Horse racing newsletter: Racing may be on hold in California

(Getty Images)

Hello, my name is John Cherwa, and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we seek clarification on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order.

On Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom put the state on a stay-at-home order in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, one of the questions that seemed unresolved was how does this affects horse racing, which has switched to a closed racing environment.

Santa Anita issued this statement on Thursday night: “We have been closed to the public since March 12. We are working with the Governor’s office to get some clarity after [Thursday’s] order. We do not expect to hear before [Friday].”


So, there you have it it. I’m guessing the track will be closed but on the other hand, there will be no one that will be taken off the street by this order. The horses need care 24/7 and not racing doesn’t change that, But, also the appearance of giving an exemption to racing seems unlikely, especially given how critical Newsom has been about horse racing.

If racing is canceled, we’ll have occasional newsletters updating everyone. If the opposite, no harm, no foul.

In the meantime, we’ll give you the rest of the newsletter as if it were all systems ahead.

Jon White’s Kentucky Derby Top 10

As always, we’re lucky to have top expert Jon White take a look at what’s happening on the Kentucky Derby trail, and what a trail that has become. Jon makes the morning line at Santa Anita, he’s a licensed steward, and he’s the pre-eminent historian on racing. We’re lucky to have him. So, here’s his Kentucky Derby rankings, brought courtesy of

“Talk about a sports world turned upside down.

Tom Brady a Buccaneer? Won’t seeing him play in something other than a Patriots uniform be weird?

“March Madness canceled? Who would have ever thought that was possible?

“And a first Saturday in May with no Kentucky Derby? A Run for the Roses in September? For horse racing fans, it’s downright unthinkable.


“But it’s just a small taste of the havoc wreaked on the sports world — make that havoc wreaked on the entire world — because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Churchill Downs announced Tuesday that the 146th running of the $3 million Kentucky Derby has been moved from May 2 to Sept. 5. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission held a special meeting Thursday and approved a five-day race meet for Churchill Downs from Sept. 1-5. In addition, the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks for fillies has been changed from May 1 to Sept. 4.

“And so it turns out that this year’s Kentucky Derby trail has become much longer.

“When was the last time the Kentucky Derby was not held in May? You have to go all the way back to 1945. The United States was in the throes of World War II. Hoop Jr., with riding legend Eddie Arcaro in the saddle, scampered to a six-length Kentucky Derby victory on June 9 while defeating 15 on a muddy track.


“What about the Triple Crown this year? That’s another good question. It’s become customary for the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby to be followed two weeks later by the 1 3/16-mile Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, with the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park contested three weeks after the Preakness.

“But the 2020 Triple Crown is unclear at this time. New dates for the Preakness and Belmont have not been announced. To maintain the same spacing between the Triple Crown events this year, will the Preakness be moved to Sept. 17 and the Belmont to Oct. 10? And if that does happen, will the distance of the Preakness and Belmont stay the same? It’s all up in the air right now, like so much else these days.

“Keep in mind the Triple Crown that we have become accustomed to has not always been that way. For example, there have been years in which the Preakness preceded the Kentucky Derby. And consider what occurred in 1917 and 1922. In those two years, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness were actually held on the same day! (That made sweeping the Triple Crown beyond difficult.)

“My Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week takes into account the race’s new Sept. 5 date. It also has been influenced by victories last Saturday by Charlatan at Santa Anita and Nadal at Oaklawn Park. Bob Baffert trains both Charlatan and Nadal.


“In light of Charlatan’s scintillating triumph last weekend, he rises to No. 1 on my Top 10 after being No. 6 last week. He won by 10 1/4 lengths while racing around two turns for the first time. Charlatan completed one mile in 1:36.24. In the very next race at Santa Anita that same afternoon, the 4-year-old filly Ce Ce won the Grade 1 Beholder Mile at the same distance in 1:37.33.

“Charlatan now has won two races by a combined 16 lengths. Moving the Kentucky Derby to Sept. 5 should help him. It will allow the Kentucky-bred Speightstown colt additional time to gain more racing experience.

“Nadal is three for three. He won last Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile Rebel Stakes by three-quarters of a length as the 9-10 favorite. Though Nadal did not prevail by a big margin — three-quarters of a length — his performance certainly was praiseworthy.

“After breaking from the inside post, Nadal got in an early battle. The pace was hot (:22.89, :46.00). On the far turn, American Theorem and No Parole both threw in the towel. American Theorem wound up getting beat by 27 1/4 lengths. No Parole lost by 49 lengths.


