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This Time, It’s Santa Anita That Calls Off Races

TIMES STAFF WRITER

There is never a dull moment at Santa Anita these days. Two weeks ago, there was the threat of a jockey strike. Now, it’s the weather.

A day after jockeys quit riding because they thought the saturated track was dangerous, Santa Anita announced Monday that it won’t run on Wednesday and Thursday, its next racing days.

Cliff Goodrich, president of Santa Anita, said that the decision was made after consulting with jockeys, trainers, horse owners and Steve Wood, the track superintendent. More than four inches of rain fell at Santa Anita during the first two weeks of the season, and more is forecast.

“It’s best to do this,” Goodrich said. “This will give Steve Wood’s crew an adequate chance to get the racing surface into a condition that will satisfy everyone--the horsemen and the horseplayers.”

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Most of the jockeys at Santa Anita were unwilling to ride after Sunday’s first race, which was run on a sloppy track, and the stewards called off the last eight races.

Bay Meadows, the track in San Mateo, also will not race Wednesday and Thursday. Santa Anita, which usually offers simulcast betting on the Bay Meadows races, has canceled plans for betting on Wednesday and Thursday cards from Gulfstream Park in Florida.

Heavy rains also fell at Santa Anita in 1993, when the track called off one card with one race remaining and then postponed two subsequent programs.

Santa Anita will ask the California Horse Racing Board for permission to make up the three days lost this season, but in 1993 the track told the racing board that it didn’t want to make up the rained-out days. The track was facing the possibility of landing in a higher tax bracket on money bet, which could have cost stockholders and horsemen more than $2 million.

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By racing 83 days, the fewest since 1980, and by cutting back on advertising and promotions at the end of the meet, Santa Anita was able to stay in the lower bracket. The tax law has since been changed.

Muddy tracks at Santa Anita will cut back on morning workouts, leaving some horses unprepared to race. Prominent horses already affected are Soul Of The Matter and The Wicked North. “With his bad feet and the weather like it’s been, I’m not going to push him,” said Richard Mandella, who trains Soul Of The Matter.

Originally, Soul Of The Matter’s 1995 campaign was to begin with the $200,000 San Fernando Stakes on Saturday, which was to be a prep for $500,000 Strub on Feb. 5 and the $1-million Santa Anita Handicap on March 11.

The Wicked North was one of the stars last season, but a mid-year injury sidelined him. He was due to make his comeback in the $250,000 San Antonio on Feb. 12, but on Monday his owner Phil Hersh wasn’t so sure.

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