Racing! Heading into the biggest weekend of the year

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we monitor what’s going on at Santa Anita.

Of course, the biggest story of the week—and probably of the year in horse racing--remains the horse breakdowns at Santa Anita. It depends on how you want to look at it. There have been 23 since Dec. 26, or one in the last 20 days.

Now that is a somewhat deceptive stat in that you could spin the 1-in-20 to being 1-in-3 if you just look at racing dates. And that’s what everyone is looking at. Training, which is approaching 3,000 timed workouts since the last breakdown, is going well.

The one thing everyone agrees on, however, is that one is too many

I’ve been pretty bad about those of you who have emailed me about answering. I’ve been hit with a crush of notes from people who want to offer suggestions of what went wrong. It’s gone from the predictable medication and track conditions, to unsavory people and earthquakes.

I respond if I think I have anything to add to your thoughts and I have time. If you haven’t figured it out, those of you who hurl personal insults, call me stupid, or are just plain mean, are likely to never get a response. Although, I do feel bad for people so filled with hate.

Back to what’s important. The big story so far this week is Sen. Dianne Feinstein sending a letter to Chuck Winner, chairman of the California Horse Racing Board, looking for answers on the breakdowns. She also called for Santa Anita to be shut down until there are answers. It’s not likely she’ll get any because, well, there are no definitive ones.

Here’s what I think will happen, and it is my opinion only. I haven’t been told anything. I’m real certain that racing will continue through Saturday. The day is too important to the industry unless things go horrifically bad on Thursday and Friday.

After that, I wouldn’t be surprised that with the next breakdown, and there will be one some time in the future, that Santa Anita takes another break from racing. For how long, I don’t know. The CHRB will meet next Friday to determine options of how they would handle this situation, which could include moving the dates elsewhere.

However, if Santa Anita can get by this weekend, and beyond, and beyond, and beyond, they may not have to close this meeting. That’s a tall order. The only thing that can quiet this firestorm is time. So, that’s why a break is not out of the question.

The only sure way to keep breakdowns from happening is to not race. It would come at great expense to The Stronach Group. But, I think, it is much more focused on its long-term survival than any short-time loss. Of course, that doesn’t help all the employees would temporarily be out of jobs.

My guess, again a guess, is that we won’t see a lot of June racing during this meet. After Saturday, the next big milestone is Kentucky Derby weekend. It would be quite remarkable if the track could go until then without some kind of accident. We can only hope, for the horse’s sake.

Santa Anita preview

It’s an eight-race card starting at 1 p.m. There are four turf races, two down the hill. Half the races are for maidens and three races are restricted to Cal-breds. We’re not going to name a feature race. It would be either the sixth, a one-mile turf allowance/optional claimer for 3-year-olds. Or the eighth, an allowance Cal-bred fillies race down the hill at 6 ½ furlongs. Clearly, the most important stat on Thursday … and Friday … and …. is just getting everyone home safe.

Here are the field sizes, in order: 10 (4 also eligible), 9, 7, 8, 8, 9,10, 10 (1 ae).

Bob Ike’s SA pick of the day

SIXTH RACE: Exacta Box 4-5

I like a couple of horses here in this first-level allowance/optional claimer for 3-year-olds going one mile on turf (rails at 30 feet). I'll take one speed horse in My Mandate (4-1) and one closer in Order and Law (5-1) to try to hit the exacta. ‘Mandate is improving and the fastest horse in the race, so if he handles the distance without too much pace pressure he may be hard to run down. ‘Law invades from the East and broke his maiden in a turf stakes. He can fire late and will be a threat if he gets some pace at which to run.

Sunday’s result: Blitzkrieg ($4.40) was bet like he couldn't lose and didn't, easily winning his third straight on turf.

Bob Ike is a Partner/VP of (here's a video) and the proprietor of (full-card picks, 3 Best Plays and betting strategy).

Golden Gate weekend preview

We’re back with our weekly look at the best racing at Golden Gate Fields. As with the last couple meetings, we’re delighted to have race caller and all-around good guy Matt Dinerman as our host for previews and other musings. So, take it away, Matt.

“Live racing resumes at Golden Gate Fields with cards through Sunday. I have handicapped the races here for three years and I can honestly say our product has gotten better each year. In most of our races, handicappers’ can make a case for the majority of the horses. That wasn’t always the case, but things have changed. Our payouts are strong. The handicapping puzzles are typically challenging and thought-provoking. The races are fun and exciting to watch. These are the types of races and sequences that horseplayers want to dive into. We’ve seen plenty of horses come in at prices. I’m confident this gradual improvement will continue.

