Racing! Readers have advice for Craig Fravel

Craig Fravel is the incoming chief executive for racing at the Stronach Group. Our newsletter readers have some advice for the new boss.
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Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we’re sorry to hear that Game Winner and Maximum Security won’t be competing any time soon.

Last week I asked readers what advice they would have for Craig Fravel, the incoming chief executive for racing at the Stronach Group. He takes over after the Breeders Cup on Nov. 1-2 at Santa Anita. I’m guessing Aidan Butler, the current boss at Santa Anita, will also make some notes.

I asked that the responses be short, constructive and not mean, which many of you ignored. I’m not sure we broke any new ground, instead bringing back complaints we’ve heard before.


The most common bit of advice, submitted by many, was to stop dragging the post time. The second most common topic was returning racing to the hillside turf course. In these cases, I used the first person to send in readers’ thoughts or added a different twist to it.

So, here are some of your responses. I’ve edited them and added my own comments when I thought it was helpful.

“They need to immediately put an end to the post time dragging at TSG tracks.”

Eric Green

“It’s great that it’s reported that [Fravel is] popular with horsemen. They have run racing here for years. How’s that working out?

James Shepherd

Don’t allow any compromises to horse and jockey safety. Follow Del Mar’s safety protocols assiduously as a minimum and add any others that are unique to SA’s conditions or followed at other tracks with excellent safety records.”

Dick Bushey

(Cherwa note: Santa Anita is adopting all of the protocols of Del Mar and adding a few new ones. Del Mar originally borrowed from Santa Anita’s protocols. It’s a transformational process.)

“Post time is off time. Your customers understand the concept that wagers need to be placed in a timely manner.

Tim Robertson

Go back to the pocket-sized program. The large program with PPs, while well intended, was popular with very few.

Stephen Young


Jack Liebau

(Cherwa note: Liebau is the vice president of the Los Alamitos Racing Assn.)

“Right now the credibility of the thoroughbred industry ranges from weak to nonexistent. Without credibility we will never have respect. Please [help] to reestablish respect for our sport by insisting on transparency at all times, on all matters.”

John O’Sullivan

“Continue down-the-hill racing, please. Also, none of this buffet stuff at Front Runner on opening day. Most regular people don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on mediocre food when they can be betting it.”

Alex Aranda

“Please do not provide that insane, idiotic roulette wagering option.”

Norman Youtan

(Cherwa note: While I have also written that it is time to dump this bet, the easy answer for everyone is if you don’t like it, don’t bet it.)

“He should work with the CHRB for fewer racing days. At least six weeks of each year.”

Jimmy Cowling

“Please don’t institute a quinella at Santa Anita. All it does is cannibalize the exacta pool.”

Curt Lawson

“Rather than the approach of the last administration, learn the nuances of California racing and work with (not against) the other tracks in the state.”

Jim Sciuto

“Get the best guy for maintaining the condition of the track you can find, including the super who was let go by the geniuses running SA into the ground this past meet.”

Peter Canavan

(Cherwa note: I’m told by Aidan Butler that he is working hard to get Dennis Moore to stick around for the big winter-spring meeting.)

“Do whatever you can to make the field size better.”

Eric Rickard

“Please put some effort into restoring and improving accommodations for ordinary racing fans if you truly wish to grow the sport. The conversion of the clubhouse apron section at Santa Anita to high-end (and expensive) dining is just one example of completely disregarding the average folks.”

Sandy Wyper

“Horse racing needs to attract more owners into the sport and provide a better experience for them at the track. Santa Anita should have an owner’s lounge like Del Mar. The 100 to 1 Club facility is empty 90% of the time and would be a perfect location.”

John Cavalli

“Demographics seems to show the average bettor as middle-aged. Should you consider shorter or more boutique meets?”

Stanley P. Plastek

“Take action on getting rid of the breakage. Make the payouts on wagers accurate to the penny. Also reduce the takeout to 10% on all wagers at all Stronach tracks.”

Dennis McGarry

(Cherwa note: Business and Professional Code 1961.01 says the takeout can not go below 10%, in case you didn’t know.)

“Fans at home need a real post parade where the horses walk with a full view of the horse, not the lead pony or graphics covering up part of the horse.”

Ron Gwinn

(Cherwa note: The racing feeds used by TVG are provided by the track.)

“Use both your professional experience and personal integrity to put the well-being of horses before bottom line.

Corrine Hanley

“TSG [needs to] acknowledge that mismanagement of the racing surface during the winter contributed to the problems there? I don’t think they’ve ever formally fessed up on that, preferring to point fingers elsewhere. The first step in solving a problem is admitting that you have one.”

Norm Gibson

“I would plead with you to close the track to racing in inclement, continuous bad weather. Sealing the track is not the answer. The track will lose money but win in the end by not losing horses. This is Southern California; our thoroughbreds and tracks are not used to lots of rain.”

William P. Gregory, DVM

“Fix the public address system. Turn on the volume for all off-track races. People make noise and get interested in off-track and will bet more.

Greg Mayberry

“The facility for the average fan needs a total makeover starting with the plumbing and restroom areas. I am glad to see the track catering to the highfalutin clientele with the new suites and dining area. However, if a fan brings $100 to the track, after parking, admission, a seat and food they may be left with about half of that to bet with. I love this track and would hate to see it go the way of Hollywood Park.”

Joe Hernandez

“The escalator from 2 to 1 in the grandstand goes too fast. I’m afraid to use it now. Slow it down. And please remove the horizontal bars in front to the tote board. You can’t read the amounts in the show pool and the third-place horse is often obscured.”

