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Turfdom's Santa Anita Free Handicapping News and Notes Week 1

•     Santa Anita kicked off their five week Fall meet this past Friday and had strong cards throughout the weekend. The main track played fair for the first three days but the times were very slow, as the track had been dug up to play that way purposely, much like Del Mar was in their Summer meet. The turf course favored closers on Friday, but played fair for the weekend. Long shots dominated the card on Sunday with the early pick four paying $33,046 for a 50 cent ticket and only one player hit the 50 cent pick five, resulting in a payoff of $351,257. The pick six carries over into Thursday this week at $80,091 and the single ticket jackpot is now up to $71,434. Leading rider Flavian Prat won 4 races on Saturday and 3 of them were of the Grade 1 variety, while Corey Nakatani got the hat trick. This week starts a five day race week with special Monday racing in honor of Columbus, the supposed founder of America.                                                     
•    There was a plethora of stakes races over the weekend as Saturday was billed as “Super Saturday”, with five Grade 1 preps for the Breeders Cup five weeks away. However, many of the stars stayed home as trainers seem to be more comfortable training up to the big races than running in preps. It all started on Friday with the Grade 3 Eddie D. stakes at six and a half down the hill, named for one of the greatest jockeys of all time, Eddie Delahousaye. Mr. Roary ($47.60), an on top selection by Turfdom, came roaring from behind and got up in the late stages to win by a neck over an unlucky Tribalist. Guns Loaded was also a strong contender in this race but unseated Bejarano at the start. Bejarano was unhurt and rode over the weekend. Om, the even money favorite ran third, and simply isn’t quite as good as he was last year. The turf course played very fast and the time was 1:11.99 down the hill. The most impressive performance on Saturday had to be Bolt d’Oro winning the Grade 1 FrontRunner stakes for two year olds. He simply crushed a good field to remain undefeated, made our HTW list, and is a “single” on B/C Day if they can keep him healthy and happy. His time was 14 lengths faster than the undefeated filly Moonshine Memories, who ran just 30 minutes before him at the same distance. He won by 8 open lengths, was a gift at 4 to 5, and is the real deal. The Grade 1 Awesome Again stakes for older runners was a weak Grade 1with most of the stars skipping the race. Mubtaahij, a new arrival in the Baffert barn got the money, as he staggered home in 1:51.31, running the final 1/8th in a very slow 13.57 seconds. Arrogate, West Coast, Collected, and Gun Runner all skipped this race and will train up to the Classic. The winner has now won over $4 million, but he can’t run with any of the horses listed above. The Grade 1 Rodeo Drive was also a weak race as Avenge ($6.00) got the money, but she was looking for a place to lay down the final sixteenth. She won by ¾ of a length beating a bunch of allowance horses in the process. The deserving favorite at even money was Goodyearforroses, but Nakatani had her way too close to the pace and she had nothing in the drive. None of these will have any chance in the B/C Filly and Mare Turf  vs. the Euros. Moonshine Memories rated kindly to win the Chandelier stakes for two year old fillies and beat a pretty good field. But the time was very slow and it’s hard to get too excited about her for the B/C. The real Grade 1 farce for the day was the Zenyatta stakes on the main track for older fillies and mares. Even with Stellar Wind skipping this race, at entry time this was going to be a good race. But then Saturday morning they scratched Rockport Bay, the quick sprinter who would have set the pace. A little while later they scratched Shenandoah Queen, another runner with early speed. Now it was just a 4 horse race with one lone speed horse, Paradise Woods. She went right to the front and the race was over into the clubhouse turn. Faithfully, our choice in the race, had no chance to come from behind, although she did put in a gallant effort and ran second. I don’t see any of these winning the B/C Distaff for older fillies/mares. Then on Sunday, jockey Tyler Baze tried to get Itsinthepost beat again down on the inside in the Grade 2 John Henry at 10 furlongs on the grass, but did get him out just in time to win by a head. Prime Attraction, at 7/1, almost stole the race on the front end. Hunt and Chicago Style, the other contenders just didn’t fire. Nothing to follow from these.                                                         
•    As mentioned earlier, they will race five days this week and the headliner on Saturday is the Grade 1 Sprint Championship at six furlongs on the main track. A strong field is signed up for the race headed by Ransom the Moon, who has become a real star since arriving in the D’Amato barn, Roy H, who won a big stakes back east for Peter Miller, and American Anthem, a solid sprinter from the Baffert barn who just worked a half in 46.60, fastest of 99 at the distance. Others with a chance in the race are Moe Candy, Giant Expectations, the good Cal bred Mr. Hinx, along with Well Measured. Peter Miller said Calculator will skip this race due to foot issues. The other two stakes on the Saturday card are the Obviously Mile, for older runners on the lawn, and the Swingtime stakes for older fillies/mares at a mile on the grass. On Sunday is the Grade 3 L.A. Woman at six furlongs and then two year olds have two ungraded stakes at a mile on the grass for Columbus Day.                                      
•    Other notes of interest: Santa Anita has gone to single day scratches, meaning no scratches will be taken the day before the race, only the morning of the race. As a handicapper who has to put out his selections in advance, this is a real negative. As we all know, late scratches can change the complexity of the race, just look at the Zenyatta stakes on Saturday where two speedballs were late scratches, leaving a single lone front runner. Now I know scratches can be done at any time, even a vet scratch at the gate, but there are too many late scratches as it is, and the stewards just don’t seem to be tough enough on the trainers allowing this to happen. If a horse enters to race, they should race.                                                 
•    The heart and soul of horse racing are those of us who support the game by wagering. Without people betting, there would be no horse racing in America. The purse money for the owners/trainers, the takeout for the host track, and the money going to the state and local municipalities all come from the wagering dollar. But way too often the plight of the gambler is overlooked in this sport and we the player, get the short end of the stick. Well this past week, we won one. The U.S Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service announced that under the new regulations, that have to be put in place by all tracks by Nov. 14, they will consider the entire investment one makes on any type of wager for withholding for tax purposes. Before it was based on just the single ticket. This will allow horseplayers to keep more of their winnings and in turn, the tracks should generate more handle. Of course, more handle is good for everyone, especially the owners/trainers which allow for higher purses. Some independent estimates say this can result in an increase of 10% annually in handle, or $1 billion dollars. So just remember, when you hit that “signer”, bring all your tickets to the window that constitute that wager, not just the winning ticket.


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