Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we deconstruct Santa Anita’s opening day.
Last year on this day, this newsletter was filled with complaints about how bad opening day was at Santa Anita. The mutuel clerk shortage was a big factor and it created an aura of chaos. This year, I got a fraction of the complaints.
Now when it comes to most of you racing fans, and you know if I’m talking about you, the absence of criticism should be considered high praise. So, I’m guessing that opening day can be considered a big success.
One area the track was especially proud of was that the all-sources handle on Wednesday set an opening day record of $20,491,016. That’s up 19% from last year. However, as we pointed out before the break, the track makes the largest percentage of its money from on-track revenue. More on that later.
Still, again, very few complaints. But the one I did get from a few people was the continual hatred of the new larger format program that contains past performances. Tim Ritvo, the big racing boss for The Stronach Group, admitted that most fans did not like the new program but yet the track has chosen to continue with it. The thinking was the added information would encourage more betting.
Is it a smart long play by the track that could possibly create more handle or a case of hubris where the track will tell you which program you’ll like? Well, I don’t have a business degree (although I do teach the business of sports media in an MBA program) but ultimately its the customer who drives the marketplace. If this is really important, you can tell the track what you want by your buying habits, or decide that you will eventually get used to it and it’s not worth the effort to fight.
One reader complained about the long lines entering the facility. Not enough stations open to get people through the gates, meaning people were leaving money in their pockets instead of the betting machines to start the program. Certainly something to look at.
He also complained about the 11:30 a.m. start time, which I defended because it’s sundown that really dictates the start time. If you want to run 10 races, you count backward from when the last race is to be run. On Wednesday, the last race was scheduled to go at 4:35 p.m. but went at 4:50 p.m. Sundown was at … 4:50 p.m. That’s a case of using up all your margin of error.
Another reader made the observation that the on-track handle per person was less than $100. So, let’s look at that. On Wednesday, 41,373 people pushed $3,463,535 through the metaphorical on-track windows. It comes out to about $83.71 a person.
Last year, 40,023 bet $3,301,105, which equals about $82.48 a person. So, no change, especially when you consider the lack of clerks last year no doubt kept the handle down, even if only incrementally.
If you compare those to Del Mar’s opening, the average per person bet there was $101.06.
Now, let’s look at how the last meeting fared in the subsequent days after the opener. The second day of this season last year, Dec. 29, averaged $136.92 per person, then $183.12, followed by $159.71 on New Year’s Eve and $134.03 on New Year’s Day. The crowds were mostly in the 8,000 range.
So, what can we conclude about those figures? Pretty simple, the larger the crowd the smaller per capita because all those extra people are not regular race goers and, probably smartly, are way tighter with their money. Not a bad strategy when you don’t really know what you are doing.
There will be lots of time to mark how Santa Anita is doing this season. Ritvo says he remains committed to making the track as profitable as possible and repeats that The Stronach Group is fully behind Santa Anita. Wednesday was an encouraging step, for sure.
It’s not Wednesday’s card, but it’ll do. There are nine races starting at 12:30 p.m. Four of the races are on the turf, including the feature, the $75,000 Eddie Logan Stakes for 2-year-olds going a mile. Now, Eddie Logan is always worth mentioning. He was the longtime shoeshine guy at Santa Anita until he died at age 98 in 2009. He was there when the track opened in 1934 and kept the same job for almost 75 years.
“Eddie loved racing and the people in it,” then Santa Anita president Ron Charles said of his passing in 2009. “He was indeed a window to our past and although he lived a very long and healthy life, we just wish we could have had a lot more time with him. I think all of us will cherish our memories of Eddie and what he meant to Santa Anita.”
Yup, got no problem with Eddie having a stakes race named after him.
As for the race, Flying Scotsman is the 8-5 favorite for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and jockey Flavien Prat. He’s two for three, winning the Cecil B. DeMille Stakes at Del Mar by 4 ¼ lengths. Second in that race was Rijeka, who is the tepid 4-1 second choice. Richard Baltas trains and Joel Rosario rides. He is one-for-five lifetime. Post is supposed to be around 4 p.m.
