Santa Anita declines recommendation to shut down

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On Sunday morning, the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) recommended that Santa Anita shut down for the remainder of their spring meet, a total of seven race days.

The recommendation followed a report that Formal Dude had suffered a broken pelvis in the final race on Saturday and had to be euthanized. An unraced two-year-old named Derby River fractured a shoulder galloping last Wednesday and also had to be put down.  

Santa Anita declined the recommendation.

Sunday afternoon, Truffalino, trained by Hall of Famer Richard Mandella, was eased and pulled up in the stretch of the third race. Jockey Joe Talamo quickly dismounted, but shortly thereafter, Truffalino collapsed and died from an apparent heart attack. She did not appear to have any physical injury prior to her collapse. 

After six weeks of racing and training with no equine fatalities due to injury, there have been six equine fatalities since May 17 and 29 overall since the meet started in December. 

In a statement prepared Sunday morning, the CHRB recommended the track suspend the remaining days of its meet, which is scheduled to end June 23. The CHRB also asked that Santa Anita remain open for training during that time, citing the belief it would provide the industry time to fully implement announced safety measures.

A closure of Santa Anita would have also meant an immediate stabling problem if training were  discontinued, as the Del Mar backstretch is not available since the San Diego County Fair is currently open and runs through the 4th of July. The Del Mar racetrack barn area will open on July 11.

After the incident in Sunday’s third race, the horses were in the post parade for Race 4 when part of the field was directed back into the tunnel that leads from the track to the saddling paddock. Speculation was that the card may be cancelled at that point, but the field returned to the track a couple of minutes later and the rest of the races were conducted as scheduled without incident.

Sunday evening, The Stronach Group, owners of Santa Anita, issued a prepared statement which said “We are collectively working on behalf of everyone in the sport — grooms, hot walkers, jockeys, exercise riders, starters, trainers, owners, track managers, and every horse wearing a bridle and a saddle – to reform and improve racing every day. After extensive consultation among all partners, Santa Anita Park will stay open through the end of its meet to see those reforms through.”

The CHRB does not have the authority to suspend a race meet or remove race dates from a current meet without the approval of the track or without holding a public hearing that requires a 10-day notification period.

On Monday, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) issued a statement saying: “Santa Anita should have suspended racing in March after 23 horses died over a three-month stretch to open the season. Now that six more horses have died in just 23 days — 29 total deaths this season — the track should suspend racing immediately.”

Breeders’ Cup decision looms

The 2019 Breeders’ Cup World Championships are scheduled to be run at Santa Anita on November 1-2.  There is speculation those championships could be relocated, with Churchill Downs the most viable option.

Breeders’ Cup officials have a meeting scheduled for June 27.  If there is to be a change in venue, look for an announcement by the end of this month. 

Trainer suspended

The CHRB suspended trainer Mike Pender for 30 days for “violations of animal welfare and trainer insurer rules.”

Pender was charged with “knowingly” working a horse at Santa Anita on March 24 after a vet exam disclosed an injury.  He then entered the horse — New Karma — to race at Golden Gate Fields on April 6.  New Karma was a vet scratch from the race.

Big Churchill card

Churchill Downs has two key Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” races Saturday night.

The $600,000 Grade II Stephen Foster winner will secure a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, while the winner of the $250,000 Grade II Fleur de Lis offers a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

Seeking the Soul and Yoshida look like the ones to beat in the Stephen Foster. Tom’s d’Etat, Alkahaatam, King Zachary, Quip, and Thirstforlife are among those also expected to compete.

Elate has been a bit of a disappointment so far this year, but she has a chance to get back on track in the Fleur de Lis. Course specialist Blue Prize may be her biggest adversary, and the improving She’s a Julie should also be considered a major player.

Bias at Belmont?

The racing was top notch throughout the Belmont Stakes Festival last week, but a strong inside bias on a very quick Belmont main track helped some horses and hurt some others.

Friday, Catalina Cruiser won the Grade II True North Stakes despite racing in traffic while on the slower outside. He had to tip wider yet to secure a clear path for the stretch run and kept to his task to get up nearing the wire. This victory was even better than it looks on paper, especially when you consider the 6-1/2 furlong trip may have been a bit short for his best. 

Saturday, the most obvious example of a horse being hurt by the track bias was favored Tacitus in the Belmont Stakes. He drew the far outside post, and jockey Jose Ortiz was forced three or four-wide throughout. Tacitus finished gamely to be beaten just a length by perfect-tripper Sir Winston. He lost more ground than he was beaten and should be respected wherever he shows up next.

NorCal Fair season

Pleasanton opens on Friday and is the first stop for the Northern California fair season.  A reminder to horseplayers: The takeout rates during the fair season are much higher than when racing is conducted at Golden Gate.  

Win/Place/Show (15.43 percent up to 16.77), Exactas and Daily Doubles (22.68 percent to 24.02), and Trifectas, Superfectas, Pick Threes, Pick Fours, and Pick Fives (23.68 percent to 25.02) are all more expensive during the NorCal Fair season, so wager carefully.

Lindo Report Play for Gaming Today: Santa Anita Friday, race 7:  Gypsy Blu (No. 7). Cal-bred filly drops out of the Stakes ranks and is undefeated sprinting on turf.  She shortens back up to a sprint here and can make the last run.

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About the Author

Jon Lindo

Jon Lindo is a syndicated handicapper, long-time thoroughbred owner, and publisher of the Lindo Report. Jon is also a regular contributor to Race Day Las Vegas Radio show on KSHP 1400 in Las Vegas and Thoroughbred Los Angeles Radio show, heard in Las Vegas at thoroughbredla.com.

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