Horse racing newsletter: Last week of the Santa Anita meeting is here

Santa Anita starting gate
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome to our horse racing newsletter as the CHRB doles out its race dates for next year.

Thursday was a pretty newsy day.

--Santa Anita is shaking up top management again. Aidan Butler, the guy with the long title, is getting a more succinct title and moving to Florida. He’s going to be the chief operating officer with a mission to focus on the East Coast properties. Craig Fravel, the chief executive officer, is now going to focus on the West Coast tracks as well as run the national operation.

No one expects Fravel to be deciding what time post should be or how may races to run, so Santa Anita will need someone to run the day to day. The guess here is that Nate Newby, who was just made a senior vice president and assistant general manager, is the frontrunner. I’ve always wondered how you can be an assistant general manager when there is no general manager.

Anyway, the decision has already been made as a spokesperson told me an announcement is coming soon.


You can read the news release, just click here. If you can cut through the denseness of what is trying to be said, you’ll get a big chuckle of what is written near the bottom with this claim that the Santa Anita coronavirus protocols were the model for others in sports.

“This ecosystem has since been replicated by many other professional sports leagues including the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Hockey League (NHL),” the news release said.

Ahhh, Santa Anita positives: 38, the NBA: 0.

Here’s wishing Aidan the best of luck.

--The California Horse Racing Board had its monthly meeting on Thursday by teleconference. Santa Anita got 32 weeks, Del Mar was awarded 13 and Los Alamitos got seven. Now, those aren’t actual racing weeks, although the vast majority of them are, but more importantly who gets the simulcast money those weeks. It’s not a bad deal to pull in money from the ADWs and not have to pay out purses. Byron King of the Bloodhorse has a good recap of the meeting. Just click here.

--Gamine, the 3-year-old filly trained by Bob Baffert, found herself back in the news after an alleged positive test during the Kentucky Oaks. The positive test was reported by the New York Times, and confirmed by an attorney for Baffert. However, the Baffert team contends that they followed guidelines supplied by the Kentucky regulatory agency. Here a more expansive story on this from Just click here.

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Santa Anita Preview


Friday’s card is nine races starting at 1 p.m. It’s not much to speak of. There are four turf races. Five of the races are for non-winners. In fact, there isn’t even an allowance on the card. We’re not going to spend much time with this card, other than to say there are two $55,000 maiden specials, both for Cal-breds going 5 ½ furlongs on the turf. They are the fifth and ninth races.

Here are the field sizes, in order: 7, 5, 6, 6, 7, 7, 7, 6, 8 (4 also eligible).

Frank Mirahmadi’s SA pick

THIRD RACE: No. 4 Rip City (3-1)

Almost exactly eight months from the date of his blowout maiden win, and first start under the care of Mike Puype, Rip City held off City Rage by a nose at Del Mar. I give the edge in the rematch to Rip City, who has been given plenty of time since that game victory and is looking for his third consecutive win.

Sunday’s result: K P All Systems Go did not have the necessary punch and was soundly defeated by four lengths, finishing sixth at 23-1 in the Twilight Derby behind familiar rival Smooth Like Strait.

Frank Mirahmadi is the track announcer at Santa Anita Park.

Ciaran Thornton’s SA pick

SIXTH RACE: No. 7 Etterbay Ucklay (6-1)

Etterbay Ucklay stretches out to a mile Friday for trainer Ron Ellis. Ellis is three of seven at the meet, winning two of three recently with jockey Jose Valdivia. The distance and the closing kick of this horse look ideal. This race has been won by value horses over 5-1 a very nice 26% of the time. Bodega gets in light with the apprentice who is doing great going 3-3-1 from 13 rides, a 23% win rate and 54% in the money percentage. Best value race on the Friday card.

Sunday’s result: Needless to Say was overmatched and ran off the board.

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


Golden Gate weekend preview

Here’s our weekly look at the best racing going on at Golden Gate Fields. 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.

“The 32-day Fall meet at Golden Gate Fields began Thursday afternoon with a seven-race card. Three more race days this week, starting with a nine-race program Friday. The last leg of the Stronach 5 wager is the third Golden Gate. My top pick is No. 3 Perfect Stories, a filly who has run two bang up races to kick off her career. In her last start, she finished third off a 10-month layoff and finished behind a next out allowance winner. Trainer Jonathan Wong, who won three races Thursday, saddles two Tommy Town Thoroughbreds entrants in With Open Eyes and Sweet and Softly, who appear as major players.

“The second on Friday, an allowance for turf routers, is interesting. Our Silver Oak is the one to beat. He makes his third start off a lengthy vacation and most recently settled for second behind Fuente, who returned to finish as the runner to stakes-caliber gelding Give Me the Lute in a second level allowance last week. Of Good Report is also likely to get bet. He was reclaimed by trainer Doug O’Neill on Oct. 2 and wheels back in three weeks for this race.

