The current state of racing in California has forced several local horsemen to consider other options.
Jockey Kent Desormeaux has moved his tack to Louisiana and will ride regularly at Fair Grounds when they open on Thanksgiving Day. His brother/trainer Keith Desormeaux will have a string of horses at Fair Grounds and should give Kent a head start.
Jockey Martin Garcia, who was associated with the Bob Baffert stable for many years, has moved his tack to Churchill Downs starting this week and will also compete at Turfway Park prior to moving to Oaklawn Park when that track opens in early 2020. Joe Talamo will also be riding at Oaklawn.
Del Mar leading trainer Peter Miller currently has 25 horses stabled at Churchill Downs, while Miller, Doug O’Neill, and Phil D’Amato have all applied for stalls at Oaklawn. Trainer Bob Hess Jr. has added stables at Churchill Downs and Gulfstream Park.
Times they are a changing.
Del Mar cancels Thursday
In a somewhat unusual move, Del Mar announced last Friday that the race card for this Thursday would be canceled due to “projections of rain from Tuesday through Thursday.”
Skeptics were quick to point out that current reduced field sizes could be the real reason for the postponement, especially since the decision was made six days prior to race day. In defense of Del Mar, there were many logical reasons to scrap the Thursday card.
The first reason would be the quality of the product offered to the public. It has been no secret that the SoCal turf races, similar to turf races around the country, are filling at a much higher rate than dirt races.
For example, average field size in the Del Mar dirt races last Saturday was 5.6 horses. On Sunday the dirt races averaged 6.25 horses. The turf races last Saturday and Sunday averaged 7.25 horses per race.
Three turf races were scheduled for Thursday, not including several “provisional turf races” that could have been used should the original races in the condition book not fill. With no turf racing likely should the rains arrive as predicted, the card would have been decimated.
The Hollywood Turf Festival is featured during Thanksgiving week, when no less than seven Graded Stakes will bring many east coast invaders to Del Mar to take advantage of top flight grass racing in late November. Del Mar understandably is taking all precautions to make sure the turf course remains in top condition.
Erring on the side of safety is the most important reason. All eyes are on the horse racing industry and any decision will be safety first. Expect much of the same at Santa Anita this winter when it rains. Canceling cards may take priority over racing on sealed wet tracks.
stick with dirt
Santa Anita is still mulling a decision when it comes to the possible replacement of its dirt surface with a synthetic Tapeta track similar to the one at Golden Gate Fields.
Count Baffert among those who prefer Santa Anita stick with dirt.
When asked about the deep tiring dirt surface at Santa Anita over Breeders’ Cup weekend, Baffert told the Blood Horse: “They kept adding more sand and more sand to the track. It was tough to get through it. Horses start to get tired when you have a deep, tiring track like that, and then fatigue sets in and that’s when injuries can happen.
“Synthetics are a Band-Aid. We need more experts. I know they brought a lot of vets (for the Breeders’ Cup). We don’t need (more vets). We need track experts.”
Baffert also said Santa Anita should re-think who has been inspecting its racing surfaces.
“We bring in all these investigators from everywhere, but they should bring in a bunch of trackmen from all over to look at it,” he said. “Maybe you don’t have your track right. Maybe that’s where they are missing the boat.”
That seems like a very logical first step in the process of making an informed decision.
Lindo Report Play for Gaming Today: Del Mar, Friday, Race 8: Via Alpina (No. 8): Assuming this race stays on the turf, this filly raced greenly and got stopped cold in the stretch in her sprint debut. She should relish a route of ground and her barn is excellent with second-time starters. Maybe she can help jockey Joe Talamo out of his current riding slump.