Despite increased safety protocols regarding inspections prior to workouts, requiring permission to work, pre-race vet exams, and a review committee at entry time, Santa Anita’s opening weekend with several important Breeders’ Cup prep races was overshadowed by fatal injuries suffered by a three-year-old named Emtech in Saturday’s eighth race.
Emtech suffered fractures in both front legs and was euthanized on the track. Jockey Mario Gutierrez was uninjured.
There is an interesting background to Emtech. He debuted on October 6, 2018, and was actually a voided claim from a $75,000 Maiden-Claiming event due to unsoundness. According to the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB), Emtech worked on Oct 29 last year but failed an exam that would have removed him from the vets list and would have enabled him to be entered to race.
Emtech was sent to the sidelines and returned to training in the spring. He worked five furlongs on June 20 and passed the exam to get off the vet’s list. According to the CHRB, Emtech passed five physical examinations prior to his return to the races on July 6 at Los Alamitos (finishing seventh), and was claimed at Del Mar by trainer Steve Knapp when finishing third in a $25,000 “non-winners of two races” event August 8.
The three-year-old finished second at Del Mar for the Knapp stable in a starter Allowance August 25, then came back to beat that kind at Los Alamitos September 14.
There were several safety checks passed and a positive racing pattern prior to the fatal injuries suffered last weekend.
Omaha Beach vs. Shancelot
Saturday’s Grade I $300,000 Santa Anita Sprint Championship at six furlongs is usually the key West Coast prep for older horses for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. This year, two fast three-year-olds make it a must-watch event.
Omaha Beach, the morning line favorite for this year’s Kentucky Derby prior to being a late scratch due to a throat problem, comes off the layoff to face Shancelot, who was compromised by track bias at Saratoga racing on the slow rail when beaten in the Grade I Allen Jerkens.
Shancelot delivered the highest Beyer Speed Figure of any horse this year – 121 – winning the Grade II Amsterdam in his previous start. Shancelot may have the pace advantage, but Omaha Beach has the home track edge and his final work for this race was spectacular.
Keeneland frontloads its highly anticipated fall meet with its most important races. Fall Stars Weekend starts Friday and will include nine Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” races.
On Friday, the Grade I $400,000 Darley Alcibiades is for two-year-old fillies going 1-1/16 miles, while older horses will sprint six furlongs in the Grade II $200,000 Phoenix Stakes.
There are five Stakes on Saturday, four with Breeders’ Cup implications. The Grade I $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile will draw a big field with designs on the Breeders’ Cup Mile. The Grade I $500,000 Breeders’ Futurity for two-year-olds going 1-1/16 miles could produce a contender to face division leaders Dennis’ Moment and Eight Rings in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
The Grade I $400,000 First Lady for older fillies and mares will include trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s Vasilika, who was not allowed to run in the Rodeo Drive Stakes at Santa Anita last weekend due to the trainer’s current ban from The Stronach Group tracks. All eyes will be on Covfefe in the Grade II $250,000 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at six furlongs as she preps for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.
The horse to watch on Sunday at Keeneland is Elate, who will be favored in the nine-furlong Grade I $500,000 Spinster. Depending on how she runs, trainer Bill Mott is considering taking on the boys in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The Grade II $250,000 Bourbon Stakes at 1-1/16 miles on turf for two-year-olds will produce a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf contender.
Horseplayers from California will see many familiar names among the trainers at Keeneland, including Neil Drysdale, Richard Baltas, Phil D’Amato, Peter Miller, Keith Desormeaux, and Bob Hess Jr. Keep a close eye on the races at Keeneland this weekend as you start to formulate your Breeders’ Cup opinions.
Lindo Report Play for Gaming Today: Santa Anita Friday Race 7 – Platinum Equity (No. 6). This hard-knocking gelding is wheeled back in one week after a good third vs. much tougher opening day. He should get a nice pace-pressing trip and fits this $12,500 Starter Allowance condition perfectly.