“A first level allowance goes as the ninth on a 10-race card Saturday. Recent starter allowance winner Ready For A Fight faces older horses Detangler and Papapifas (already winners at this level), stakes placed Tribal War Chant and others in what appears like a wide open race. The eighth is a California-bred maiden special for 2-year-old fillies. Back Slider ran a respectable second to kick off her career and is the morning-line favorite while Tess’ Wild Cat suffered a rough trip on the grass and was probably best losing by a length that day. The latter filly also makes her second lifetime start. The Haynsefield firster Vegas Beauty from trainer Steve Specht’s barn may be able to win at first asking and Shanghai Sunrise is from a productive broodmare and is improving with race experience.

“The first week of the Fall meet ends with a solid 10-race program, with plenty of quality. The sixth is the start of the Late Pick 5, a 2-year-old allowance sprint which is a prep for the Golden Nugget Stakes next month. Impressive maiden winners Corsican, Doc Adams and Le Majestic go up against well regarded starter allowance winner Exhalting. Big Duke, a starter allowance winner in a separate race at that condition, and two-turn maiden winner My Father Footstep also enter. The ninth is an allowance for filly and mare sprinters and features Lotsa Pepper, a speedy filly who has won both career starts for trainer Manny Badilla in impressive fashion. Well regarded maiden winner Legalita plays her hand against winners for the first time while recent turf allowance winner Square Peggy looks to win another one at a price for trainer Quinn Howey.”

Los Alamitos weekend preview

Los Alamitos is the only track in California racing at night. So, let’s turn things over to marketing and media guru Orlando Gutierrez, who will tell us about things going on at Los Alamitos. Orlando, the floor is yours.

“Recent daylight maiden winner Twostrikesurprise is among the top runners in Friday’s featured $12,240 allowance. The eight-race card will kick off with a competitive nine-horse field racing at 1,000 yards with a first post of 6 p.m. Twostrikesurprise enters after a 1 1/4 length maiden win on Sept. 26. The Favorite Cartel gelding also finished third to futurity finalist Single Brad in his only other career start.

“A rematch of the Oct. 2 Blane Schvaneveldt Handicap is on tap for Saturday when the top three finishers go in the $16,000 John Ward Handicap at 400 yards. Zoom On Jess was the half-length winner of the Schvaneveldt when taking on older horses as the 6-5 favorite. He looks ready for a repeat when he starts in the John Ward from the outside post six. To be ridden by Armando Cervantes for trainer Monty Arrossa, Zoom On Jess has been red-hot with wire-to-wire victories in each of his last three starts. Prior to his Schvaneveldt win, Zoom On Jess won the Bitterroot Derby by ¾ lengths and has finished in the money in 13-of-17 career outings.

“Favorite Rock had a strong campaign at Arapahoe Park, winning the $75,000 Rocky Mountain Derby on July 1 and then finishing second in the $53,000 Mile High Derby on Aug. 26. A graduate of the Los Alamitos Equine Sale, the Favorite Cartel gelding was fourth at the start of the Schvaneveldt before surging at the midway point to run second. Local rider Alejandro Luna traveled to Arapahoe Park to ride Favorite Rock in all four of his starts at the Aurora, Colo. racetrack. He also rode him expertly in the Schvaneveldt and retains the mount for the John Ward.


“CM Boom Shakalaka, winner of the Emerald Downs Challenge on Aug. 20, stayed in town instead of traveling to The Downs at Albuquerque for the AQHA Challenge Championship series taking place on Saturday night. He was third in the Schvaneveldt and will look to improve on that result when he starts from post five for Arrossa. Jose Nicasio will ride. Staubach, Freight Boss and Captain Mazurk will complete the field.

“The weekend’s richest race is the $99,350 Wild West Futurity on Sunday led by Proud Movin Renegade, winner of the $96,000 Bitterroot Futurity at Pocatello Downs in Idaho. The Wild West is for 2-year-olds that have raced either in the Intermountain or Northwest racing circuits or in Arizona, Nevada and Texas. In addition to winning in Idaho, Proud Movin Renegade also won in Utah earlier this year. Relentless Six is another strong contender after winning his trial by 1 ¼ lengths. It could be that Relentless Six has a penchant for dominant victories in trials, as the North Dakota-bred also won his heat to the Firecracker Futurity at Grants Pass by 2 ½ lengths. CM Dillingham Advice, who ran at Emerald Downs prior to qualifying to the Wild West, is another solid runner in this 10-horse field.”

Chris Wade’s Friday LA pick

FIFTH RACE: No. 5 Go To Girl (4-1)

She is a trouble prone runner deluxe who has improved in each subsequent start on my charts with everything factored (trouble and track variant) and will have a solid jockey/trainer combo on her side. In her most recent start 27 nights ago, she got fractious in the gate prior to breaking slow and getting crossed by quicker rivals when losing over a length of ground and her initial racing momentum. After the tough getaway, this runner showed a nice turn of foot past the gap to reach a semblance of contention before finishing with a nice surge for third place. I expect another step forward for this juvenile and give her a chance to be a contender for all the board placings at a medium price.

A final thought

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

Santa Anita Entries for Friday, October 23.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 16th day of a 18-day meet.