Here are the field sizes, in order: 9, 5, 6, 10 (4 also eligible), 11, 10 (3 ae), 9, 10, 10.
Bob Ike’s SA pick of the day
SIXTH RACE: No. 5 Majestic Eagle
Sophomore colt from the Neil Drysdale stable tired when sent 1 3/8ths miles last time at Del Mar but is much better suited for this nine furlong distance. He appears to be the clear speed in the race, has run well over this course and gets solid European rider Andrea Atzeni, who has done well overseas. Make a win bet on 'Eagle and key him in exactas with main threats Starting Bloc (4-1) and Ya Gotta Wanna (7-2).
Wednesday's Result: Acker ($5.40) closed out the opening day card with a hard-fought victory in the final race.
Bob Ike is a Partner/VP of Horsebills.com (here's a video) and the proprietor of BobIkePicks.com (full-card picks, 3 Best Plays and betting strategy).
Golden Gate weekend preview
Are you in Golden Gate and Matt Dinerman withdrawal? Well, fear no more, he’s back with our weekly look at the best racing going on at Golden Gate Fields. So, take it away, Matt.
“Live racing resumed at Golden Gate Fields on Wednesday for a 92-day meeting that runs through June 9. We have nine races on Friday, with first post at 12:45 p.m. Large fields give Saturday afternoon some competitive handicapping sequences through 10 races, with a post of 12:15 p.m. We go back to a nine-race card and 12:45 p.m. start time on Sunday. There is also racing on Monday and Tuesday, completing five race days with competitive cards and lots of betting opportunities.
“Two new faces at Golden Gate are worth mentioning. Jockey Franklin Ceballos, who previously rode at Santa Anita, has moved his tack to the Bay Area and is now represented by Fernando (Shoes) Navarro. Navarro is also the agent for fall meet leading rider William Antongeorgi III. On the trainer roster, top Midwest conditioner Larry Rivelli shipped a string of 17 horses to Golden Gate this week and is projected to be a legit presence at the extended meeting. Rivelli has won five straight training titles at Arlington Park in Chicago.
“Over the break, it was announced the 2019 El Camino Real Derby winner will get a free berth into the 2019 Preakness at Pimlico. This is a brand new incentive that should help attract a great field for the race on Feb. 16. There will also be the inaugural Gold Rush Weekend on April 27-28. Over the two days there will be eight stakes races, highlighted by the $250,000 Grade 3 San Francisco Mile. A number of out-of-town connections, including international owners and trainers, have expressed interest in the race. Along with the great racing, there will be many on-track events for patrons and special wagers for horseplayers, which including an all-stakes pick 6, pick 5 and pick 4 wagers on Saturday and an ‘all turf’ pick 4 on Sunday.
“Golden Gate has raised maiden special weight and allowance purses and bottom-level races will have purses no lower than $10,000. From the $7,000 bottom-level purse a year ago to this 43% bump, this is a signal that Golden Gate is trending upward. Before the fall meet in October, the majority of maiden claiming races and starter allowance purses were raised.
“We’re looking forward to another fun year at ‘Where The Bay Comes To Play’ Thanks to everyone who has supported Golden Gate: horseplayers and other casual fans, horsemen and backstretch workers, our frontside staff and the racing office and officials.”
Los Alamitos nighttime weekend preview
This weekly segment is in the hands of Orlando Gutierrez, marketing and media maven at Los Al. So, the floor is yours, Orlando.
“Live racing returns on Friday night to kick off the 69th year of pari-mutuel racing at Los Alamitos Race Course. First post is 7 p.m. Racing will be Friday through Sunday night through Dec. 15. Los Alamitos will be dark on Super Bowl Sunday on Feb. 3 and Easter Sunday on April 21.
“The stakes calendar is similar to past years with the 47th running of the Champion of Champions set for Dec. 14, and the 25th Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity set for closing night. The first stakes of the meet is the Holiday Handicap Saturday night, while the first of 12 grade 1 stakes races is the Charger Bar Handicap for mares on Jan. 6.
