’Neill won one Sunday to be on top by five in the trainer standings, 16 to 11 over Richie Baltas.                                              
•    Gary and Mary West filed a Federal lawsuit this past week against the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission for their disqualification of Maximum Security in the Derby. Although I don’t think the horse should have been dq’d, and I am in the minority, (except for Andy Beyer and Bob Baffert),     the suit really doesn’t hold much water. It will probably be a long drawn out court battle and the only winners will be the lawyers who collect the fees. The Wests are billionaires so they can afford the battle. In Kentucky, as in California, the stewards have the final say, and that is it. “Security” did win the race and was the best horse on that given day, but he also clearly came out and impeded other horses at the top of the lane, but none of them were going to beat him anyways. But it did cost them a better placing and that’s the issue. They need to limit that race to 12 or 14 horses, but I doubt that will ever happen. Then West comes out and wants to make a $5 million wager with any of the four horses who were involved in the infraction, i.e. War of Will, Bodexpress, Long Range Toddy, or Country House. None of these have any early speed and would have zero chance of beating Security in a match race of any sort. Just because the 1% of the people in this country have the most money, doesn’t necessarily mean they have the best set of brains.

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