1 Mile. Purse: $28,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies. 2 year olds. Claiming Price $40,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Big ChickUmberto Rispoli122Tim Yakteen4-140,000
2Pink PhloxTyler Baze122George Papaprodromou12-140,000
3Brewed BigAlexis Centeno115Sergio Morfin20-140,000
4My Princess EllieFlavien Prat122Peter Miller1-140,000
5I'm All the JediJuan Hernandez122Ian Kruljac6-140,000
6Take Her TempRicardo Gonzalez122Peter Miller5-240,000
7Tiz Pure GraceJorge Velez122Val Brinkerhoff10-140,000


1 Mile. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies. 2 year olds.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Derby QuestEswan Flores122Ruben Gomez30-1
2Park AvenueUmberto Rispoli122John W. Sadler3-1
3HatshepsutVictor Espinoza122Ian Kruljac30-1
4Flash MagicFlavien Prat122Bob Baffert1-1
5Beautiful GiftAbel Cedillo122Bob Baffert6-5


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $33,000. Starter Allowance. 3 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Never EasyRicardo Gonzalez124Kristin Mulhall12-1
2RonamoUmberto Rispoli124Philip D'Amato7-2
3City RageFlavien Prat124Mark Glatt5-2
4Rip CityMario Gutierrez120Mike Puype3-1
5Dr. TroutmanTyler Baze124George Papaprodromou4-1
6Liberal Drayden Van Dyke124Patrick Gallagher3-1


6 Furlongs. Purse: $23,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies. 2 year olds. Claiming Price $32,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Commas Save LivesTyler Baze122Jeff Mullins4-132,000
2Ishka BajaRicardo Gonzalez122Richard Baltas3-132,000
3Supernova WildcatHeriberto Figueroa122Val Brinkerhoff15-132,000
4Warren's MemorableAlexis Centeno115Craig Anthony Lewis5-232,000
5Lemon IceFlavien Prat122Doug F. O'Neill5-132,000
6Pretty SayleeJorge Velez122Luis Mendez2-132,000


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

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1River NorthJorge Velez120Jeffrey Metz20-1
2Master RyanAbel Cedillo124Philip D'Amato8-5
3First PrezUmberto Rispoli120Doug F. O'Neill5-1
4Count AlexeiRicardo Gonzalez120Brian J. Koriner3-1
5Squared StraightFlavien Prat120Doug F. O'Neill4-1
6N. K. Rocket ManJuan Hernandez124Dean Pederson7-2
7Mr. ClutchEswan Flores120Jorge Gutierrez30-1


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

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Bam Bam AgainDrayden Van Dyke120Reed Saldana3-116,000
2GryffindorEdwin Maldonado124Ryan Hanson3-116,000
3BodegaJessica Pyfer110Derek Meredith8-116,000
4Conte CavourMario Gutierrez124Javier Jose Sierra8-116,000
5Next RevoltFlavien Prat120Tim Yakteen5-216,000
6Show BusinessAbel Cedillo120Steve Knapp6-116,000
7Etterbay UcklayJose Valdivia, Jr.122Ronald W. Ellis6-114,000


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $38,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $40,000-$32,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1HurleyUmberto Rispoli124Eddie Truman5-240,000
2White VelvetJ.C. Diaz, Jr.121Hector O. Palma15-140,000
3Lucky PeridotFlavien Prat124Peter Miller2-140,000
4Miss Flawless Tiago Pereira124Javier Jose Sierra12-140,000
5Nice IceTyler Baze124Jeff Mullins7-240,000
6Clearly GoneDrayden Van Dyke124Peter Miller4-140,000
7Kittyhawk LassJuan Hernandez124Hector O. Palma9-240,000


6½ Furlongs. Purse: $28,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1LittlebitamedalTiago Pereira121Art Sherman15-120,000
2CambyJose Valdivia, Jr.124Charles S. Treece3-120,000
3PosterizeFlavien Prat121Doug F. O'Neill2-120,000
4Vander KelenTyler Baze121Mark Glatt5-220,000
5Shane ZainAlexis Centeno114Richard Baltas3-120,000
6Oil Can KnightEdwin Maldonado121Steve Knapp8-120,000


5½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies. 2 year olds. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Squared ShadyMike Smith122Jeff Bonde2-1
2Our Little TigerTiago Pereira122Jerry Wallace, II4-1
3Miss RebekahAbel Cedillo122J. Eric Kruljac12-1
4Flag SaluteJuan Hernandez122Carla Gaines7-2
5Don't Rub ItAlexis Centeno115Vann Belvoir15-1
6Mensa On TapDrayden Van Dyke122Daniel Dunham8-1
7Careless StarHeriberto Figueroa122Val Brinkerhoff20-1
8Westward BreezeUmberto Rispoli122Carla Gaines3-1
Also Eligible
9Allie's PalFlavien Prat122Jonathan Wong8-5
10Sircat NellyAbel Cedillo122John W. Sadler4-1
11Princess SadieAlexis Centeno115Doug F. O'Neill12-1
12Keep Your CoilTyler Baze122Anthony K. Saavedra15-1