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Turfdom News and Notes (Oct 27)

•     Santa Anita Park completed their five week fall meet this past Sunday with a fairly strong 11 race card. However, most of the meet they struggled with entries and short fields became quite common after the first two weeks. That won’t be the case with the upcoming Del Mar fall meet, as they average almost one full horse per race more than Santa Anita. Because they finished strong, the average amount of horses per race this year was 7.10 vs. 7.14 last year. The 20 cent single ticket jackpot of the pick six paid out on Sunday and the pot grew to over $2 million with a c/o of just $150K. More than $1.9 million was added on Sunday and the payout for the 20 cent wager was a very nice $56,657. The late pick five paid out at $10,350 for the popular 50 cent wager. The other good news for the meet was that they didn’t have a single fatality, either in the afternoon racing or the morning training for the entire meet. Even with the pandemic, there was more good news at Santa Anita than bad news. Del Mar opens this Saturday, the 31st, with what they call their “Bing Crosby” season, and will run for five weeks. First post will be at 12:30 and they will offer a nine race card highlighted by the Kathryn Crosby stakes for fillies and mares at a mile on the turf for a $75,000 purse.

•    They ran two graded stakes over the weekend, the Grade 3 Ken Maddy stakes on Saturday and the Grade 2 Goldikova stakes on Sunday. Only six went to the post in the Ken Maddy, named for the former Senator in California that did so much for the horse racing industry, and the sophomore filly Biddy Duke got the money in a 9/1 upset as the 4/5 favorite Midnight Magic missed the start and was never in the race. Biddy Duke did break alertly and dueled for the lead with Jo Jo Air and out gamed her to the wire. Claimed for $40,000 by trainer Doug O’Neill back on May 23, she hasn’t run a bad race since and raised her bankroll to $280K. She made our Horses to Watch listing two races back and though she is just a tad over 14 hands, this one is all heart. Jo Jo Air ran a strong second and the come backing An Eddie Surprise was a good third at 9/1. On Sunday, Maxim Rate easily won the Grade 2 Goldikova at a mile on the turf for older fillies and mares, with a strong run at the ¼ pole and cruised on home to win by two and a half, and it was even easier than the final separation. She paid $6.80 on the front end and was a bit of an overlay as the 8/5 morning line favorite. Raymundos Secret under Prat went off as the even money favorite, had it all her own way on the front end, but had little to offer in the drive and was a well beaten 4th. The winner is aiming at the Grade 1 Matriarch stakes at Del Mar on Nov. 29 and she will be a major player.

•    Flavien Prat won the riding title by four over Juan Hernandez, 27 to 23, even though he missed three days of riding while at Keeneland. Hernandez, the transplant down from Golden Gate Fields, proved he belonged here with a strong meet and has become an excellent turf rider, especially in route races while on the lead, something not all that easy to do. Umberto Rispoli was a distant third with 14 victories and Prat had by far the best win percentage at 27% for the meet. Bob Baffert and Peter Miller both came into Sunday with 11 wins apiece for the training title and neither won on Sunday, so they ended up in a tie for the meet. Doug O’Neill was just one back with 10 wins. Baffert had the best win percentage as usual, (30%) as he won with a number of first time starters, who if they stay healthy, will be major players as sophomores. Vladimir Cerin, Craig Lewis, and Jeff Mullins all had strong meets.

•    The Breeders Cup is less than two weeks away (Nov. 6/7) and Baffert had his big guns out over the weekend for drills at Santa Anita. Kentucky Derby winner Authentic breezed 7/8 in a sharp 1:24.40 and it’s amazing how Baffert has been able to keep this one razor sharp, week after week all year long. He will be one of the choices in the Classic along with Improbable, who went 7/8 in 1:25 flat and is on a three race win streak, all Grade Ones. He will also be in the Classic along with Maximum Security who went 5/8 in 59.80 and hardly took a deep breath. It’s been a long time since any trainer had three stronger bullets in their holster for this race. I still like Tiz the Law to get the money in this race. The undefeated filly, Princess Noor, who will go in the Juvenile Fillies race on Friday, went a bullet ¾ in 1:11.80 while Gamine, who is headed for the Filly and Mare sprint tuned up with a bullet 58.80 for five furlongs. The latter two are also in the Baffert camp. Richard Mandella’s very talented United, who is headed for the B/C Turf, went a mile in a solid 1:37.80 under Flavien Prat, who will have the mount for the Cup. Who can forget United’s exceptional run last year in the Cup, where he ran Horse of the Year,  Bricks and Mortar, to a nose loss at 51/1. Other runners who will go in the Cup worked over the weekend here as Mark Glatt’s Sharp Samurai, (B/C Dirt Mile), breezed 5/8 in 1:00 flat and Tim Yakteen’s Mucho Unusual (B/C Filly and Mare Turf) went 5/8 in 1:00.60. One horse that won’t make it to the Cup this year is Peter Miller’s brilliant miler Mo Forza, who sustained a minor injury and has been put on the shelf until 2021. Miller took it pretty hard as this one had come back with two outstanding wins this year in two starts, the Del Mar Mile and the City of Hope Mile. Miller will still have four entries in various races for the Cup.

•     The California Horse Racing Board announced their calendar for the 2021 season for Southern California racing and there are some changes. Santa Anita opens their long Winter/Spring meet on December 26 as usual, but they lost a week this year as compared to last. They will run till June 22 and then Los Alamitos gets two weeks before Del Mar opens a week earlier and picks up the week Santa Anita doesn’t get, by opening on July 7th. Del Mar will run through Sept. 7 and the reasoning given by the Board, was that Del Mar provides a better product and they have a much better safety record than Santa Anita. That did not go over very well with the Stronach Group as you can imagine. Los Alamitos is now also back to eight weeks of racing as they now have three weeks in September, which they did not have in 2020. Then the Fall meets at Santa Anita and Del Mar each have five weeks and then Los Alamitos gets two weeks in December to the 14th. Then there is no racing until the day after Xmas, Dec. 26, when it starts all over again. All good, but based on the horse population in the state and the size of the purses vs. other states, there is still too much racing in California. Too many horses don’t get the breaks that are needed throughout the year. However, with Covid19 still going strong, while other sports have had to limit their schedules or even shut down, racing has found a way to endure and deal with the pandemic, and that’s a good thing.

by Rod Young (Turfdom)


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