“On Friday, Leg D of the Stronach 5 wager goes as race five. A field of nine 3-year-olds go 5 ½ furlongs. It’s also the first leg of the late pick 4. The horse to beat is No. 3 Drill Time, who drops in class after a number of decent efforts against allowance company. No. 8 Sizzling Jamie is an interesting horse to consider. The Cliff DeLima trainee hasn’t been seen since the summer time, when he broke his maiden by more than five lengths in a maiden special weight over the dirt on the California fair circuit. Also getting support will likely be Doug O’Neill trained Three Ay Em and recent maiden winners Johnny Runner and One Salty Dog.

“Turf racing resumes next Friday, April 12, the first of two-straight three-day weeks. According to management, our turf track is in great shape and the track crew is finishing up the final touches so we can race over the course next week. Multiple jockey agents have confirmed that many horsemen are eager to run horses on the turf again and are hopeful for good field sizes. Sounds good to me.

“In other news, top Bay Area turf sprinter Bay Muzik is scheduled to run in the Grade 2 $200,000 Shakertown at Keeneland on Saturday. Trained by up-and-coming young conditioner Ari Herbertson, the son of City Zip has won six-of-12 lifetime races and hasn’t raced since a sharp-looking allowance win in early January. It’s a very tough spot and he’ll go off at a price. He’s very quick so expect him to go to the lead.

“El Camino Real Derby winner and Sunland Derby runner up Anothertwistafate remains at Sunland Park, according to trainer Blaine Wright. Wright’s main goal is to run the horse in the Kentucky Derby, and would prefer to train him up to the race. That said, Anothertwistafate is on the bubble to draw into the Derby, and Wright may have to run Anothortwistafate in the Arkansas Derby or Lexington to earn more points so he can secure a spot. The son of Scat Daddy has earned 30 points so far. Wright will monitor the points after the Bluegrass, Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby are run this week, and will then make a decision.”

Final thought

Always looking to jump the circulation of this newsletter. Can’t beat the price. If you like it, tell someone. If you don’t like it, then you’re probably not reading this. Either way, send to a friend and just have them click here and sign up. Remember, it’s free, and all we need is your email, nothing more.

If you have any thoughts, you can reach me at You can also feed my ego by following me on Twitter @jcherwa

And now the star of the show, Thursday’s entries.

Santa Anita Entries for Thursday, April 4.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 58th day of a 61-day meet.


About 6½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. 3 year olds and up. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Unusually HandsomeTiago Pereira118Tim Yakteen12-1
2Bob's SniperBrice Blanc118Val Brinkerhoff20-1
3Sidepocket ActionAssael Espinoza119Steve Knapp12-1
4General MoGeovanni Franco118Jerry Hollendorfer6-1
5Sir EddieFlavien Prat124Dan Blacker5-2
6Hit the SeamMario Gutierrez124Edward R. Freeman9-2
7Elusive FlameRuben Fuentes118Jeff Mullins8-1
8Play MoneyRafael Bejarano118David E. Hofmans3-1
9Gooch ExpressEvin Roman124Mike Puype12-1
10First in ShowAgapito Delgadillo118Mark Glatt12-1
Also Eligible
11AppreciatedAaron Gryder118Rafael Becerra7-2
12FlicflacOctavio Vergara, Jr.118Howard L. Zucker20-1
13Jen Go UnchainedAgapito Delgadillo118Mike Puype12-1
14JugglesMario Gutierrez118Doug F. O'Neill5-1


7 Furlongs. Purse: $22,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $12,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Midnight SootRuben Fuentes124Antonio Garcia15-112,500
2Papa TurfHeriberto Figueroa122Jeffrey Metz6-112,500
3MonydontspenitselfJoseph Talamo122Mark Glatt3-112,500
4Baby Bear's SoupAssael Espinoza119Steve Knapp5-212,500
5Little ScottyJorge Velez115Vladimir Cerin8-112,500
6Burn Me TwiceTiago Pereira122William Spawr5-112,500
7HarrovianJ.C. Diaz, Jr.115Dennis Givens30-112,500
8FinallygotabentleyAlonso Quinonez122Derek Meredith30-112,500
9Run Macho RunGeovanni Franco124Jerry Hollendorfer7-212,500