“Friday's eight-race program will be headed by an $11,525 allowance at 330 yards led by Sepertist Dash, who has finished in the top three is six allowance races in his career, and Freaky Bussines, who has hit the board in his last four starts for trainer Yanet Rodriguez. Golden State Derby finalist Devil In A Blue Suit, Los Alamitos Maiden Stakes finalist Firey Colt, and recent winner Stel Chancey complete the field of the opening night feature.
“Nine 2-year-olds will be in the Holiday Handicap at 350 yards led by stakes winners Mommas Dynasty, Striver and Silver Jet Dash, plus the Grade 2 futurity placed gelding Purty Fancy Dude. Striver has been one of the top fillies all year after a second place in the Grade 2 Robert Adair Kindergarten Futurity and then qualifying for the Grade I Ed Burke Million Futurity and Governor's Cup Futurity. After a three-month break, the Foose filly won the Stotz Equipment Stakes at 350 yards on Nov. 17. Vinnie Bednar will ride the Ed Allred-bred runner for trainer Scott Willoughby from post eight.
“After the closing weekend stakes races at Los Alamitos, there were major changes in both AQHA Racing National polls. In the 2-year-old poll, Flash And Roll overtook Apocalyptical Jess for the No. 1 spot following a win in the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity, and Bodacious Eagle rose to No. 2 in the older-horse ranks after his score in the Champion of Champions.
“Flash And Roll recorded her second Grade 1 victory of the season while winning for the sixth time in seven starts. With G.R. Carter Jr. up, she upped her purse money to $1,213,754 while dominating the Two Million Futurity. Her only loss this year was a seventh-place finish in the Ruidoso Futurity in June, but the California-bred rebounded to win the Golden State Million Futurity in November at Los Alamitos. Her latest effort was enough to move her ahead of Apocalyptical Jess.
“Heza Dasha Fire, the 2015 AQHA world champion, has been retired following his seventh-place finish in the Champion of Champions. He ends his career with 16 wins in 25 starts and earnings of $2,240,112. A winner of eight Grade I races, Heza Dasha Fire is one of only three quarter horses to have earned more than $2.2 million.”
Ed Burgart’s LA play of the day
SEVENTH RACE: No. 4 Tamura (3-1)
This 2-year old gelding is a three-time winner whose five rivals have scored their lone victories in maiden contests. He fits race conditions nicely since two of his wins came for claiming tags of $16,000 or less. In addition, he moves from the rail to the number four post after last solid third-place try at the same class level.
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Now, the star of the show, Friday’s entries.
Santa Anita Entries for Friday, December 28.
Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 2nd day of a 61-day meet.
1 1/8 Mile Turf. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. 2 year olds.
|1||Shining Through||Drayden Van Dyke||122||Jerry Hollendorfer||5-2|| |
|2||Speakerofthehouse||Mike Smith||122||Ian Kruljac||5-1|| |
|3||Union Station||Tyler Baze||122||Eoin G. Harty||15-1|| |
|4||Magnificent McCool||Flavien Prat||122||Doug F. O'Neill||3-1|| |
|5||Spectator's Dream||Edgar Payeras||122||Jesus Mendoza||50-1|| |
|6||Emotional Wreck||Felipe Martinez||122||Louis A. Bradvica||30-1|| |
|7||Seven Oxen||Kent Desormeaux||122||J. Keith Desormeaux||10-1|| |
|8||Leader of Men||Brice Blanc||122||Simon Callaghan||4-1|| |
|9||Mystical Moon||Assael Espinoza||117||Richard E. Mandella||4-1|| |
1 Mile. Purse: $32,000. Maiden Claiming. 2 year olds. Claiming Prices $50,000-$40,000.
|1||Knight's Cross||Diego Sanchez||122||J. Keith Desormeaux||2-1||50,000|
|2||Frozen Money||Tyler Baze||122||Philip D'Amato||6-5||50,000|
|3||Rockandahardplace||Agapito Delgadillo||120||Jeffrey Metz||9-2||40,000|
|4||Sooner Better||Kent Desormeaux||122||J. Keith Desormeaux||3-1||50,000|
|5||New Salute||Edgar Payeras||122||Ruben Gomez||20-1||50,000|
5½ Furlongs. Purse: $22,000. Claiming. 3 year olds. Claiming Prices $12,500-$10,500.