“Considering Nadal also was part of the swift pace, it would not have been surprising if he had finished off the board. But he resolutely kept to his task all the way down the lane. After having to stave off bids from Three Technique and Silver Prospector near the top of the stretch, Nadal then got the job done when able to turn back a late challenge from 82-1 longshot Excession.

“Baffert, who has five Kentucky Derby victories, trains two others on my Top 10 in No. 4 Authentic and No. 9 Thousand Words.

“Authentic, who is three for three, won Santa Anita’s San Felipe Stakes on March 7. He is scheduled to make his next start in the $1 million Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles on April 4. By the calendar, if the Kentucky Derby had been held on May 2 as originally scheduled, Authentic would have still been a 2-year-old on that date. He was foaled on on May 5. Switching the Kentucky Derby to Sept. 5 could really help such a late foal.

“Baffert, who is just one win shy of tying Ben Jones’ record for most Kentucky Derby victories by a trainer, recently described Charlatan, Nadal and Authentic as ‘three pretty wicked amigos.’ The respect I have for these three colts is reflected by their lofty positions on my Top 10.


“Two other 3-year-old colts trained by Baffert, High Velocity and Azul Coast, had been entered in this Sunday’s Sunland Derby. But that race has been canceled.

“Eight Rings, another Baffert-trained 3-year-old colt, is on the brink of a return to racing. Eight Rings sports a number of sharp recent workouts while gearing up for his first start since finishing sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita last Nov. 1. He won the American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita last year prior to the Breeders’ Cup.

“I think a Kentucky Derby in September should be a big plus for Maxfield, who moves up a couple of notches on my Top 10 this week to No. 5. It was questionable whether he would be ready for a May 2 Kentucky Derby. But the switch to Sept. 5 makes it much more likely Maxfield can run in this year’s Kentucky Derby.

“Undefeated in two starts, Maxfield has not raced since he won Keeneland’s Breeders’ Futurity by 5 1/4 lengths last year on Oct. 5. The Kentucky-bred Street Sense colt underwent surgery last Nov. 18 for the removal of an ankle chip.


“Maxfield, whose sire won the 2007 Kentucky Derby, worked five furlongs in 1:01.80 last Saturday at Palm Meadows in Florida for trainer Brendan Walsh. After the announcement that the Kentucky Derby had been moved to Sept. 5, Walsh told the Daily Racing Form, ‘Obviously, this gives us more time for help prepare him properly.’

‘Saturday’s 1 3/16-mile Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots has drawn a field of 16, including two also eligibles. Enforcement, winner of the Lecomte Stakes and second in a division of the Risen Star Stakes at that New Orleans track, is the 7-2 favorite on Mike Diliberto’s morning line.

“Here are this week’s Kentucky Derby rankings, courtesy of Xpressbet:

1. Charlatan (6)


2. Nadal (4)

3. Honor A.P. (1)

4. Authentic (2)

5. Maxfield (7)


6. Tiz the Law (3)

7. Ete Indien (5)

8. Sole Volante (8)

9. Thousand Words (9)


10. King Guillermo (10)

NOTE: Last week’s rankings in parentheses”

Santa Anita preview

Santa Anita is back at it with an eight-race simulcast-only card starting at 1 p.m. There are four turf races, all limited field with the rail set at 30 feet. There are two five-horse races, but at this point we’re guessing you’ll take any race over no racing.

The feature is the seventh, a one mile turf allowance/optional claimer for 3-year-olds. The favorite is K P All Systems Go fro trainer Jeff Mullins and jockey Abel Cedillo. He has won one of his five races, breaking his maiden last out by six lengths. They clearly thought highly of him as Mike Smith rode him the first two times.


Liar Liar is the second choice at 5-1 for Richard Baltas and Umberto Rispoli. He is one-for-six lifetime but been running at a higher level. He broke his maiden in his second start and the finished fifth in the Cecile B DeMille, third in the Eddie Logan and fifth in the Pasadena. Post is around 4:10 p.m.

Here are the field sizes, in order: 8 (4 also eligible), 5, 8 (3 ae), 8, 8, 5, 9, 9.

Ciaran Thornton’s SA pick of the day

RACE THREE: No.7 Whirl Candy (5-1)

Whirl Candy makes the first start since August for trainer Richard Baltas and Umberto Rispoli gets the mount. Rispoli is winning 29% for Baltas at the meet. First time turf Friday, Baltas also adds blinkers for earlier speed. If the horse breaks fast and gets the lead we could see a gate to wire winner at a nice 5-1 value. A couple of sharp workouts for the return add to the appeal. My full Santa Anita card is free for readers today. Simply head to my website and click on the Santa Anita Free Plays tab.


