The controversy that has surrounded the Santa Anita winter-spring racing meet continued right up until the end.
Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was ordered on Saturday by The Stronach Group, owners of Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields racetracks in California, to vacate his stalls at both locations within 72 hours. He has over 100 horses currently in training in California.
American Currency, trained by Hollendorfer, suffered a catastrophic injury working on the Santa Anita training track Saturday morning. He became the fourth horse trained by Hollendorfer and the 30th overall to suffer a catastrophic injury at Santa Anita since the meet began in December. His other Santa Anita equine fatalities were Psychedelicat, 2017 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Battle of Midway, and nine-year-old Kochees.
Two other horses trained by Hollendorfer suffered fatal injuries at Golden Gate Fields this winter.
A statement released by The Stronach Group said Hollendorfer is not welcome to train or race at any of their facilities.
“Individuals who do not embrace the new rules and safety measures that put horse and rider safety above all else, will have no place at any Stronach Group racetrack.”
The statement goes on to say: “We regret that Mr. Hollendorfer’s record in recent months at both Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields has become increasingly challenging and does not match the level of safety and accountability we demand. Effective, immediately, Mr. Hollendorfer is no longer welcome to stable, race, or train his horses at any of our facilities.”
The ramifications of this order were immediate. Los Alamitos owner and Chairman Dr. Edward C. Allred sent out a release Saturday evening saying he would welcome Hollendorfer to stable and race at Los Alamitos. Their summer thoroughbred meet begins this Saturday.
“Los Alamitos will gladly provide stalls to Jerry Hollendorfer, a Hall of Fame trainer and an unexcelled horseman,” said Allred. “Unless forbidden by the California Horse Racing Board, we intend to permit entries from Hollendorfer. We do not feel he should be a scapegoat for a problem which derives from a number of factors.”
New York Racing Association (NYRA) Racing Secretary Martin Panza, who previously worked as the Racing Secretary at the now defunct Hollywood Park, was in California last weekend and has made it clear that Hollendorfer, who currently has 16 stalls at Belmont Park and has applied for and been approved for stalls at Saratoga this summer, will be permitted to stable and race at both Belmont and Saratoga.
The NYRA’s director of communications, Pat McKenna, issued a release that in part read: “The safety protocols in place at NYRA, including veterinary inspection of all horses seeking to compete, extend to all trainers and their assistants and have been effective in improving the safety of racing and training.
“Mr. Hollendorfer is currently utilizing stall space at Belmont Park and was approved for stalls at Saratoga Race Course for the 2019 summer meet. NYRA will honor those agreements, and he will be permitted to stable and enter horses at both Belmont Park and Saratoga.”
What went wrong?
Hollendorfer has started over 33,500 horses and saddled 7,618 winners during a career that has spanned four decades. He trained and managed the careers of champions Blind Luck, Shared Belief and Songbird. He is a notoriously hard worker who is always one of the first to arrive on the backstretch each morning, usually around 3 a.m.
So what has been the cause of all of the problems this winter and spring?
As a long time horseplayer of California races and an owner who races in California, I study trainer patterns and have for decades. Those who bet SoCal races on a serious basis know that horses trained by Hollendorfer work once a week without fail. Trying to keep horses on his regimented pattern with all of the varying track conditions this winter may have been part of the problem.
I know from managing my own personal racing stable at Santa Anita that we have had to call many audibles due to track condition. Shortening distances of planned workouts, postponing a workout to another day, or switching a work from the main track to the training track were just a few of the late changes we were forced to make.
Some days the track was deep. Some days the track was deeper. And other days, especially the day after any track renovations, the track could be extremely deep.
Trying to stay on a regular work pattern proved to be difficult all meet long. Mix in the rain, the shutdown of racing in March, and the problems of getting races to fill, and trainers have had to become more flexible than ever before when it comes to working their stock.
The surfaces also made it difficult to gauge the fitness of the horses, especially those coming off layoffs.
Is Hollendorfer an aggressive trainer? Yes. Do I think he is a dangerous or careless trainer? Not at all. While concerns over the problems his stable dealt with at Santa Anita are well founded, are the Santa Anita house rules being used to deflect the attention from the track and its management and all of the turmoil created during its six-month long meeting towards Hollendorfer?
Jerry Hollendorfer didn’t break any rules. He does not have any rulings against him at this time. He has not forgotten how to train, as his four Stakes wins this year with Vasilika confirm.
Will he be allowed to stable and train at Del Mar this summer? I hope so. A statement will likely come out sometime this week.
Breeders’ Cup meeting
Among the topics in front of the Breeders’ Cup Board of Directors in their meeting this Thursday: Will the 2019 Breeders’ Cup races scheduled to be run at Santa Anita November 1-2 remain there? Or will they be moved?
In the event the Breeders’ Cup opts for a change of venue, the most likely alternative is Churchill Downs. Given the travel and lodging requirements, expect an announcement Thursday or shortly thereafter..
Lindo Report Play for Gaming Today: Churchill Downs, Thursday, Race 5: Demimondaine (No. 2). Trainer Steve Asmussen had this $675,000 yearling purchase fit enough to win debut around two turns. She cuts back to a one-turn mile and easily has the most upside in the field.
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