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Racing! After a day off, racing returns for five days

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.

Santa Anita preview

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.

Final thought

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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.

FIRST RACE.

1 1/8 Mile Turf. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. 2 year olds.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Shining ThroughDrayden Van Dyke122Jerry Hollendorfer5-2
2SpeakerofthehouseMike Smith122Ian Kruljac5-1
3Union StationTyler Baze122Eoin G. Harty15-1
4Magnificent McCoolFlavien Prat122Doug F. O'Neill3-1
5Spectator's DreamEdgar Payeras122Jesus Mendoza50-1
6Emotional WreckFelipe Martinez122Louis A. Bradvica30-1
7Seven OxenKent Desormeaux122J. Keith Desormeaux10-1
8Leader of MenBrice Blanc122Simon Callaghan4-1
9Mystical MoonAssael Espinoza117Richard E. Mandella4-1

SECOND RACE.

1 Mile. Purse: $32,000. Maiden Claiming. 2 year olds. Claiming Prices $50,000-$40,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Knight's CrossDiego Sanchez122J. Keith Desormeaux2-150,000
2Frozen MoneyTyler Baze122Philip D'Amato6-550,000
3RockandahardplaceAgapito Delgadillo120Jeffrey Metz9-240,000
4Sooner BetterKent Desormeaux122J. Keith Desormeaux3-150,000
5New SaluteEdgar Payeras122Ruben Gomez20-150,000

THIRD RACE.

5½ Furlongs. Purse: $22,000. Claiming. 3 year olds. Claiming Prices $12,500-$10,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Hollywood DancerAssael Espinoza116Gus Headley20-110,500
2Bob's All InAngel Cruz122Matthew Chew5-112,500
3Older BrotherMario Gutierrez122Edward R. Freeman3-112,500
4QuadGeovanni Franco122Gary Sherlock7-212,500
5Don't Stalk MeJoel Rosario124Robert B. Hess, Jr.6-512,500
6Our Tiger's BoyRuben Fuentes122Jeff Bonde5-112,500

FOURTH RACE.

About 6½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies. 2 year olds.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1BizwhacksMario Gutierrez122Doug F. O'Neill4-1
2EnlistingAngel Cruz122Dan Blacker12-1
3Shut It UpHeriberto Figueroa117Doug F. O'Neill3-1
4Fight NightEvin Roman122Peter Eurton15-1
5Rather NosyAndrea Atzeni122Simon Callaghan6-1
6ObjectiveDrayden Van Dyke122Thomas F. Proctor5-2
7Lil RespectJoseph Talamo122Richard Baltas12-1
8Ilha Do MelBrice Blanc122Paulo H. Lobo20-1
9To the MorningFlavien Prat122Neil D. Drysdale15-1
10Malibu CatTyler Baze122Mark Glatt8-1
Also Eligible
11EncantaJoel Rosario122John W. Sadler2-1
12Apache PrincessKent Desormeaux122J. Keith Desormeaux4-1
13Kittyhawk LassEvin Roman122Mike Puype15-1
14Maxim RateAndrea Atzeni122Simon Callaghan8-1

FIFTH RACE.

6 Furlongs. Purse: $18,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $12,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Halo GirlMario Gutierrez122Jesus Mendoza30-112,500
2Blissful LadyEdgar Payeras124Charles S. Treece20-112,500
3PeachyEdwin Maldonado122George Papaprodromou7-212,500
4Mi PajaritoEswan Flores122Jorge Periban10-112,500
5Copper CowgirlHeriberto Figueroa117Patricia Harrington6-112,500
6Desired EdgeEvin Roman122Adam Kitchingman4-112,500
7Warm It UpMartin Pedroza124Vernon E. Aguayo12-112,500
8FellinaTiago Pereira124Bobby Wayne Grayson50-112,500
9Dressed in PradaAlonso Quinonez124Lloyd C. Wicker10-112,500
10One UpperLuis Fuentes115Ryan Hanson3-112,500
11K P's SmokinAssael Espinoza117Steve Knapp6-112,500

SIXTH RACE.

1 1/8 Mile Turf. Purse: $59,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $62,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Starting BlocRafael Bejarano122Alfredo Marquez4-1
2EckersleyEvin Roman122Scott Hansen12-1
3Ya Gotta WannaFlavien Prat122Philip D'Amato7-2
4Whoop Whoop Aaron Gryder122Jeff Mullins10-1
5Majestic EagleAndrea Atzeni120Neil D. Drysdale5-1
6Kazan Joel Rosario120Simon Callaghan10-1
7EncumberedMario Gutierrez120Simon Callaghan12-1
8EpicalTyler Baze120James M. Cassidy4-1
9Arms RunnerDrayden Van Dyke122Peter Miller12-1
10Maestro DearteGeovanni Franco122Peter Eurton8-1
Also Eligible
11Any QuestionsAssael Espinoza117Steve Knapp20-1
12Cleopatra's StrikeJoel Rosario122Philip D'Amato8-1
13Oscar Dominguez Joseph Talamo124Peter Miller5-1

SEVENTH RACE.

6 Furlongs. Purse: $22,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $16,000-$14,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Mo SoulMartin Pedroza124Mark Glatt5-116,000
2Jump the TracksAgapito Delgadillo122Isidro Tamayo4-116,000
3AristocraticHeriberto Figueroa119Peter Miller5-216,000
4Zap AgainTiago Pereira122Charles S. Treece6-114,000
5Zippy GroomJoel Rosario120Robert B. Hess, Jr.12-114,000
6Smuggler UnionOctavio Vergara, Jr.124Howard L. Zucker12-116,000
7Short of EzDrayden Van Dyke124Mike Puype7-216,000
8SeauGeovanni Franco124Quinn Howey10-116,000
9Downside UpAssael Espinoza119Patricia Harrington20-116,000

EIGHTH RACE.

1 Mile Turf. Purse: $75,000. 'Eddie Logan Stakes'. 2 year olds.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1More IceDrayden Van Dyke121Jerry Hollendorfer6-1
2Manhattan UpTyler Baze119Philip A. Oviedo12-1
3Rijeka Joel Rosario119Richard Baltas4-1
4Flying ScotsmanFlavien Prat123Jerry Hollendorfer8-5
5The CreepRafael Bejarano119Doug F. O'Neill20-1
6Swamp SouffleEdwin Maldonado119George Papaprodromou15-1
7Neptune's StormAssael Espinoza119William E. Morey20-1
8Sparky VilleKent Desormeaux119Jeff Bonde9-2
9Weekly CallGeovanni Franco119Doug F. O'Neill30-1
10Bob and JackieHeriberto Figueroa119Richard Baltas6-1

NINTH RACE.

1 Mile. Purse: $18,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $8,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Kenzou's RhythmHeriberto Figueroa117William E. Morey7-28,000
2HarrovianLuis Fuentes115Dennis Givens20-18,000
3Air PocketSaul Arias122Rafael DeLeon50-18,000
4Banze No Oeste Ruben Fuentes122Steve Knapp12-18,000
5TrapalandaAlonso Quinonez122Jeff Mullins3-18,000
6Dedicated to YouAssael Espinoza117Vann Belvoir12-18,000
7Dukes UpAaron Gryder122Steven Miyadi4-18,000
8Gio's CallingEdgar Payeras122Eddie Truman5-18,000
9Broken UpEswan Flores122Doug F. O'Neill8-18,000
10Hard ArchJoseph Talamo124Vladimir Cerin6-18,000

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