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Week 1 Del Mar News and Notes (Dec 20)

•    Santa Anita Park kicks off their 84th season of racing this Saturday, the 26th, with a block buster card of 11 races featuring six stakes, a new turf course, and a 10% increase in purses for the horsemen. And although the Corona virus continues to rage throughout the state of California, Santa Anita will open under some very tight protocols. Santa Anita expects to have plenty of large fields throughout the meet as in addition to the purse increases, the track will offer the “Sunshine Bonus,” which provides several incentives for out of state horses. The bonus includes a $3000 immediate payment and then a 35% bonus on top of that for their first five starts. Robert Falcone, a New York trainer, will be sending 25 horses out for the meet and there will be plenty of others. In addition, there’s a good chance that Golden Gate Fields will not open on the 26th due to the virus and they have 1300  horses on the grounds that have to run somewhere. Up at Golden Gate, 350 backside employees have tested positive out of 520 total employees. They have been sending their stock to Los Alamitos for the last three weeks and they have gone from 6.8 horses per race to 8.9 horses per race on average. Plus they have added an additional day of racing to their last two weeks. Santa Anita’s new turf course will be ready to go on opening day, and now the sprints will go at six or six and a half furlongs instead of five and a half furlongs without using the hill. The new course presents plenty of new options for the horsemen and many of those “milers” with early speed should covet that six and a half furlong distance. Blitzkreig comes to mind right off the top of my head. First post on Saturday will be at 11 AM and they will race Sunday, the 27th. The second week will be a four day race week Thursday through Sunday.

•    For horseplayers, it doesn’t get much better than opening day at Santa Anita, as they have some outstanding animals set to run 11 races, of which six are stakes, and five of them are graded. The headliner is the Malibu, and will be run for the 74th straight year for three year olds traveling seven furlongs on the main track, and is the final Grade 1 of the year in the U.S. Charlatan, who won the Arkansas Derby by six lengths back last May and is undefeated on the race track, heads up a crack field of runners. Nashville from the Steve Asmussen barn, who is also undefeated in three starts, with all three wins totaling 25 lengths, may be his biggest competitor. On Breeders Cup day at Keeneland, Nashville won a stakes at ¾ in 1:07.80 and earned a 102 Beyer figure. Mark Glatt’s Grade 1 winning sprinter, Collusion Illusion, is also in the lineup along with the very talented Independence Hall, Thousand Words, Express Train, and Strong Constitution amongst others. If there is a Grade 1 stakes on the turf, then you know trainer Chad Brown will have at least one entry, and probably more. Such is the case for the Grade 1 American Oaks for 3 year old fillies at 10 furlongs on the turf. The other Grade 1 is also for 3 year old fillies and that is the La Brea stakes at 7 furlongs on the main track. Older runners will go a mile and a sixteenth on the main track in the Grade 2 San Antonio stakes, while sophomore milers will go a flat mile on the turf in the Grade 2 Mathis Brothers Mile. The Lady of Shamrock stakes rounds out the card for three year old fillies at a mile on the turf course. Entries for Saturday’s card will be drawn this Monday, the 21st. Then there are two stakes lined up for Sunday on a 9 race card. It is a weekend of racing that you don’t want to miss.

•     The three major race tracks in California, Santa Anita, Del Mar, and Golden Gate Fields, effective January 1st, will run most of their stakes races Lasix free. The revised race day medication was agreed upon by the Thoroughbred Owners of California and the management of the three tracks. The California Horse Racing Board, which met on Dec. 17, agreed to the medication change. The lone exception to this new ruling is for Cal bred stakes for runners four years old and up. Other states such as Kentucky, New York, and Florida are expected to follow. Two year olds ran Lasix free throughout all of 2020 in California and there was hardly an issue.

By Rod Young (Turfdom)

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