Sunday’s result: Purdue blasted to the front as we expected running a 22 second first quarter. At the top of the stretch it looked like we had the win, but the horse ran out of steam and faded.

Ciaran Thornton is the handicapper for, which offers daily full card picks, longshots of the day, best bets of the day.

Los Alamitos weekend preview

It’s time to turn things over to marketing and meda guru Orlando Gutierrez, who will tell us about things going on at Los Alamitos. Orlando, the floor is yours.

“Earle Gray will look to continue his fine form when he heads the fourth race, an allowance at 870 yards on Friday night. Seven races are on tap with first post scheduled for 6 p.m. Racing is being held behind closed doors with no spectators allowed inside the facility. The track does offer a video stream of the live racing at TVG also airs the racing action.


“The fourth race is key on Friday, as it wraps up the early Pick Four and kicks off the late Pick Four. Earle Gray has finished third or better in all six of his career starts with his last outing being the most impressive when posting a 3-3/4 length win over the usually sharp El Senor De Latuna on Feb. 28.

“There will be two other events at 870 yards. One is an allowance featuring Chico Baby and recent maiden winners Seeking Peace and Brain Game in the second race. Trained by Brian Pitnick, Chico Baby has enjoyed consistent efforts over this oval, including a runaway maiden win and three in-the-money finishes against allowance competition.

“Tac Me Up and Rite Quick, a pair of stakes winners at Los Alamitos, will be among the six older horses in the $15,000 Mr Jet Moore Handicap at 350 yards on Saturday. There are eight races with first post at 6 p.m.

Rite Quick has made a name for himself as perhaps the quickest horses on the grounds based on his record at 110 yards. He has won four of his last five starts at 100 or 110 yards, including The Blink Of An Eye Handicap on Feb. 29, but he’s also done well at other longer distances. He was second to Tac Me Up in the 350-yard Cypress Handicap on Jan. 17 and second to Duck Dash N Go in the 300-yard Super Sound Charge Handicap last December. A track record holder at 110 yards, Rite Quick has the one post.


“Tac Me Up added another stakes win when drawing away late to win the Cypress by a half-length. The multiple graded stakes finalist had previously finished second in the Grade 2 Southern California Derby and has consistently posted strong efforts in stakes races. The 4-year-old Kiddy Up gelding has won seven-of-19 career starts and has finished in the money 14 times. Eduardo Nicasio will ride for AQHA champion trainer Chris O’Dell.

“Circle City returns to action on Saturday night when he heads the seventh race at 110 yards. The gray by Favorite Cartel finished second in last year’s Grade 1 Golden State Million Futurity and most recently ran sixth in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Derby. Saturday’s race will be his first start since Feb. 8. He’ll be going after his fifth win in eight career starts and enters as the richest horse in the field with $202,552.

“Racing will continue on Sunday at about 5:30 p.m.”

Chris Wade’s LA pick of the day

RACE ONE: No. 1 Last Dance Bella (5-1)


She went way better than looked when running sixth against a productive group of runners while encountering a few instances of trouble that compromised her chances immensely. With a quality charting in tow, along with an expected better journey Friday, we’ll push this runner steadily for all the board placings at a medium price.

A final thought

I love getting new readers of this newsletter, and you certainly can’t beat the price. If you like it, tell someone. If you don’t like it, you’re probably not reading this.

Either way, send this along to a friend, and just have them click here to sign up. Remember, it’s free, and all we need is your email address, nothing more.

Any thoughts, you can reach me at You can also feed my ego by following me on Twitter @jcherwa.

Now the star of the show, Friday’s entries.

Santa Anita Entries for Friday, March 20.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 39th day of a 60-day meet.


5½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $32,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $50,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Tiger's PrincessJose Valdivia, Jr.126Matthew Chew10-150,000
2Charging HomeAbel Cedillo118Doug F. O'Neill4-150,000
3Down HomeJorge Velez118Craig Anthony Lewis12-150,000
4Hola ChicaGeovanni Franco126Carla Gaines10-150,000
5TrouvilleUmberto Rispoli118Leonard Powell5-250,000
6PranceFlavien Prat126Neil D. Drysdale2-150,000
7Runaway LuckEvin Roman126Adam Kitchingman4-150,000
8La SabaleraTiago Pereira126Javier Jose Sierra50-150,000
Also Eligible
9I'm the HeroUmberto Rispoli118Adam Kitchingman6-150,000
10Mela JonesAbel Cedillo126Jack Carava5-150,000
11Cosmic CowgirlMario Gutierrez118Richard Baltas5-150,000
12Polar RouteTiago Pereira118Matthew Chew15-150,000


