Horse racing newsletter: Golden Gate stays on hiatus

Horses take off from the starting gate at Del Mar.
(Hayne Palmour IV / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome to our horse racing newsletter as we look at how information is, or isn’t, disseminated in horse racing.

Normally on Friday, we have Matt Dinerman’s weekend preview from Golden Gate Fields. Well, we won’t have it for at least a few more weeks. Golden Gate has been closed to racing after a dramatic spike in coronavirus positives on the backstretch. Currently, the track is set to come back on Dec. 3. Frankly, I think that is optimistic.

On Wednesday, when Golden Gate made the announcement that the stoppage was being extended there was one vital unanswered question, how many positives? After the first stoppage, The Stronach Group said there were 24 positives. OK, way to play it straight.

But they didn’t say how many the second time. A message to a corporate spokesperson for TSG referred me to the Berkeley Public Health Department, guess those information protocols changed from week to week. A message to the BPHD was returned with the response that it doesn’t release individual location results. Guess it didn’t know it was supposed to speak for TSG. And TSG, come on, you know the numbers, don’t pass the buck.

It didn’t take Woodward and Bernstein to determine the number, which most thought was around 100. That’s dramatic. You can read the story. Just click here. The thing was that estimate was low. According to people with knowledge of the numbers but not authorized to speak publicly, overnight the number had swelled to around 150 and heading toward 200. That means about two-fifths of the backstretch population.


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On Thursday was the dentist appointment without Novocain known as the monthly meeting of the California Horse Racing Board. It addressed the situation at Golden Gate Fields up front. Credit for that. Aidan Butler, who used to be Acting Executive Director of California Racing for The Stronach Group but has been promoted, flew in from Florida to Northern California to assess the situation and speak on TSG’s behalf. (We thought Craig Fravel, the top guy at TSG racing, was now in charge of overseeing the West Coast operation.)

Butler said 95% of the cases were asymptomatic and that all infected people were off-site at hotels being fed two meals a day by TSG. People that remained on track were also being fed twice a day, which I think is how often you feed a horse, although presumably the workers weren’t just being fed grain.

During the discussion at the meeting with Golden Gate and TSG officials, no one from the Board asked Golden Gate officials, to me, the very essential question, “How many infected people are there?” The answer, I believe, is they already knew and decided not to bring it up. Yes, the same CHRB that has transparency as one of its benchmarks.

But equally as surprising is the always vocal animal rights’ advocates didn’t ask the question either, not that the Board was obligated to answer and likely wouldn’t have.

I gotta say, it’s a heavy lift to think that Golden Gate will be able to return to racing before its Dec. 13 close.

Two thoughts. The first is that everyone, on both sides if the issues, hopes and wishes that everyone afflicted recovers to 100% of their health. The second is that information is a much more effective weapon than rhetoric.

Dentist chair, Part 2

Executive director Scott Chaney gave these figures about October. Daytime handle figures were up 12.08% despite 14 fewer performances. The nighttime handle was up 36.33% with the same number of performances. Combine the two unequal numbers and you get that overall handle was up 14.41% for the month. Still, for the year, handle is down 1.84%.

What you are thankful for

I haven’t done this in a couple years, but with Thanksgiving around the corner, I’d like to hear what you are thankful for when it comes to racing. Please limit it to no more than two sentences and include your name, not just your email handle. I likely won’t run the real snarky or negative ones as we want to keep this positive. Just put Thanksgiving in the subject line. I’ll run the best ones in the Thanksgiving newsletter. If you’ve already submitted, no need to repeat.

Del Mar Preview

There are eight races on Friday, beginning at 12:30 p.m. Half of the races are on the turf with three allowance/optional claimers on the card. We’ll call the second race the feature as the $65,000 purse is the highest on the day. It’s a five-furlong turf race. Chaos Theory is the 9-5 favorite for trainer John Sadler and jockey Umberto Rispoli. He is coming off a fourth in the Grade 2 Woodford at Keeneland. He won the Grade 3 Green Flash in his previous race. That’s a big class drop unless you compare it to the second favorite, at 3-1, Texas Wedge for Peter Miller and Flavien Prat. His last race was the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, where he finished 11th. He finished third in the Grade 1 Jaipur earlier in the year at Belmont Park. Post is around 1 p.m.

Here are the field sizes, in order: 6, 6, 5, 7, 8, 8, 10, 8 (4 also eligible).

Bob Ike’s DM pick of the day

SIXTH RACE No. 7 Clayton Delaney (12-1)

Sophomore gelding from the Phil D’Amato stable has never been around two turns but his first start on turf last time was promising. Broke slowly and took up sharply to lose all chance at the break, trailed down backside and into stretch, then closed well to be beaten less than four lengths going 5 ½-furlong distance. If he handles routing he has an upset chance in this competitive Cal-bred race, although favorite Rustic Canyon will be very tough to beat.

Sunday’s result: Uncle Boogie (9-2) raced in a different area code early, then closed OK to get up for second behind the runaway longshot winner.

