Short fields hampering Santa Anita
April 17, 2018 3:06 AM
by Jon Lindo
Trivia Question: What do the following California-based horses – Unique Bella, Om, Next Shares, Ike, Accelerate, City of Light, Sonneteer, Solomini, Greyvitos, My Boy Jack, Fire When Ready, Curly’s Rocket, Pacific Wind, Out of the Flames, Rocket Heat, Pistol Packin Rose, Line Drive, and Krissy’s Manicure – have in common?
Answer: All raced last weekend. Just not in California.
Spring means the opening of new meets like Keeneland, Belmont Park, Monmouth, Indiana Grand, Lone Star Park, Emerald Downs, Arlington Park, and others. Mix in key meet highlights like the Racing Festival of the South at Oaklawn Park with huge overnight purses last weekend, and there are many more opportunities across the nation for a horse inventory that is not only limited in California but across the country.
Spring also means the Triple Crown races are about to get underway, and several Southern California trainers like Bob Baffert, Doug O’Neill, and Mick Ruis plan on having strings based in Kentucky to make it easier to compete on the upcoming huge race days at places like Churchill Downs, Pimlico, and Belmont Park.
Tracks like Monmouth Park are enticing horsemen by helping trainers who stable there with workman’s comp expenses. Monmouth also offers horses who compete at their meet significant minimum purse stipends for running.
Last Sunday’s scheduled feature at Santa Anita, the $100,000 Dream of Summer Stakes, had only five Cal-bred fillies and mares nominated to the 1 mile dirt race, so the race was cancelled prior to entry day.
Without the slot-infused purses available at so many tracks around the country, Santa Anita will be hard-pressed to maintain field size for certain types of races the final three months of the long winter-spring meet.
Is there a solution? Two-year-olds are scheduled to begin racing at Santa Anita in early May, which will help introduce a new category of races. The second half of the meeting figures to include more marathon turf races, which horseplayers find interesting to not only watch but wager on. With the Santa Anita turf in good shape after so much unexpected rain in March, there should be a steady diet of grass racing through the end of the meet.
Let’s hope these opportunities keep the local horsemen entering and racing at the home track. The product is the key to finish off the meet as well as it started way back on the day after Christmas.
Four months ago on Dec. 7 a torrid fire swept through the San Luis Rey Downs training center, killing 46 horses and injuring many others. Several horsemen like trainers Martine Bellocq and Joe Herrick suffered significant burns and other injuries trying to rescue the thoroughbreds.
In all, over 450 horses had to be relocated on a moment’s notice to Del Mar and other SoCal training facilities.
Last week San Luis Rey Downs re-opened for training with several new barns to replace the seven barns destroyed in total by the fire. Trainers moving horses back to San Luis Rey Downs included Peter Miller, Richard Baltas, Doug O’Neill, and Phil D’Amato in addition to a recovering Joe Herrick.
Over 50 horses have won races since being displaced by the fire. Credit goes to management at Del Mar for readying the barn area on short notice into a temporary training facility. Kudos to all of the volunteers who gave up their time to help in the transition, and special recognition to the local horsemen and fans as well as tracks around the country, veterinarians, feed and supply companies, and the general public who donated over $600,000 to help offset costs to those impacted by the fire.
It doesn’t happen often enough, but it is amazing to see what can be accomplished when all parts of the horse racing industry work toward one goal.
Derby preps done
The tentative field for the Kentucky Derby on May 5 is set after favorites My Boy Jack and Magnum Moon won this past Saturday’s Lexington Stakes at Keeneland and the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park, respectively. The field (in order of qualifying points): 1. Magnum Moon (150 points); 2. Good Magic (134); 3. Audible (110); 4. Noble Indy (110); 5. Vino Rosso (107); 6. Bolt d’Oro (104); 7. Enticed (103); 8. Mendelssohn (100); 9. Justify (100); 10. Quip (90); 11. Flameaway (70); 12. Solomini (54); 13. Bravazo (54); 14. My Boy Jack (52); 15. Promises Fulfilled (52); 16. Free Drop Billy (44); 17. Lone Sailor (42); 18. Hofburg (40); 19. Gronkowski (top point earner Europe Road to Kentucky) ; 20. Firenze Fire (39). Top alternates are: 21. Combatant (32); 22. Snapper Sinclair (22).
We will monitor these horses with updates when possible in the next few weeks as they complete their training for the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby.
Play of the Week
Santa Anita, Friday, Race 5 – Dreamer’s Reality (6). Mike Puype trainee got plenty of seasoning in debut down the hill on New Year’s Day when racing along the inside fence throughout. He has worked steadily for return, and that proven form on the tricky downhill course could pay dividends in this spot.