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Santa Anita News and Notes May 28

•    They went six straight weeks of racing, and over 7200 horses working on the main track at Santa Anita without an incident, but then in the last nine days they has three more fatalities at the Great Race Place. Kochees, a nine year old who raced for a $10,000 claiming tag was the latest victim, as he was pulled up after a race on Saturday and vanned off the track. They tried to stabilize his injury overnight, but they were forced to euthanize him on Sunday morning due to the loss of blood from the ordeal. They did have rain again this past week and they did seal the track once again, and by doing that the track did become more glib. By Monday, first condition allowance runners were winning at six furlongs in 1:09 and change. During the six weeks of safe racing those same runners were winning in 1:11 and change, showing how much quicker and harder the track is now. It may be just a coincidence, but the deep, tiring track sure seems to be a lot safer than the “fast” one. Regardless, the animal activist groups will be out in force once again and the news media is not missing a beat in this coverage. It certainly doesn’t help when HBO Real Sports does a 20 minute segment on this subject, and shows all the gory details of every spill, some of which happened 10 years ago. And then they show the slaughter houses where many of these thoroughbreds end up, or at least they did in the past. Today, it is a felony in the State of California to send a thoroughbred to a slaughter house. All of this is meant to show the public the wrong impression of horse racing. Always remember, groups like PETA don’t want safe racing, they want the sport completely abolished. It will be June 1st this week, and California will probably not see any more rain now until November, which means no more “sealed” tracks. The Management in California has enough safety precautions in place for safe racing. Only time will tell. The California Horse Racing Board stated this past week that all of the other racing plants in the state will adopt all of the medication and training restrictions that are in place now at Santa Anita. That may hurt field size in the short term, but it is the right thing to do. The main track continues to play fair regardless of how “tight” the track is. The turf course had quite a few days where early speed was dominating but this past week returned with closers having the advantage, once some moisture was put on the course by Mother Nature. Racing returns this Friday with their normal three day week and the 20 cent pick six pot has ballooned up to $869,975.

•    There was plenty of top quality racing over the three day weekend with numerous graded stakes each day. On Saturday, the Cal bred that Mark Glatt claimed for $50K, Eddie Haskell, once again showed his love for five furlongs on the grass by easily winning the Grade 3 Daytona stakes over Whatsontheagenda. He won by two going away in 55.49 and is the track record holder at this distance. Since the claim, he has banked over $304,000 for his connections. Marckies Water put in a huge late run to win the Grade 2 Chas. Whittingham stakes at 10 furlongs on the grass Saturday. He paid $6.80 to win and got up by ¾ of a length over United in a driving finish. Prime Attraction went off as the 8/5 favorite in this race and Desormeaux tried to rate him in 4th throughout. That didn’t work as this horse wants to be on the lead and given his head early in a race. He was no factor on this day. The winner is yet another Cal bred winning a graded stakes in “open” company. And then hot riding Norberto Arroyo got Air Strike up in the closing strides for a 12/1 upset in the Grade 2 Triple Bend stakes at 7 furlongs on the main track. Cistron, who was off at 5/1 ran too good to lose this race and just got nailed in the very last jump. Arroyo won three on the day and all were very long prices. On Monday they had three Grade 1 races and all three were exciting races. Vasilika, who Hollendorfer claimed for $40,000 back in February of 2018, won for the 12th time in 13 trips to the post and paid $4.20 as the favorite. She has banked more than $1 million since the claim. She was once again handled beautifully by Flavien Prat, who won four on Saturday, and then three more on Monday. Vasilika was bottled up in traffic most of the way, but Prat got her to the outside for the stretch run and she did what she always does, she finds the wire before anyone else does. She won by a length over the east coast invader Rymska, who also was bottled up in traffic much of the way. Even though they were closing on the turf throughout the weekend, jockey Florent Geroux proved that one can win on the front end if he can slow the pace down enough, and he did just that with Bolo for Carla Gaines, who was making just his second start since early 2017 in the Shoemaker Mile.         Off at 31/1 and the speed of the race, Geroux took Bolo right to the front from the get go, got away with slow fractions of 23.51 and 46.95 (at least slow for a Grade 1 on this course), then had plenty  left in the tank when the stretch runners attacked him at the 1/8 pole. He won by a length over River Boyne who ran a very strong race at 6/1 under Prat. And Bowies Hero was really finishing fast on the outside at 18/1 to get third. Put Bowies Hero on your Horses to Watch list, as he’s a soon winner no matter where he shows up next time, anywhere in the country for trainer Phil D’Amato. With Bolo winning this race, it was a masterful training job by Carla Gaines, who has been way down in the standings the last couple of years. She proved she can still train a top thoroughbred. Also on Monday they ran the Grade 1 Gold Cup for older runners at a mile and a quarter on the main track. Gift Box really looked like a slam dunk in this race and was 1 to 5 throughout much of the wagering. However, he got caught up in some fast early fractions and was in between horses much of the way. This all took its toll in the final furlong and Vino Rosso capitalized with a perfect trip on the outside, for a mild upset at $10.20 under John Velasquez. “Rosso” was making just his third start this year for trainer Todd Pletcher and this was his first Grade 1 of his career. He ran in all three of the Triple Crown races last year and won the Grade 2 Wood Memorial. If they ran this race 10 times, Gift Box would win this race 8 of those times, but racing luck has a lot to do with the outcome of horse races.

•     Joe Talamo’s stint as being the leading rider lasted just a few days. Flavien Prat won four on Saturday, then three more on Monday and is now in front of both Talamo and Bejarano by 8 winners, 23 to 15. Prat also moved his win percentage up to 29% and that is best among the top 20 riders, closely followed by Kent Desormeaux at 28%. Imagine how many races Desormeaux could actually win if he tried all the time. Doug O’Neill continues to lead the trainer standings by five over Richie Baltas, 19 to 14. John Sadler, who is having just an outstanding year, won two on Monday to move up to third with 12 winners. Jerry Hollendorfer, who is always in the top ten here on this circuit, is sending 20 horses to Belmont Park and most of them will stay there for the summer and race at Saratoga. He has two owners who want to race there and the opportunities for two year olds is more than what California has to offer. One of those owners is Larry Best and he already has stakes horses such as Rowayton, Brill, and the up and coming Oggonis at that track. Racing is already under way at the “Big Sandy” and they will host the Belmont Stakes in just two more weeks. They look to have 10 runners for the Belmont as this is written and the field will be headed up by Tacitus and War of Will. We will have more coverage of that race next week in our News and Notes.

By Rod Young (Turfdom)

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