Horse racing in Southern California was at a real crossroads back in 2013. Hollywood Park was scheduled to close for good at the end of the year, and the rumblings coming from Fairplex Park in Pomona were that live racing would cease in 2014 and stabling and training horses there would soon be coming to an end, too.
At a time when thoroughbred racing in So Cal needed it the most, Los Alamitos stepped up to the plate and came to the rescue.
Dr. Ed Allred, owner and operator of Los Alamitos, built hundreds of new stalls to make stabling available for additional thoroughbreds. He dipped into his own pocket to lengthen the five furlong Los Alamitos dirt track to a one mile oval. He picked up such important Stakes races as the formerly known Grade I Hollywood Starlet and Grade I Hollywood Futurity for 2-year-olds, the Grade II A Gleam Stakes for older fillies and mares, and the Grade III Swaps Stakes for 3-year-olds from Hollywood Park. He also created a special environment for California Chrome to develop and train without interruption as he was on the way to earning over $14 million.
What did he get in return? Probably the most difficult live racing dates on the entire So Cal circuit, having to race the two or three weeks prior to the popular Del Mar summer meet and the two or three weeks after that same meet. The CHRB also threw in two weeks in December just before Christmas and the opening of the huge Santa Anita winter meet.
With so many stables that point to those important Del Mar and Santa Anita meets, field sizes and quality races are often a struggle, and it is easy for horsemen and horseplayers to take a break and freshen up for the next big meet.
Don’t do it.
At the very least, Los Alamitos deserves the support from both the horseplayers and the horsemen in terms of participation on all levels. Los Al continues to offer the 14% takeout Pick Five each day, and the late Pick Four pools averaged nearly $400,000 during the last thoroughbred meet. Los Alamitos even puts on a Handicapping Contest on July 8 that offers multiple seats to the 2018 National Handicapping Championship (at Treasure Island) in Las Vegas.
The Orange County track will offer the $2 Pick Six under the previous payout splits with no jackpot takeout, meaning 70% of the pool will be paid out to those with six winners and the remaining 30% will be paid out to those tickets with five winners.
As a long time thoroughbred owner and horseplayer, the best way to show my appreciation for what Dr. Allred has done to keep the So Cal racing circuit viable on a year-long basis is to run my horses there and put my money thru the windows.
I plan to support the meet as best I can. If you are a fan of Southern California racing you should, too. Opening day is Thursday with a first post time of 2 p.m.
The Santa Anita meet that began way back on Dec. 26, 2016 finally ended on Tuesday. There were several highs and lows along the way.
The biggest highlight was the development of apprentice Evin Roman. The young rider was considered dangerous early in the winter meet, with several suspensions to prove the point. With advice from his fellow riders and his agent Tony Matos, Roman has quickly developed into a polished rider who at press time is in a battle for leading rider for the Spring/Summer portion of the Santa Anita meet.
The fact he has ridden recent winners for trainers like Jerry Hollendorfer, Peter Miller, and Bob Baffert suggests he could have a huge Del Mar meeting.
Lowlights include the loss of three racing days due to a lack of entries and the overall performance of the Santa Anita Stewards. The problem at the entry box became so severe Stronach Group C.O.O. Tim Ritvo was sent to California for an extended stay to try and find solutions.
I expect several changes when the racing returns to Santa Anita at the end of September. Ritvo understands the game and will make things happen.
As for the Santa Anita stewards, what can be said about their performance? They let a horse race on June 24 (My Italian Babbo) for an owner who was currently suspended and not allowed to participate. My Italian Babbo won, but the purse is being held until there is a review of what happened. Of course that does little for the horseplayers.
The stewards allowed new gelding Fly to Mars to run in Race 11 on June 10 when the public was only given 18 minutes notice about the gelding information and after all rolling bets had been completed. The race capped off a Pick Six Jackpot payoff for one lucky (or informed?) player. Again, it seems like the last priority was the protection of the horseplayers.
Mix in several questionable disqualifications and non-disqualifications and it can be safely said the stewards were inconsistent and below par all meet long.
Santa Anita on Tuesday, July 4, Race 9, No. 4 Lake Time. Filly was competitive with eventual Kentucky Oaks winner Abel Tasman last year and finds a good spot for comeback.