6 Furlongs. Purse: $32,000. Maiden Claiming. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $50,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Red ValorEswan Flores124Val Brinkerhoff12-150,000
2DrinkMartin Pedroza124David E. Hofmans3-150,000
3High FiveJ.C. Diaz, Jr.117Vladimir Cerin4-150,000
4Mica BayAssael Espinoza119Philip D'Amato6-150,000
5RailmanRafael Bejarano124Peter Eurton5-250,000
6SharedGeovanni Franco124Jose Jesus Avalos8-150,000
7PalaleoFlavien Prat124Jeff Bonde7-250,000


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. 3 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1LomuDrayden Van Dyke124Neil D. Drysdale5-2
2T Bones TrickRafael Bejarano118David E. Hofmans4-1
3HackberryMartin Garcia118Dan Blacker12-1
4American CampTiago Pereira118Robert B. Hess, Jr.12-1
5Caribbean Brice Blanc124John A. Shirreffs5-1
6Keystone FieldFlavien Prat124Richard E. Mandella3-1
7PointedRuben Fuentes124Marsha D. Schwizer12-1
8CalabasasGeovanni Franco124Dan Blacker9-2


6 Furlongs. Purse: $22,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $10,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1AsemFelipe Martinez122Kelly Castaneda15-110,000
2Todos SantosRafael Bejarano122Kelly Castaneda5-110,000
3Dragon FlowerAlonso Quinonez122Derek Meredith12-110,000
4A Filly Can DreamOctavio Vergara, Jr.122Frank Lucarelli15-110,000
5Blooming HannahTiago Pereira122Robert A. Bean12-110,000
6Smart RachelEswan Flores122Hector O. Palma3-110,000
7Cinnamon TwistJ.C. Diaz, Jr.115Jorge Periban2-110,000
8Party HostessEvin Roman122Jorge Periban5-210,000


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $57,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $80,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1VantasticMike Smith122Peter Eurton7-2
2ContagionEdwin Maldonado122Doug F. O'Neill15-180,000
3Urban Light Tiago Pereira124Philip D'Amato8-1
4My MandateDrayden Van Dyke122Mark Glatt4-1
5Order and LawGeovanni Franco122Vladimir Cerin5-1
6Rijeka Kent Desormeaux124Richard Baltas3-1
7ForestationAssael Espinoza119J. Eric Kruljac15-1
8Shining ThroughFlavien Prat124Jerry Hollendorfer8-1
9Irish HeatwaveRafael Bejarano124J. Keith Desormeaux8-1


6 Furlongs. Purse: $32,000. Maiden Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $50,000. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Hard to Come HomeJ.C. Diaz, Jr.111Clifford W. Sise, Jr.6-150,000
2Perfect TaleDrayden Van Dyke124Mark Rheinford7-250,000
3Sea's JourneyGeovanni Franco124Jerry Hollendorfer3-150,000
4Sterling's TempleAlonso Quinonez124Val Brinkerhoff20-150,000
5Friday's At ShadyRuben Fuentes118Jeff Bonde5-150,000
6Soul OwnerAssael Espinoza119Vann Belvoir8-150,000
7Tak'in the Red EyeEvin Roman124Mark Glatt12-150,000
8Indi LuckIsrael Ocampo118Jeff Bonde12-150,000
9King ParkerTiago Pereira118Craig Anthony Lewis15-150,000
10Pig IronHeriberto Figueroa124Jorge Gutierrez5-150,000


About 6½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $57,000. Allowance. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Moonshine AnnieKent Desormeaux124Mark Glatt3-1
2Wandering PatrolMario Gutierrez124Ben D. A. Cecil4-1
3Square PeggyJoseph Talamo118Brian J. Koriner15-1
4Drop the MicTiago Pereira124Philip D'Amato10-1
5Be Lifted UpFlavien Prat116Jeff Mullins6-1
6ThaliaGeovanni Franco124Philip D'Amato6-1
7Shylock EddieAaron Gryder124Brian J. Koriner6-1
8CharmingslewMike Smith124Neil French15-1
9Miss VoluptuousDrayden Van Dyke124Patrick Gallagher6-1
10Hot On the TrailHeriberto Figueroa116Mark Glatt15-1
Also Eligible
11An Eddie SurpriseRafael Bejarano124Doug F. O'Neill5-1

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