The start of the Santa Anita Winter/Spring meet the day after Christmas signals the New Year as far as the Southern California horse racing calendar goes. This is also the first winter meet since top Stronach Group executive Tim Ritvo arrived at Santa Anita from Florida, so there will be plenty of changes starting this week.
First is the wagering menu.
Santa Anita has added a rolling $1 Super High Five with carryovers to the next Super High Five on any race with eight betting interests or more. They have lowered the minimum bet amount on Trifectas to $.50. There is also a new Pick Five on the last five races each day to go with the Pick Five on the first five races.
What do these wagers mean? On your typical weekday card of eight races, my initial fear is exotic wagering overload.
The rolling Daily Doubles, Pick Threes, and Super High Fives all kick off in the first race. The first of two Pick Fours starts in Race 2. On weekdays Race 3 starts the jackpot carryover Pick Six. Race 4 then kicks off the late Pick Five (with a 23.68% takeout, not the reduced 14% takeout of the early Pick Five). Up next is the start of the late Pick Four in Race 5. You get the drift.
All of these rolling wagers give the horseplayer plenty of options of when to jump in depending on what race sequence he or she likes on each day’s card. But since these rolling wagers take time to complete, will the pools in those wagers become diluted since there could be less “churn” (reinvesting money returned from previous wagers)?
Will the Pick Six, which became so popular in SoCal for players not only in California but across the nation, suffer the biggest drop in handle?
Horseplayers should keep a close eye on the pool totals when the meet starts on Tuesday. Huge wagering pools are one of the big attractions to wagering at SA. The $1 million guaranteed pool for the late Pick 4 on opening day is a good example.
I do believe Santa Anita will be watching closely and if the wagering menu has an adverse effect corrective action will be taken quickly.
New faces at SA
There will be several new faces in the jock’s room and on the trainer’s stand at Santa Anita this winter.
Jockey Rajiv Maragh has relocated from New York and will ride regularly in SoCal for the first time. Alonso Quinonez, who rode in California for years, has returned from the Midwest starting with the Santa Anita meet.
Leaving at the start of January to join the Oaklawn Park jockey colony will be Gary Stevens and Edwin Maldonado. The latter figures to be busy riding for local trainers Doug O’Neill and Peter Miller as both will have a strings at Oaklawn Park for the first time.
As for the trainers, George Weaver enjoyed shipping to the Del Mar fall meeting so much he has decided to keep a string of horses out west for the winter. Robert Falcone Jr. is in from New York, and Enebish Ganbat of Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Mongolian Saturday fame is trying California for the first time.
Dallas Keen, who has been a regular shipper to Del Mar from Texas in the summer, has started up a rehabilitation facility north of Santa Anita and has a stable here this winter, too.
Don’t expect to see trainer Robertino Diodoro at the Santa Anita meet. He was denied stalls due to his claiming and shipping horses out of state to other jurisdictions where he keeps stables. Santa Anita is keeping a close eye on those trainers who have taken horses out of California in the past and have been warned. I hope David Jacobson is listening.
Key wagering angles
Below are some wagering angles to keep in mind for the start of the Santa Anita meet.
• Horses going route-to-sprint have been very successful in the tricky downhill turf sprints at Santa Anita.
• The main track has been very loose and dull yielding slow workout times going into opening day. Fitness will be paramount. Upgrade horses from barns that have a reputation of sending out horses fit and ready.
• Early speed tends to carry better in turf routes at Santa Anita than at Del Mar. You may be able to find some potential overlays early in the meet, especially when the turf rails are placed far out on the course.
• There will be new conditions for races, such as claiming races for horses for trainers who have 20 or fewer stalls and Maiden Special Weight races for horses that are homebred or sold at public auction for $100,000 or less. Be sure to read the conditions of each race to see if there is a horse or horses that fit the new conditions perfectly.
Lindo Report Play for GamingToday: Santa Anita, Friday, Race 8 – Bacoli (#4). Trainer Mick Ruis got off to a fast start at the last Santa Anita meet. This gelding likes the Santa Anita turf and gets a huge rider switch to turf specialist Corey Nakatani.