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Santa Anita News and Notes September 19

•    Santa Anita Park, which originally opened its doors on Christmas Day in 1934, kicks off its 23-day Autumn meet a week from Friday, Sept. 27. The track has invested more than $5 million for new suites in both the club house and the turf club, plus they installed a new state of the art LED infield video board to dramatically improve brightness and clarity. Santa Anita will host the world championship Breeders’ Cup for two days on November 1st and 2nd for the 10th time since the races have been introduced. Frank Mirahmadi, the voice of Monmouth Park, will return to call the races. The track will run a number of Breeders’ Cup prep races starting on Friday with a Grade 2 plus two Grade 1’s.

•    Stormy Liberal, who was voted champion turf horse in the country for 2018, will be in the lineup for the Eddie D. stakes on opening day, a five furlong sprint on the turf. A 7 year old gelding, “Stormy” is winless in five trips to the post but has been fairly close in all of those races. Trained by Peter Miller, “Stormy” will have his hands full with Mr. Vargas, who beat him in the Green Flash Handicap at Del Mar this past summer, along with Eddie Haskell, the 5/8 turf specialist from the Mark Glatt barn. The Eddie D stakes has always been run at six and a half down the hill, but the track has cancelled those races due to the dirt crossover and the chance that horses might injure themselves rather than staying on one surface all the way. However, they will be trying some five and a half furlong turf sprints this meet, something they have never done before at this track. Also on opening day will be the Grade 1 American Pharoah stakes at a mile and a sixteenth on the main track for two year olds. Baffert’s Eight Rings, who was heavily favored in the Del Mar Futurity, but ducked out and unseated Van Dyke just after the start, may go favored in his first try going two turns. He adds blinkers for this race and worked with them when he went an easy half in 48.80 on Sept. 12. Nucky, who won the Futurity at 35/1 for Peter Miller, will also be in the race but his barn mate, Wrecking Crew, who was second in the Futurity, will not make the race and will train up to the Cup. Bast, who ran away with the Del Mar Debutante, should be heavily favored in the other Grade 1, the Chandelier stakes for two year old fillies at a mile and a sixteenth. And though she ran 7 lengths faster than the colts down at Del Mar on the same day, this will be her first start going two turns, and until they actually do it, you never know for sure.

•    Saturday, the 28th, will have a block buster card. The Grade 2 John Henry Turf Championship at a mile and a quarter on the turf for older runners should have a large field headed up by Prince Earl. The Grade 1 Rodeo Drive stakes, also at 10 furlongs on the grass, this time for older fillies and mares, will have the highly talented Vasilika, should they allow Jerry Hollendorfer to run at this track (more on that later). And then the Grade 1 Awesome Again stakes for older handicap horses at 9 furlongs on the main, a prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, will have McKinzie in the field, the recent winner of the Grade 1 Whitney back at Saratoga. McKinzie worked 5/8 in 59.80 on this track Sept. 16. Higher Power, who won the Pacific Classic at Del Mar this summer will probably train up to the Cup for trainer John Sadler. Improbable, who went favored in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, will stay with his own age group for now, and will travel back east for the Pennsylvania Derby this Saturday, where he will probably be favored. Then on Sunday they will run the Grade 1 Zenyatta stakes for older fillies and mares on the main track at a mile and a sixteenth. Secret Spice, Ollie’s Candy, and Anonymity head up that field.

•    Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is currently banned from training at Santa Anita or running any horses in his name, however, that could change before the start of the meet, something the Stronach Group will fight vigorously. The Dorf was granted a preliminary injunction to race at Del Mar, but then was denied the very same injuction to race at Golden Gate when they opened their meet on August 15 in northern California. The Stronach Group owns both Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields. The Dorf was banned from the Stronach Group tracks this past year for having four fatalities occur in his care at Santa Anita in both training and racing. So far, the track has had 31 year to date. On the Santa Anita web site, the management of Santa Anita actually compliments the California Court System for banning the Dorf the right to train at Golden Gate. They state that all individuals who stable, race, or train at their tracks must match the level of safety and accountability that they demand. Where was that safety and accountability last January and February when 2/3 of the fatalities occurred because they ran an unsafe racing surface. Sure the Dorf ran some unsound horses that were questionable, but so did dozens of other trainers. Just because they fired their track superintendent to save a few bucks and didn’t properly seal the racing surface during the rainy season, the trainer is the problem? After Saratoga closed this past month, Belmont Park had 7 fatalities in their first 11 days of the meet, but they didn’t rule any trainers off the grounds. No doubt about it, Hollendorfer is the scapegoat for Santa Anita’s issues. The courts will eventually decide the fate of trainer Jerry Hollendorfer but so far he has pretty much gotten the “shaft” from the owners of the California race tracks.

by Rod Young (Turfdom)

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