|1||Hollywood Dancer||Assael Espinoza||116||Gus Headley||20-1||10,500|
|2||Bob's All In||Angel Cruz||122||Matthew Chew||5-1||12,500|
|3||Older Brother||Mario Gutierrez||122||Edward R. Freeman||3-1||12,500|
|4||Quad||Geovanni Franco||122||Gary Sherlock||7-2||12,500|
|5||Don't Stalk Me||Joel Rosario||124||Robert B. Hess, Jr.||6-5||12,500|
|6||Our Tiger's Boy||Ruben Fuentes||122||Jeff Bonde||5-1||12,500|
About 6½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies. 2 year olds.
|1||Bizwhacks||Mario Gutierrez||122||Doug F. O'Neill||4-1|| |
|2||Enlisting||Angel Cruz||122||Dan Blacker||12-1|| |
|3||Shut It Up||Heriberto Figueroa||117||Doug F. O'Neill||3-1|| |
|4||Fight Night||Evin Roman||122||Peter Eurton||15-1|| |
|5||Rather Nosy||Andrea Atzeni||122||Simon Callaghan||6-1|| |
|6||Objective||Drayden Van Dyke||122||Thomas F. Proctor||5-2|| |
|7||Lil Respect||Joseph Talamo||122||Richard Baltas||12-1|| |
|8||Ilha Do Mel||Brice Blanc||122||Paulo H. Lobo||20-1|| |
|9||To the Morning||Flavien Prat||122||Neil D. Drysdale||15-1|| |
|10||Malibu Cat||Tyler Baze||122||Mark Glatt||8-1|| |
|11||Encanta||Joel Rosario||122||John W. Sadler||2-1|| |
|12||Apache Princess||Kent Desormeaux||122||J. Keith Desormeaux||4-1|| |
|13||Kittyhawk Lass||Evin Roman||122||Mike Puype||15-1|| |
|14||Maxim Rate||Andrea Atzeni||122||Simon Callaghan||8-1|| |
6 Furlongs. Purse: $18,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $12,500.
|1||Halo Girl||Mario Gutierrez||122||Jesus Mendoza||30-1||12,500|
|2||Blissful Lady||Edgar Payeras||124||Charles S. Treece||20-1||12,500|
|3||Peachy||Edwin Maldonado||122||George Papaprodromou||7-2||12,500|
|4||Mi Pajarito||Eswan Flores||122||Jorge Periban||10-1||12,500|
|5||Copper Cowgirl||Heriberto Figueroa||117||Patricia Harrington||6-1||12,500|
|6||Desired Edge||Evin Roman||122||Adam Kitchingman||4-1||12,500|
|7||Warm It Up||Martin Pedroza||124||Vernon E. Aguayo||12-1||12,500|
|8||Fellina||Tiago Pereira||124||Bobby Wayne Grayson||50-1||12,500|
|9||Dressed in Prada||Alonso Quinonez||124||Lloyd C. Wicker||10-1||12,500|
|10||One Upper||Luis Fuentes||115||Ryan Hanson||3-1||12,500|
|11||K P's Smokin||Assael Espinoza||117||Steve Knapp||6-1||12,500|
1 1/8 Mile Turf. Purse: $59,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $62,500.
