News and Notes: Santa Anita

Four weeks are in the books at Santa Anita’s fall meet with just two to go. Track management does have a good weekend forecast for this week with 7 stakes races on Saturday and hopefully, plenty of full fields. All in all, they have done quite well with field size so far for the meet. Both the main track and the turf course have played fair this past week. Friday’s races have four of the nine with an also eligible list, a strong signal for entries. The Rainbow pick six pool heading into Friday is $143,106 for any single ticket winner and will not have a mandatory payout until closing day which is Sunday, November 6th.

STAKES RECAP: There were no stakes races this past week so we will look at the 7 stakes races they have lined up for Saturday. They have three graded stakes and they are all on the grass and should have some good sized fields. The Grade 2 Goldikova is the headliner where Going Global will have her swan song for trainer Phil D’Amato in this mile race for older fillies and mares. “Global” did win this race last year and she is scheduled to be sold on Nov. 6th in the Fasig Tipton sale in Lexington, Kentucky. England’s Rose will be returning to the races in this race for trainer John Shirreffs as well as the hard knocking Avenue de France for trainer Len Powell. Besides Going Global, D’Amato may also run Burgoo Alley and Counterparty Risk in the Goldikova. Another Grade 2 is the Twilight Derby for sophomores going 9 furlongs on the lawn. War at Sea will be returning to the races in here for trainer Ron Ellis and is certainly a contender. The other Graded race on the program is for thee year old fillies going a flat mile in the Grade 3 Autumn Miss. Older fillies and mares come down the hill in the Senator Ken Maddy stakes while older milers run for an $80,000 purse in the Lure stakes. Two Cal bred stakes round out the program for two year olds at 7 furlongs on the main track with the colts going in the Golden State Juvenile while the fillies go the same distance in the Golden State Juvenile Fillies. This could very well be the best wagering day of the six week meet.

Jockey Ramon Vasquez has quietly gone right to the front of the riding colony this meet with 18 victories after four weeks of racing. Del Mar kingpin Juan Hernandez is second with 14 victories and grass riding specialist Umberto Rispoli is third with 12 wins. All three riders are carrying the best win percentages hovering around 23-24%. Vasquez has been boosted to the top due to riding first call for Peter Miller, who has had a sensational meet so far with 12 wins, four more than Doug O’Neill, Phil D’Amato, and the red hot Jeff Mullins. Miller also has the best win percentage at 26% followed by Bob Baffert and Mullins at 24%. Miller has at least half of his stock training out of San Luis Rey Downs, which is in the San Diego area. It is not easy to ship in from San Luis Rey and win races at Santa Anita when most of the larger stables already have their stock there in place.

The California Horse Racing Board and the California Thoroughbred Trainers Association finally came to some type of an agreement this past week with regards to when track management can evict trainers from the grounds or prevent them from entering horses. After nearly two years of negotiations, the two sides agreed to a third-party arbitrator in disputes when trainers are “ruled off” due to medication issues and injuries to horses under their care. The burden of proof is now put on management to prove that they are acting in good faith when making these decisions and not discriminating against any one individual. This primarily comes about when back in 2019, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was ruled off all 1/ST Racing tracks in the country due to what they determined was too many catastrophic injuries. The Dorf” had four horses go down that winter that had to be euthanized, primarily due to an unsafe racing surface when unseasonably heavy rains hit the race track. Hollendorfer, who is a Hall of Famer, was pretty much ruined when most of his 110 horse stable had to be dismantled and given out to other trainers. He filed a lawsuit against 1/ST Racing and a settlement was made recently but was not made available to the public. He still can’t enter what stable he has left in any of 1/ST Racing tracks, but the inside word is that 1/ST Racing did have to make a fairly large monetary settlement. It also wasn’t that long ago that top ten trainer Richie Baltas was also ruled off all California tracks and was forced to dismantle his stable due to excessive medical violations. I’m all for the racing jurisdictions trying to clean up the sport but too often the tracks try to act like God when taking away one’s livelihood. In Hollendorfer’s case, not once did the track management ever live up to the fact that all of the trainers were racing on unsafe surfaces at Santa Anita, and that is their responsibility to provide a safe racing surface for all. The third-party arbitrator is certainly a step in the right direction, after all, we can’t race at Del Mar 12 months out of the year.

By Rod Young (Turfdom)