Live racing is scheduled to resume at Santa Anita Friday with an eight-race card (five dirt races and three turf races) and a first post time of 1 p.m. Pacific.
Racing was shut down at the Arcadia track on March 5 to inspect, evaluate, and repair the track following 22 equine fatalities since the meet started in December 26. There have been several changes in protocol and several more proposed changes that could be approved at the monthly California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) meeting on Thursday that could be in play immediately. The “new normal” for Santa Anita includes the following increased safety steps prior to a race:
• Enhanced monitoring for entries that includes identifying horses requiring additional scrutiny by association veterinarians following the taking of entries. Horse’s records will be studied and some runners could undergo enhanced vet checks in addition to the normal morning race-day examinations already in place.
• Security surveillance times for horses entered have been extended from 24 hours to 48 hours in advance. This rule applies to horses stabled at Santa Anita, Golden Gate, San Luis Rey, and Los Alamitos.
• Out of state horses are required to be on the grounds 48 hours in advance.
On Sunday morning when entries were taken for this Friday, the track briefly implemented a policy requiring private veterinarians to sign forms to accompany entries stating that the horses under their care are fit to race. Officials rescinded the policy later that morning. The policy had not been discussed publicly prior to the announcement.
Included in the new “house rules” that could go into effect pending approval at the Thursday CHRB meeting:
• Reduction of the maximum dose of the anti-bleeding medication Lasix from the current 10cc to 5cc.
• Restricting a jockey’s use of the whip to correctional or safety purposes only (the Jockey’s Guild is still negotiating with Santa Anita on this proposal).
The changes in protocol are well intended with the safety of the horses and jockeys the top priority. It won’t just be the horse industry watching when the action returns on Friday, so on behalf of the horses, jockeys, exercise riders, grooms, parking lot attendants, ushers, ticket takers, bartenders, food service providers, owners, trainers, and the horseplayers, here’s hoping the racing is great and everyone comes back safe.
Florida Derby Saturday
The $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, always a key Kentucky Derby prep, will feature five of the first six finishers in last month’s Fountain of Youth Stakes at the same venue.
Hidden Scroll was the beaten favorite when he finished fourth behind winner Code of Honor, runner-up Bourbon War, and third-place finisher Vekoma while finishing ahead of Union’s Destiny (sixth). Hidden Scroll got into a suicidal pace duel with huge long shot Gladiator King (who finished last) in the Fountain of Youth before fading, but that effort was flattered when Gladiator King rebounded to wire the field in the six-furlong Gr. III Hutcheson at Gulfstream last weekend.
Hidden Scroll has to prove he can handle the nine-furlong distance, but the pace scenario on Saturday should be much more to his liking. He could become a very elusive target in the Florida Derby, especially if early speed has done well earlier on the 14-race card. Pay attention – it could pay dividends.
Flying a bit under the radar is the $12 million Gr. I Dubai World Cup from Meydan City that will be run on Saturday morning. The most lucrative race in the world for older horses is run at about 10 furlongs on dirt, and the Meydan City track tends to favor those with speed.
Defending champ Thunder Snow should be tough to catch, with a host of U.S. horses — including Yoshida (trained by Bill Mott), Audible (Todd Pletcher), Seeking the Soul (Dallas Stewart), and Gunnevera (Antonio Sano) — all capable of making a big impact.
The U.S. will be well represented in several other major races on the Dubai World Cup undercard. Two-time defending Breeders Cup Sprint winner Roy H (Peter Miller) faces Promises Fulfilled (Dale Romans) and Imperial Hint (Luis Carvajal Jr.) in the Gr. I $2.5 million Golden Shaheen at six furlongs. Stubbins (Doug O’Neill) and Gray Magician (Peter Miller) are looking for Kentucky Derby qualifying points in the $2.5 million Gr. II UAE Derby going nine furlongs.
Two-time defending Breeders Cup Turf Sprint winner Stormy Liberal (Peter Miller), stablemate Belvoir Bay, and Caribou Club (Tom Proctor) meet in the $2 million Gr. I Al Quoz Sprint going six furlongs on turf. Coal Front (Todd Pletcher) and True Timber (Kiaran McLaughlin) face off in the $1.5 million Gr. II Godolphin Mile.
War of Will update
In a year where the three-year-olds have been taking turns in Derby preps around the country, War of Will’s victories in the Lecomte and Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds made him the most consistent member of his crop. In Saturday’s Gr. II Louisiana Derby, however, War of Will appeared to have his hind end slip a few jumps out of the gate. He recovered to race in a contending position, but when push came to shove around the far turn he had nothing to give and finished a well beaten ninth.
His trainer Mark Casse reported War of Will was “off significantly” in his right hind while cooling out after the race, but was much better on Sunday morning. With six weeks from the Louisiana Derby to the Kentucky Derby, his connections have not ruled out the trip to Churchill Downs yet. This can hardly be considered an ideal prep, though.
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