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

Ciaran Thornton’s DM pick

SIXTH RACE: No. 4 Handsome Cat (8-1)

Handsome Cat has won two in a row going six furlongs on dirt for trainer Steve Miyadi with this same jockey. Miyadi drops the horse in class but races him protected Friday. He also switches him to turf and moves to a mile distance. ‘Cat has the top last race speed and has a great closing kick. This 8-1 price is the best value on the card Friday.

Sunday’s result: Silent Musketier tracked the leaders nicely just off the pace into the turn. When it looked like it would make a move the horse had nothing in the tank and faded badly.

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

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.

“Jockeys Javiar Matias and Cerapio Figueroa and trainers Jose Raudales and Jorge Rosales – all key figures at the recently concluded meet at Emerald Downs -- will add a touch of the Great Northwest to Friday’s eight-race program. They join trainer Robert Baze, who was featured in this space last Friday before going on to win a pair of thoroughbred races at the Orange County oval, as some of the new faces at Los Alamitos.

“Matias finished sixth in the thoroughbred standings at Emerald Downs. He won the famous Longacres Mile with Barkley in 2018 and even piloted the great quarter horse BH Lisas Boy to victory in the Bank of America Emerald Downs Championship in 2015. He will ride the Raudales-trained True Regards in Friday’s first race. Post time is 6 p.m.

“As for Rosales and Figueroa, they formed a terrific team here earlier this year. Rosales won with six-of-10 thoroughbred starters, while Figueroa won with six-of-12 mounts. Rosales received the Martin Durkan Award for leadership, cooperation, and sportsmanship this past season at Emerald Downs, while Figueroa was voted the Lindy Award by his fellow riders for his accomplishment and sportsmanship throughout the meeting. They will team up with Emma’s A Beast in the third race.

“Saturday’s racing starts at 6:10 p.m. and will feature the running of the Grade 2, $50,000 Las Damas Handicap. There will be 10 female starters in the Las Damas headed by top five from the Grade 1 Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap on Sept. 22. Curls Happy Wagon, the winner of the Mildred Vessels, will be going for her fourth career stakes win. She will be joined by Jeryl Hartley’s Victorioso Dinastia, runner-up in the Mildred Vessels at 16-1, plus Tom Maher and Richard Tobin’s Lynnder 16, a multiple graded stakes winner of more than $688,568. Lynnder 16 is trained by Canterbury’s leading quarter-horse trainer Jason Olmstead, who for the first time has a string of horses Los Alamitos. Olmstead is currently the nation’s 10th leading trainer in earnings. This talented field is among the best in recent memory in the Las Damas, which is only appropriate considering that this race was upgraded to Grade 2 for 2020.

“Twelve trials to the Grade 1 $1,977,250 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity make up a great card of quarter-horse racing on Sunday night. First post is 5 p.m. with three Pick Four wagering opportunities beginning in races 1, 5, and 9. A total of 103 juveniles will be in the 400-yard trials with the 10 fastest horses advancing to the Two Million final on Sunday, Dec. 13. Every trial will have either eight or nine horses. All 10 qualifiers to the Grade 1 Golden State Million Futurity will be in Sunday’s trials. Leading the way will be Grant Cox’s Apollitical Gold, who won the $1.1 million Golden State final at 12-1 odds. Other futurity winners on Sunday night will be Monopolist, La Jaconde, Constituent and Aint She Tempting.

“One final note, the outstanding Zoomin For Spuds qualified to a record tying fifth Champion of Champions after posting the fastest qualifying time in last Sunday’s trials to the Champion of Champions. Zoomin For Spuds won the Champion of Champions in 2016 and in his current racing form, he will be one of the horses to beat in the 440-yard classic. The Champion of Champions will be held on Saturday, Dec. 12.”

Chris Wade’s Friday LA pick

FIFTH RACE: No. 5 Fastnmagic Prize ( 7-2)

She represents a quarter-horse barn that’s going strong for the meet with a 24% win ratio. In her last start, Fastnmagic Prize broke slow and bobbled to lose over a length of ground right from the start against a field that included a perfectly tripped winner. The filly finished well on her own after the sluggish start, ending up the clear second best in this race. With many other solid numbers that are comparable for Friday’s endeavor, let’s push this runner steadily for all the board placings at a medium mutual.

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, Sunday’s results. See you on Friday.

Del Mar Entries for Friday, November 20.

Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Del Mar, California. $2 Win, Place and Show; $1 Exacta, $2 Quinella, 50-cent Trifecta, $2 Rolling Double, 50-cent rolling Pick 3; 10-cent Superfecta; 50-cent Pick 4 last 4 races; 50-cent Players Pick 5 first 5 races; 50-cent Pick 6 last 6 races; $1 Place Pick All; $1 Super High Five last race. Trifecta needs 4 betting interests; Superfecta needs 6. 9th day of a 15-day meet.