6 Furlongs. Purse: $25,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $25,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1BooliciousJorge Velez124Craig Anthony Lewis6-125,000
2Tick TockUmberto Rispoli124Andrew Lerner4-1
3Miss Lady AnnAbel Cedillo124Jack Carava5-225,000
4BuybackEdwin Maldonado124Jeff Bonde8-525,000
5Your Royal CoilTiago Pereira124Paul G. Aguirre3-125,000


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

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Cape PointRuben Fuentes126John W. Sadler15-1
2Ka'nahFlavien Prat126Ryan Hanson7-2
3J Z My ManDrayden Van Dyke118Bob Baffert4-1
4ChampersAbel Cedillo118Robert B. Hess, Jr.12-1
5DuplicityVictor Espinoza118John W. Sadler10-1
6SlyMike Smith126Richard E. Mandella4-1
7Whirl CandyUmberto Rispoli118Richard Baltas5-1
8SilencedJorge Velez126Peter Eurton5-2
Also Eligible
9Much More HaloAbel Cedillo118Bob Baffert3-1
10Jaxon's GoldieEvin Roman118Robert B. Hess, Jr.12-1
11NeutrinoRuben Fuentes126John W. Sadler5-1


5½ Furlongs. Purse: $32,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $50,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Enriched by DebAssael Espinoza118Richard Baltas4-150,000
2Lucky DaughterVictor Flores111Rafael DeLeon8-150,000
3RaneemJ.C. Diaz, Jr.126Bob Baffert9-550,000
4Thick SmokeAbel Cedillo118Steven Miyadi6-150,000
5BochimAgapito Delgadillo126Victor L. Garcia10-150,000
6Enchanting MoonEswan Flores118Hector O. Palma8-150,000
7Awesome AlessandraEdwin Maldonado118Marcia Stortz12-150,000
8Palm d'OroUmberto Rispoli126Art Sherman4-150,000


1 1/8 Mile Turf. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Starship SkyEswan Flores126Howard L. Zucker20-1
2Kissable UMario Gutierrez118Doug F. O'Neill10-1
3Rose's CrystalEdwin Maldonado118Carla Gaines3-1
4Unusual SecretBrice Blanc118Alexis Barba10-1
5Slew SouthTiago Pereira126Neil French6-1
6Warren's EmpressJorge Velez118Craig Anthony Lewis4-1
7Y Not SizzleUmberto Rispoli126Jeff Mullins6-5
8CircleofcolorVictor Flores111John C. Ivory50-1


6 Furlongs. Purse: $20,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $10,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1No Wine UntastedUmberto Rispoli122J. Eric Kruljac2-110,000
2All Tea All ShadeRafael Bejarano122Jorge Periban3-110,000
3Todos SantosJorge Velez124Jeffrey Metz5-210,000
4Fairly LuckyRuben Fuentes122Victor M. Trujillo3-110,000
5Spectacular StormRamon Guce124Jerry Wallace, II6-110,000


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

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1JurgenJose Valdivia, Jr.122John W. Sadler6-1
2West SiderRafael Bejarano122Bob Baffert6-1
3Commander Assael Espinoza122Peter Miller8-180,000
4KanderelMike Smith122Richard E. Mandella6-1
5Bad BeatEvin Roman120Adam Kitchingman15-180,000
6Last Opportunity Flavien Prat122Neil D. Drysdale6-1
7GovernanceJorge Velez122Richard Baltas8-1
8Liar Liar Umberto Rispoli122Richard Baltas5-1
9K P All Systems GoAbel Cedillo122Jeff Mullins5-2


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

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Gov From AboveEdwin Maldonado118Art Sherman5-150,000
2Papa LorenzoTiago Pereira118Daniel Dunham20-150,000
3Saturday JohnnyJorge Velez118Craig Anthony Lewis5-150,000
4War MakerAssael Espinoza118Dean Pederson5-150,000
5Equipo AGeovanni Franco118Lorenzo Ruiz10-150,000
6Very IrishEswan Flores118Cesar DeAlba7-250,000
7My Super MarioAbel Cedillo126Richard Baltas4-150,000
8Sierra MelodyRafael Bejarano118Marcia Stortz8-150,000
9War WatchVinnie Bednar126Keith E. Craigmyle6-150,000