Santa Anita Derby day could be turning point for venerable track

Racing at Santa Anita could very well be at a crossroads with Saturday's 75th running of the Santa Anita Derby. A good turnout might mean the track literally is on the verge of a new era. A poor turnout would be another black mark on the sport.

No one will be rooting harder for an attendance of around 40,000 than Santa Anita's new CEO, who, coincidentally, is named Mark Verge.

The Santa Anita Derby, which has produced 15 Kentucky Derby winners, offers a good field, headed by 6-5 favorite Creative Cause.

Paul Reddam, owner of the CashCall loan company, owns I'll Have Another, the 5-2 second choice in Saturday's race.

There's also the expected perfect weather, a media blitz orchestrated by Verge, and other factors that have the 44-year-old CEO reasonably confident. "I've reached out to all my contacts and done everything I can to generate interest in the Santa Anita Derby," Verge said.

He was an out-of-the-blue hire by Santa Anita's eccentric owner, Frank Stronach, who met Verge a few weeks before hiring him. Verge, a 1990 UCLA graduate, owns more than a dozen businesses, which include bars, restaurants and hotels. But he is probably best known as the owner of Westside Rentals, a business he founded in 1995 that lists rental property.

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-- Larry Stewart, Los Angeles Times 

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