6 Furlongs. Purse: $26,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $16,000-$14,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Proof ItMario Gutierrez120Sandi Gann7-216,000
2LittlebitamedalFlavien Prat120Art Sherman3-116,000
3I Belong to BeckyTiago Pereira122William Spawr8-516,000
4Cosa Nostra Anthony Locke118Stacy Locke12-114,000
5J T's A. T. M.Abel Cedillo120Martin Valenzuela, III5-116,000
6Short of EzTyler Baze122Rosemary Trela4-116,000


5 Furlongs Turf. Purse: $65,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $100,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Texas WedgeFlavien Prat121Peter Miller3-1
2OverdueMike Smith121Philip D'Amato4-1
3Mr VargasTyler Baze121Brian J. Koriner6-1
4Mikes TiznowRicardo Gonzalez121Andy Mathis4-1100,000
5Chaos TheoryUmberto Rispoli123John W. Sadler9-5
6Tilted TowersAbel Cedillo123Philip D'Amato6-1


1 1/8 Mile. Purse: $61,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $62,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Unbroken StarTyler Baze121Mike Puype4-1
2The StiffAbel Cedillo119Michael W. McCarthy9-262,500
3PotanticoAlexis Centeno114Vladimir Cerin5-2
4ZestfulEdwin Maldonado121Mark Glatt3-162,500
5King of SpeedMike Smith121Jeff Bonde9-5


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $31,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $50,000-$40,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Bristol BayouVictor Espinoza122John A. Shirreffs2-150,000
2Cover VersionGeovanni Franco124James M. Cassidy5-250,000
3Starship SkyJuan Hernandez120Robert B. Hess, Jr.8-140,000
4I Give UpTyler Baze122Hector O. Palma12-150,000
5UnbreakableJose Valdivia, Jr.122Mike Puype9-250,000
6She Loves KaraokeAaron Gryder118Adam Kitchingman8-140,000
7Let's Go NowRicardo Gonzalez124Eoin G. Harty4-150,000


1 Mile. Purse: $20,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $8,000-$7,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1In the DeepTyler Baze118Don Schnell5-28,000
2Write Me a SongJessica Pyfer111George Papaprodromou12-17,000
3Devil's TeethEdwin Maldonado120Alberto Amparan30-18,000
4R Cha ChaAlexis Centeno111George Papaprodromou4-17,000
5Little No WayAbel Cedillo120Alfredo P. Marquez2-18,000
6Cedar RapidsGeovanni Franco118Jeffrey Metz15-17,000
7Big Sky LoganJ.C. Diaz, Jr.118Jeffrey Metz15-17,000
8Vodka TwistTiago Pereira118Steve Knapp3-18,000


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $59,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Rustic CanyonRicardo Gonzalez124Isidro Tamayo5-220,000
2Tropical TerrorVictor Espinoza122James M. Cassidy4-1
3Sea of LibertyEdwin Maldonado122John W. Sadler5-1
4Handsome CatJose Valdivia, Jr.120Steven Miyadi8-1
5First PrezUmberto Rispoli120Doug F. O'Neill4-1
6Fly to MarsFlavien Prat124Peter Miller7-220,000
7Clayton DelaneyAbel Cedillo120Philip D'Amato12-1
8Mysterious StonesJuan Hernandez120Philip D'Amato20-1


6 Furlongs. Purse: $31,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies. 2 year olds. Claiming Prices $50,000-$40,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1ChevelitaFlavien Prat120Peter Miller3-150,000
2Brilliant CutUmberto Rispoli120Dan Blacker7-250,000
3Yellow DressVictor Espinoza120Robert B. Hess, Jr.8-150,000
4Lady MoJ.C. Diaz, Jr.116Ruben Gomez30-140,000
5Martique MissJuan Hernandez120Jerry Hollendorfer6-150,000
6Mama SuperiorTiago Pereira120Steve Knapp15-150,000
7VaromaJessica Pyfer113Manuel Ortiz, Sr.30-150,000
8Purda VitaEdwin Maldonado120John W. Sadler4-150,000
9Royal BlendAbel Cedillo120Clifford W. Sise, Jr.4-150,000
10HatshepsutAlexis Centeno113Ian Kruljac20-150,000


5 Furlongs Turf. Purse: $57,000. Maiden Special Weight. 2 year olds. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1CrosswordRicardo Gonzalez120John W. Sadler4-1
2Pedro PerezJ.C. Diaz, Jr.120Edwin Alvarez30-1
3That CoreyMario Gutierrez120Ben D. A. Cecil5-2
4Gordy's BoyTiago Pereira120Alexis Barba15-1
5TheluteismineFlavien Prat120Peter Miller2-1
6BukayoTyler Baze120Carla Gaines6-1
7Hard MetalJose Valdivia, Jr.120Sal Gonzalez20-1
8Gabby HayesAbel Cedillo120Steven Miyadi4-1
Also Eligible
9Runaway WywyGeovanni Franco120Edwin Alvarez30-1
10Lauren SquaredJessica Pyfer110Peter Miller8-1
11Standing OUmberto Rispoli120Philip D'Amato5-1
12My Man BagsJuan Hernandez120Paul G. Aguirre5-2