|1||Starting Bloc||Rafael Bejarano||122||Alfredo Marquez||4-1|| |
|2||Eckersley||Evin Roman||122||Scott Hansen||12-1|| |
|3||Ya Gotta Wanna||Flavien Prat||122||Philip D'Amato||7-2|| |
|4||Whoop Whoop ||Aaron Gryder||122||Jeff Mullins||10-1|| |
|5||Majestic Eagle||Andrea Atzeni||120||Neil D. Drysdale||5-1|| |
|6||Kazan ||Joel Rosario||120||Simon Callaghan||10-1|| |
|7||Encumbered||Mario Gutierrez||120||Simon Callaghan||12-1|| |
|8||Epical||Tyler Baze||120||James M. Cassidy||4-1|| |
|9||Arms Runner||Drayden Van Dyke||122||Peter Miller||12-1|| |
|10||Maestro Dearte||Geovanni Franco||122||Peter Eurton||8-1|| |
|11||Any Questions||Assael Espinoza||117||Steve Knapp||20-1|| |
|12||Cleopatra's Strike||Joel Rosario||122||Philip D'Amato||8-1|| |
|13||Oscar Dominguez ||Joseph Talamo||124||Peter Miller||5-1|| |
6 Furlongs. Purse: $22,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $16,000-$14,000.
|1||Mo Soul||Martin Pedroza||124||Mark Glatt||5-1||16,000|
|2||Jump the Tracks||Agapito Delgadillo||122||Isidro Tamayo||4-1||16,000|
|3||Aristocratic||Heriberto Figueroa||119||Peter Miller||5-2||16,000|
|4||Zap Again||Tiago Pereira||122||Charles S. Treece||6-1||14,000|
|5||Zippy Groom||Joel Rosario||120||Robert B. Hess, Jr.||12-1||14,000|
|6||Smuggler Union||Octavio Vergara, Jr.||124||Howard L. Zucker||12-1||16,000|
|7||Short of Ez||Drayden Van Dyke||124||Mike Puype||7-2||16,000|
|8||Seau||Geovanni Franco||124||Quinn Howey||10-1||16,000|
|9||Downside Up||Assael Espinoza||119||Patricia Harrington||20-1||16,000|
1 Mile Turf. Purse: $75,000. 'Eddie Logan Stakes'. 2 year olds.
|1||More Ice||Drayden Van Dyke||121||Jerry Hollendorfer||6-1|| |
|2||Manhattan Up||Tyler Baze||119||Philip A. Oviedo||12-1|| |
|3||Rijeka ||Joel Rosario||119||Richard Baltas||4-1|| |
|4||Flying Scotsman||Flavien Prat||123||Jerry Hollendorfer||8-5|| |
|5||The Creep||Rafael Bejarano||119||Doug F. O'Neill||20-1|| |
|6||Swamp Souffle||Edwin Maldonado||119||George Papaprodromou||15-1|| |
|7||Neptune's Storm||Assael Espinoza||119||William E. Morey||20-1|| |
|8||Sparky Ville||Kent Desormeaux||119||Jeff Bonde||9-2|| |
|9||Weekly Call||Geovanni Franco||119||Doug F. O'Neill||30-1|| |
|10||Bob and Jackie||Heriberto Figueroa||119||Richard Baltas||6-1|| |
1 Mile. Purse: $18,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $8,000.
|1||Kenzou's Rhythm||Heriberto Figueroa||117||William E. Morey||7-2||8,000|
|2||Harrovian||Luis Fuentes||115||Dennis Givens||20-1||8,000|
|3||Air Pocket||Saul Arias||122||Rafael DeLeon||50-1||8,000|
|4||Banze No Oeste ||Ruben Fuentes||122||Steve Knapp||12-1||8,000|
|5||Trapalanda||Alonso Quinonez||122||Jeff Mullins||3-1||8,000|
|6||Dedicated to You||Assael Espinoza||117||Vann Belvoir||12-1||8,000|
|7||Dukes Up||Aaron Gryder||122||Steven Miyadi||4-1||8,000|
|8||Gio's Calling||Edgar Payeras||122||Eddie Truman||5-1||8,000|
|9||Broken Up||Eswan Flores||122||Doug F. O'Neill||8-1||8,000|
|10||Hard Arch||Joseph Talamo||124||Vladimir Cerin||6-1||8,000|