A funny thing happened at Santa Anita last Saturday. The Arcadia track actually had a promotion that didn’t feature a food truck, craft brews, or a chili cook-off.
Santa Anita promoted the chance to see a Triple Crown winner in Justify along with a poster giveaway with the chance to get an autograph from Justify’s jockey – Hall of Famer Mike Smith.
Guess what? Horseplayers came out to the track!
On-track attendance was about 50 percent above your normal Saturday at 17,403, and since they were horse racing fans, they actually knew how to go to the windows and bet. Total handle for last Saturday was over $3.5 million above the corresponding Saturday from 2017.
The entry gates opened at 10 a.m., and by 10:05 some 3,000 fans lined up to get their free posters and a chance to get Smith’s autograph. Kudos to him for sticking around and signing each and every requested poster autograph.
The trickle down positive effect was a three-day Pick Six carryover of $821,858 going into closing day Sunday, which in turn generated $5.2 million in new Pick Six money.
When all is said and done, Santa Anita will end up well over $70 million above the 2017 figures for total meet handle. Congratulations to Santa Anita Racing Secretary Rick Hammerle for maintaining field size (an average of nearly eight horses per race) throughout the meet and to Santa Anita for providing a turf course that could handle a major increase in grass races.
Summer at Los Al
After six straight months of racing at Santa Anita, it is a welcome time for a change in venue.
Los Alamitos is known for its year-round Quarter Horse night racing programs, but ever since the close of Hollywood Park in 2013, Los Alamitos has been a key component in the continuity of the Southern California racing calendar by picking up thoroughbred racing dates to fill gaps between the major race meets at Santa Anita and Del Mar.
The Los Alamitos summer thoroughbred meet starts on Thursday. The 12-day meet will have a daily first post time of 1 p.m. Racing will be conducted on a Thursday through Sunday basis during the first and third weeks of the meet, with a special 4th of July card next Wednesday followed by a dark day Thursday, July 5.
It is true the overall quality of the daily races is a cut below what SoCal horseplayers see on a regular basis at Santa Anita and Del Mar, but it is also true that Los Alamitos has been a starting point for such stars as California Chrome, Shared Belief, and West Coast. Bob Baffert showcased a top Kentucky Derby contender in the Los Alamitos Futurity last December in McKinzie before he was sidelined by injury and passed the torch to a stablemate named Justify.
New to the Los Alamitos thoroughbred meet will be a $1 minimum for the early and late Pick Fours. The objective is to be consistent with the minimums for the Pick Fours on the night Quarter Horse program. Los Al also hopes to generate more attractive payoffs by not diluting the pools with an overabundance of $.50 tickets.
The other change from the current SoCal norm will be the Los Alamitos Pick Six. The $2 minimum remains intact, but unlike Santa Anita and Del Mar with their jackpot carryovers, Los Alamitos goes old school with 70% of the pool after takeout going to tickets with six wins and the remaining 30% going to tickets with five winners.
SoCal horsemen and racing fans owe Los Al a debt of gratitude for constructing much needed stalls to house thoroughbreds and for picking up the racing dates when first Hollywood Park and then Fairplex Park closed. As an owner, I will run my horses at Los Al when the opportunities exist and not wait for Del Mar. As a horseplayer, I plan on going to the windows throughout the meet.
Northern Cal scene
Summer also means a shift in the Northern California racing scene. Racing at Golden Gate ended two weeks ago and the annual stops on the NoCal Fair circuit are underway, with the Oak Tree at Pleasanton meet the current venue.
For horseplayers, it also means a different and higher percentage of takeout. The following is a list of wagers currently offered at both Golden Gate and the NoCal Fairs and the current takeout rates:
|Pick 3,4, 6||23.68%||25.02%|
|Pick 5 (early)||14%||25.02%|
|Pick 5 (late)||23.68%||25.02%|
Horseplayers should choose wagers wisely during the NoCal Fair season as some of the exotic pools can be very small and the takeout very high. That is not a profitable combination.
Play of the Week
Oak Tree at Pleasanton this Thursday, Race 6 – Amandana (post 4). Always a positive sign when a high percentage stable like the John Martin barn raises a horse in class off a loss. Filly should handle the switch to dirt and figures to fall into a nice pace-pressing trip.