Hello, my name is John Cherwa, and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we take a look at how the last year has gone.
The fear about the future of California racing is always on everyone’s mind. It’s a tough situation. It’s a racing island, making shipping difficult. It has a lot of disparate groups with a say in how things should be run. It doesn’t have casinos or slots, although, unless they screw it up, it should get a piece of the sports betting pie.
But every once in a while, it’s good to take a step back. This fact occurred to me as I was counting up the number of entries in the weekend’s races at Santa Anita. Here we are in the final week of the way-too-long Santa Anita meeting, and you need to look back a year.
Santa Anita ran until July 4 last year. This year, Los Alamitos gets the holiday. But this weekend there were 37 races over a four-day period. Last year, in the month of June, Santa Anita was forced to go to three-day weeks on three occasions because of a shortage of entries. Tim Ritvo, Santa Anita and Stronach company racing boss, said his top priority was fuller fields. It looks as if you can check that one off the list.
Let’s also note that Santa Anita increased purses 10% because of big gains in handle. Now, part of that is circumstantial, with a lack of weather cancellations and bad weather back East that made Santa Anita one of the few national betting options. But, it still counts as growth.
On Saturday, Dave Joseph, the Stronach media baron in Florida and Maryland, put out a news release talking about the gains at Golden Gate. What made it strange is he rarely weighs in on California racing.
You can bet your last win ticket that this is what is called in baseball a “purpose pitch.” The point was to show how important Golden Gate was to California racing and why giving in to the latest Stronach demands in regards to simulcasting is a good idea. They also want more racing up north and to squeeze out the fairs. This is evidence why, because it’s good for racing.
But the gamesmanship doesn’t change the facts. Total handle at Golden Gate was up 15.85% and daily average handle was up 20.73%. It was the fourth straight meeting in which handle has increased. That’s significant. Plus, Golden Gate has a turf course, which none of the fairs do.
All of this is pointed out to show the effect that Ritvo has had since he rolled out this way to save West Coast racing. He says he can work with all the groups that control racing. Here’s hoping he can.
Ritvo was sent here to make a difference and he has. How it plays out and how sustainable it is remains to be seen. But, it’s a fact, California racing is better off today than it was a year ago.
Santa Anita review
Bombard, under jockey Flavien Prat, ran a nice stalking trip and went three wide in the stretch to win the $80,000 Siren Lure Stakes by half a length. The race was 6½ furlongs down the hillside turf course.
Winning trainer Richard Mandella tried a little play on words in the winner’s circle.
“We bombarded ’em,” Mandella told Mike Willman of Santa Anita. “He’s really a game horse. He’s won easier, but he showed he can really fight [Sunday].”
Bombard paid $9.60, $5.00 and $3.40. Cistron was second and Perfectly Majestic was third.
Big races review
A look at graded stakes or races worth $100,000 or more on Sunday.
Monmouth: $100,000 Pegasus Stakes, 3-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles. Winner: Supreme Aura ($9.40)
Woodbine: Grade 3 $125,000 Trillium Stakes, fillies and mares 3 and up, 1 1/16 miles. Winner: Gable’s Ghost ($9.30)
Belmont: Grade 3 $300,000 Poker Stakes, 4 and up, 1 mile on turf. Winner: Oscar Performance ($8.10)
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Now, here is the star of the show, Sunday’s results. See you on Thursday.