Social media continues to have a prominent impact on racing. It was Santa Anita’s turn to listen to public opinion at last Thursday’s California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) meeting following a series of tweets pointing out the inconsistent performance of the California stewards.
During the public comment portion of the start of Thursday’s CHRB meeting, long-time syndicated SoCal handicapper Bob Ike addressed the commissioners. He pointed out that he has wagered on the California races on almost a daily basis for over 33 years, but after yet another controversial stewards decision on May 6 involving winner Achira, Ike pointed out he will no longer play the races in Southern California until he regains confidence that the stewards can be depended upon to make consistent and accurate applications of the rules on a regular basis.
According to Board member and long-time owner/breeder Madelaine Auerbach, “Anyone in this room who doesn’t think some changes are coming; they’re not reading us accurately. We’re going to get it done. You will see it shortly … as soon as everything gets ironed out.”
Thoroughbred Owners of California Chairman Nick Alexander, another who has invested decades into California breeding and racing, made it clear he was speaking on behalf of himself and not his organization when saying the board needs to do more than tweak the rules and rotate stewards.
“You have to do something about it; heads need to roll,” Alexander said. “Somebody needs to be fired or replaced. You’re costing Southern California a lot of money if you don’t do something … you can’t just let it happen again and again.”
Stronach Group Chief Executive Officer Tim Ritvo acknowledged the importance of listening to the betting public.
“I’m glad you’re looking at this very seriously. And I’m glad customers have come up here to talk because they’re the economic engine of the sport. If they don’t feel like they have a fair shot and are fairly represented, we’re going to lose a lot of business.”
Ritvo is right. And if sharp horseplayers like Bob Ike choose to play a different circuit as an alternative, it won’t be long before those players are up to speed on those horse populations, trainer patterns, and track biases. Getting them back to playing California races would be even more difficult.
To avoid handle declines, which could lead to horses leaving the state, and in turn reduce the attractiveness of the California racing signals, it is a positive sign that Santa Anita and the CHRB are listening to what their fan base has to say.
I will be keeping a close eye on what solutions are introduced to regain the confidence of California owners, breeders, and most importantly – their horseplayers.
With Justify going for the Triple Crown in the Belmont takes on Saturday, June 9, several Las Vegas hotels are ramping up coverage. Among the special events around town:
• Belmont Stakes handicapping seminar at the South Point Hotel Friday, June 8 at 6 pm. You can join in-house handicapper Patrick McQuiggan.
• Syndicated handicapper Bob Ike with be the featured guest at the “Breakfast at Belmont” seminar at the Rampart Casino up in Summerlin on Saturday morning, June 9 at 8 a.m. Bob will do a full analysis of the Belmont Stakes and will have plenty of insight to that day’s Santa Anita races, too.
• Belmont Stakes viewing party and one-day handicapping contest at the Gold Coast Casino. There will be a special $50 buy-in one day handicapping contest in the Arizona ballroom June 9, with one entry to the Fall Classic tournament at the Orleans Hotel (a $500 value) in October to be given away for every 10 entries. Contestants will make 15 mythical win/place bets on designated tracks. Doors to the ballroom will open at 8 am.
• I will also be hosting my radio show “Thoroughbred Los Angeles” from 9 to 10 a.m. direct from the Gold Coast Arizona ballroom.
Justify won the Kentucky Derby wearing the familiar silks of WinStar Farm, and he came back with a gutty win in the Preakness Stakes wearing those same colors.
Word has come out that for his try for Triple Crown glory in the Belmont Stakes, Justify will be sporting the silks of another part of his ownership group – the China Horse Club.
This is the same ownership that took Abel Tasman away from trainer Simon Callaghan and gave her to trainer Bob Baffert after winning the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks in 2017 while wearing the wrong silks.
I am not really superstitious, but if I had a horse who just won the Derby and Preakness, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Correction: In last week’s article, I had a brain cramp and mentioned that Seattle Slew was younger than Affirmed when they faced each other in 1978. I was confused. Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown in 1977, and Affirmed came right back in 1978 to win his Triple Crown. Thanks to the devoted readers who pointed out my mistake.
Play of the Week: Golden Gate, Thursday, Race 7 – Stormy Mist (post 6). Filly is on an improving pattern, has some sneaky turf breeding, and should get an honest pace to set up her balanced attack.