Thanks to its success against the overs and unders, Santa
Anita’s numbers are up this meet.
Rainfall through the first 67 days of the 85-day meet is
far under the norm, and Pick Six carryovers are well over the average. Add to
the mix fuller fields and it equates to increased handle, the lifeblood of the
“We’re right around 8.6 horses
per race, compared to 8.1 last meet, so I field sizes are up,” said director
of racing and racing secretary Mike Harlow. “The meet’s been pretty
successful in that it seems like we’ve kept a lot of momentum going, from
carryovers, to full fields to good weather. Everything’s pretty much clicked
Through 67 days, overall handle is up six percent,
according to Santa Anita president and general manager F. Jack Liebau.
“Off-track handle is up three percent, and on-track two percent,” Liebau
said. “Our total in California is up two percent, and the total out of state
handle increased 11 percent.”
Lack of rain has helped, too.
“Four or five years ago, we had 38 inches of rain during
our long meet,” pointed out track superintendent Steve Wood. “Normal for
this meet is 14 inches. Last year we had 13 inches. So far this year, we’ve
only had four inches, and that’s unreal.
“But because the weather has been hot, dry and windy,
it’s made maintenance of the track more difficult than if we’d have had our
normal amount of rain, because that’s what we’re prepared for ”” wet
weather, not dry.”
Harlow attributes much
of the success to an abundance of Pick Six carryovers. “We had 20 carryovers
through 66 days, which is unbelievable,” he noted.
Harlow said a delay in the start of 2-year-old racing also
has helped. The two-furlong dashes, while frowned upon by some horsemen, have
attracted full fields of 10.
“I waited a week later this year and I think it’s
helped as far as filling those races,” Harlow said. “All of the races filled
first time around and I think that’s the first time it’s happened. Last
year, the first couple baby races didn’t fill, so I think waiting a week later
was a benefit as far as having everybody ready to run.”
While the picture this meet is rosy, Harlow recognizes that
eventually, basic economics are likely to reach the point of diminishing
“Next year we’re going to have to pay for this year’s
success,” Harlow said. “If we have 20 carryovers this year and next year we
flip that and have 20 days of rain instead, we’re going to have to go against
some pretty strong numbers next year. Hopefully, we’ll have good weather
again, field sizes will remain strong, and we’ll be OK.
“But whenever you have a good meet, you have to go
against those numbers the following year, so it boils down to what have you done
for me lately.”
THE HOMESTRETCH: Royal Gem will miss Saturday’s
Santa Anita Derby due to a quarter crack in his right fore, while Hollywood
Prevue winner Fonz’s will skip the Arcadia race and take on Repent in
Saturday’s Illinois Derby at Sportsman’s Park. “He doesn’t care for the
Santa Anita surface,” trainer David LaCroix said of Fonz’s. “We’ll have
to face Repent, but I think it’s better than running in the Blue Grass,
and we’re not nominated to the Arkansas Derby and I don’t want to run in New
York. Maybe we can get to the Kentucky Derby through the back door.” . . . Bob
Baffert said he expects last year’s Wood winner and Kentucky Derby third-place
finisher Congaree to join his stable in Kentucky, “if I get there this
year.” Baffert’s last hope for the Run for the Roses is Danthebluegrassman,
scheduled to run in the Santa Anita Derby . . . This e-mail from Peader Flanagan
of Dublin, Ireland: “Nice piece on Came Home. FYI, Johannesburg will have prep
race for the Kentucky Derby at Lingfield Park in England shortly.” The racing
world is waiting with baited breath . . . As if the stewards don’t have enough
responsibilities, they now will be required to keep a record of every
advertisement when ads are allowed on jockeys’ silks and trousers beginning at
Bay Meadows on Sunday and at Hollywood Park on April 24. The California Horse
Racing Board approved the regulation last Nov. 30, and California’s Office of
Administrative Law gave its OK on Feb. 13. According to the CHRB, owners, racing
associations and racing fairs must submit a photo of the ad to the stewards 72
hours prior to the race. Jockeys must submit a copy of their advertisement prior
to the start of each race meet. A copy of a list that identifies the jockeys and
owners, and what they are advertising will be posted at the track office and on
the CHRB web site (www.chrb.ca.gov). Ad sizes on the silks can range up to 32
square inches on the chest area and 1.5 inches by four inches on each collar.
The next thing you know, ads will be allowed on the horses, and racing will
begin resembling the NASCAR circuit.