Sunday, December 26, 2010

A New Chapter for Santa Anita

On Christmas Day back in 1934, Santa Anita opened its doors for racing for the first time. Its Art Deco facade remains nearly the same it did then as it does now. Opening day is one of the marquee days of the meet, and is filled with stakes action. The always-beloved calendar will once again been given away, with this year's theme showcasing some of the many occurrences where Santa Anita served as the backdrop for featured films and television shows. With another season upon us, many ideas, hopes and dreams swirl in the air over the new surface, the end to "The Drought" and many, many more. This blog will take share some thoughts on these two, along with a few other thoughts about the meet.

The dirt - The re-installation of a new dirt surface has people buzzing. The track already handled its first major test in style with its tolerating of ten-plus inches of rain in the span of less than six days time. It has produced fast workout times and for now has handled the horse traffic with ease. Hopefully this trend continues and the fears of this blog that switch would lead to a swath of injuries will proved to be unfounded. The return to dirt has brought some new blood into the water as well. Trainer Steve Asmussen has sent a string out here to train over the track, including some of his well-thought of two year olds such as Brock, the $2.3 million yearling purchase out of the sire Distorted Humor. The switch to dirt could also help future Derby prospects in their ultimate goal. That leads me to...

"The Drought" - The drought I speak of is the 21 year gap of the Santa Anita Derby winner going on to win the Kentucky Derby. Not since Sunday Silence in 1989 has the winner gone on to claim the roses the first Saturday in May. While some have come close (Cavonnier, Pioneerof The Nile) and some who have not won have gone on to win in Kentucky ( Real Quiet, Giacomo), not one horse has pulled the double since 1989. Maybe the switch back to dirt, along with the Preakness 5.5 program, will finally give that last little oomph need to get a horse to pull the double. Maybe one of Bob Baffert's many charges will be the one to do it, including the newest horse to join the barn, Grade 1 winning Jaycito. Or it could be this blog's current choice to break the streak, Premier Pegasus. This son of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, out of a mare who has also produced Grade 1 winner Street Hero, is three-for-three lifetime. He won the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue last time out, and he is being pointed to first prep on the dirt for the Derby at Santa Anita, the Grade 3 Sham.

Odds and Ends
The elimination of Wednesday cards for the first two months of the meet should help field size remain high, and avoiding the waiting game that plagued the cards towards the end of the last meet, when it took almost until Tuesday to get a Thursday card filled.

Blog favorite Tanda has still not worked after suffering a foot bruise, which caused her to miss the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes on opening day (though part of that is due to the inclement weather out here). Hopefully she will make it back to the track in time to get a prep in for what this blog hopes is a winning run in the Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap on January 30.

While the weather may not keep them off the turf course for route races, the intense rain has knocked the downhill turf course out of action. The upper part of the course just has not had enough time to dry out so it can be used while not getting chewed up, especially since it is the beginning of the meet. Races on both the 26th and 27th were scrubbed due to this and with the rain on Saturday and the threat of rain on the Wednesday the 29th, it could realistically until 2011 until a race down the hill is run.

The new meet is a time for renewed hope. Hope that the surface is safe as possible and will hold up to the weather. Hope that "The Drought" finally ends and the Santa Anita Derby becomes a viable prep again. Hope that this sport can finally turn around out of its freefall. Hope that maybe, just maybe, a star can blossom right before our eyes that will surpass the beauty of that gorgeous backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains. Good luck everybody.

(P.S. Thoughts about the 4 stakes on the opening day card will be offered in the comments)


  1. With the now serious threat of an off track, and the possibility of the Sir Beaufort being off the grass, these are more horses I like than selections.

    Race 5 - Cal Breeders' Champions S.
    I really like #1 CONTEMPLATED. He should improve with the switch to dirt, the works are solid, and the reunion with Rosario all are pluses. With the appearing to be a heavy favorite, it is possible that he will go off at or above his 4/1 morning line.

    Race 6 - Grade 1 La Brea S.
    My bust-out longshot is #8 HARD WAY TEN, who probably is up against it class-wise. She has always looked to me to be a one-turn dirt horse. I like the works and looks to make Alex Solis's return to SoCal a winning one.

    Race 7 - Grade 3 Sir Beaufort S.
    If the race stays on the grass, #5 SIDNEY'S CANDY appears just too good for them, as he should cross, clear and say bye-bye to this field. If it comes off, #2 NEXTDOORNEIGHBOR could end up with a perfect tri, and I feel he should enjoy the dirt more than most of his rivals.

    Race 8 - Grade 1 Malibu S.
    Horses I DON'T like: #2 ALCINDOR, #11 SMILING TIGER

  2. Most.of the comments are that the workouts are fast and the horses dont get tired. I interpret that to mean horses will be able to go wire to wire alot, even at distances that look beyond them. Total form reversals are likely for some. As for the Derby drought, however, the trainers will have a difficul time getting the Derby Prospects to get as fit as they need to be for a tiring track back east. Running on this track will be like lifting a bar with verylittle weight on it.

  3. LetItRideMike was on point.

    I made a rare visit to Santa Anita (via Twinspires) Sunday. The horses where blazing. I sure that there will be much discussion about the track records that were established. However, I thought that the racing was fair and the most races set up as I thought they would on paper.

    It appeared that a work on the track was a plus.

    I enjoyed the afternoon and will stop back again - Monday?