Popular track announcer Michael Wrona went to Santa Anita last Saturday to meet with Stronach Group Chief Operating Officer Tim Ritvo regarding a new contract since his current deal was soon to expire.
Instead, he found out Santa Anita had decided to let him go.
Wrona told Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman on Saturday he was “devastated to the core. To be put through the unprecedented and protracted audition process, and earn this opportunity, and have it taken away from me, it’s very hard to process.”
On Monday, Santa Anita announced that Frank Mirahmadi, one of the three announcers that Wrona beat out for the Santa Anita position in a months-long audition in 2016, will replace Wrona when the Santa Anita winter meet opens the day after Christmas. Mirahmadi is currently calling races at Aqueduct, and has also been the primary race caller at Golden Gate Fields, Oaklawn Park, and Monmouth Park in recent years.
In a press release from Santa Anita, Ritvo said “First and foremost, (Mirahmadi) is a fan and I think that is really important. He knows what our players want and he knows how to engage not only them, but newcomers as well. He’s well known and respected by our horsemen and we’re looking forward to having him do a number of promotional things in addition to calling the races.
Mirahmadi will conclude his race calling duties at Aqueduct on December 16.
In regards to Michael Wrona, Ritvo said: “Change is never easy and we want to acknowledge Michael’s contributions to Santa Anita over the past couple of years. We appreciate his hard work and dedication and we wish him well in his next assignment.”
Earlier in November Santa Anita decided to reorganize and combine some of their simulcast and Xpress Bet TV assets. Several on-air talent have been let go as a result, including Santa Anita simulcast host Megan Devine, and XBTV analysts Richard Migliore and Aaron Vercruysse.
Del Mar final week
It is closing week for the Del Mar Fall Racing Festival, and two Grade I races will highlight the final weekend. Both should have an East vs. West feel to them.
On Saturday, there’s the $300,000 Grade I Hollywood Derby on turf. The east coast contingent is expected to include Grade I Secretariat Stakes winner Carrick (trained by Tom Morley), Grade II Hill Prince winner Have At It (Christophe Clement) and Grade II Hall of Fame Stakes winner Raging Bull (Chad Brown). The local group is headed up by Grade II Twilight Derby winner River Boyne and Desert Stone. Should the predicted rain earlier in the week create a turf less than firm, Raging Bull may have a slight edge since his Hall of Fame victory came over a “yielding” Saratoga turf course.
On closing day Sunday, Grade I Rodeo Drive Stakes winner Vasilika figures to have her hands full with a slew of good eastern shippers.
The Chad Brown-trained trio Grade II Ballston Spa Stakes winner Quidura, Grade III Athenia Stakes winner Rymska, and Grade II Sands Point Stakes winner Uni are all probable, as is Daddy is a Legend (trained by George Weaver), who shipped into Del Mar last fall to win the Grade III Jimmy Durante Stakes.
Since Sunday is closing day, there will be mandatory payouts in the Pick Fives, Super High Five, and the Rainbow Pick Six that began the week with a jackpot carryover of $155,879.
Big names at Big A
The Grade I Cigar Mile Saturday at Aqueduct is likely to bring out Grade I UAE Derby winner Mendelssohn, who was beaten just four lengths by Accelerate in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs. Up-and-comer Copper Town jumps into the Graded Stakes ranks for the first time and should be able to keep Mendelssohn honest on the front end at the very least.
The Grade II Remsen Stakes will be the first two-turn race for Code of Honor, who had a brutal trip when finishing second in the Grade I Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park in October.
He skipped the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and remains one to watch as a possible Kentucky Derby candidate. Grade I Hopeful winner Mind Control could be the one to fear most after splitting the field in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in his last start.
The Grade III Go For Wand Stakes will be the first time Grade I winner Marley’s Freedom runs as far as one mile. The one-turn configuration should be perfect for her.
Lindo Report Play for Gaming Today: Del Mar, Thursday Race 6 – Mongolian Groom (No. 7). This gelding was not disgraced when entered way over his head November 10. He drops to proper level and can handle a wet track if the predicted rains come to pass.