Stuart Ray

“When I go to Santa Anita, I can rarely hear anything but noise. Please fix the PA system.”

Steve Kerrigan

“We need bigger fields even if it means fewer races. And improve the PA system and don’t have bands playing on it while making announcements or interviewing people on the big video screen in the infield.”

Henry W. Ortiz

“Have some nice seat packages in the clubhouse that are affordable, as they were in past years at Breeders’ Cup Santa Anita.”

Sally Cruikshank

“Find a way to bring back the hillside turf course and get rid of its dirt crossing. It is such a unique and distinctive feature that sets Santa Anita apart from any other racetrack.”

Aaron Bernstein

(Cherwa note: You would have to move the dirt track in order to eliminate the crossover.)

“Remember the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: ‘The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.’ He has a devoted team behind him at Santa Anita. This is a great industry, one worth laboring for.

Millie Ball

(Cherwa note: Ball works for XBTV, which is owned by TSG.)

Justify poll

We’re keeping the polls open one more day on what you think about the situation with Justify and his positive test. To vote, just click here. I think we have a winning thought but it’s not like it’s a landslide. So, let us know what you think. You won’t be able to see the results yet, but we’ll reveal them on Friday.

Update on Gary and Mary West horses

It’s not particularly good news, but it could be a lot worse. Game Winner, the 2-year-old Eclipse Award winner, might have run his last race. Trainer Bob Baffert has suggested the horse be given 60 days off and Gary and Mary West, the owners, are searching for a suitable stallion location. The news was first reported by Ray Paulick of the Paulick Report.

As for Maximum Security, the disqualified winner of the Kentucky Derby, he suffered a bad case of colic but should have a complete recovery. It certainly takes him out of the Pennsylvania Derby and probably the Breeders’ Cup Classic. But he could be back in time to run in Pegasus at Gulfstream, where he won the Florida Derby.

Los Alamitos thoroughbred preview

There are nine races on Thursday’s card because a stakes race from last week didn’t fill and was moved to today. Now, don’t get fooled, as there are only eight thoroughbred races. The first race is for Arabians, going six furlongs for a $6,000 purse. But it’s a full field of nine.

The feature is the $75,000 Phone Chatter Stakes for 2-year-old fillies . The favorite, at 6-5, is Quality Response for Baffert and jockey Joe Talamo. She won her only race, a maiden special, by 7¼ lengths. The second favorite is Paid Informant at 7-5 for Richard Baltas and Flavien Prat. She won her first race, a maiden claimer, by 3¼ lengths. It’s the fifth race at around 3 p.m.

Here are the field sizes, in order: 9, 7, 7, 7, 5, 7, 7, 7, 10.

Ciaran Thornton’s Lrc pick of the day

I have two value plays for you again today with the hopes at least one of them does not scratch. That plan worked on Sunday as both our value plays raced.

RACE TWO: No. 7 Truest Reward (6-1)

Truest Reward is a first-timer whose dam has five winners from five starters including a stakes winner. We have a sharp workout for the debut. Trainer Luis Mendez has a 29% win rate debuting in maiden claimers and jockey Rueben Fuentes is winning 30% for this trainer. 6-1 is a great value backup to the favorite in this race.

RACE SEVEN: No. 1. Indy Jones (8-1)

Indy Jones won last out for trainer Val Brinkerhoff going 7 furlongs. He moves the horse up in class today and puts in a sharp workout. Jockey JR Diaz rides again and he is winning 40% for this trainer. The rail is also winning 29%. 8-1 is a great value.

Sunday’s results: A five-wide trip was of no help to Blew By You who faded in the stretch to finish fourth. Money was bet on Blew with the horse dropping to 7-2 at post time versus our expected 8-1 value price. Arctic Roll, on the other hand, tracked in second place after a nice break and battled down the stretch but could not hold off the winner and ran second. A cutback to a 6- to 7-furlong distance may be ideal for the next race.

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

Golden Gate weekend preview

Matt Dinerman, the race caller at Golden Gate, is back with his weekly look at what’s happening up at Golden Gate Fields. Matt’s boundless enthusiasm can be heard in his calls and seen in his writing. Take it away, Matt.

“We’ll get right to it. Jockey Irving Orozco had a weekend to remember. On Saturday, the 26-year-old journeyman guided five winners’ home to the roar of an enthusiastic crowd. Any jockey who manages to pick up five victories in one day is considered to have achieved a fantastic feat. A day later, Orozco came close to the previous day’s mark, winning four races. Doing the first-grade math, that’s nine wins in two days.

“With two more weeks to go at the current summer meet, Orozco is primed for a summer meet riding title. He has won 32 races and is 13 victories ahead of second-place rider Frank Alvarado.

“The third race on Friday catches the eye. An allowance on turf for fillies and mares, this race features the return of Rolling Green, third-place finisher Wicked Old Fashion and Golden Gate Fields turf track record holder Keeper Ofthe Stars.

“Wicked Old Fashion has won three of five starts this year. Trained by Victor Trujillo, the daughter of Colonel John is ‘all racehorse,’ with 10 career wins from 20 lifetime starts. Her most recent race, a third-place finish in the Rolling Green Stakes against males, was better than it looked. She sat well off the pace — uncharacteristic of her typical ‘close to the pace’ running style — and was caught wide on both turns before rallying for an in-the-money placing.

“Keeper Ofthe Stars, conditioned by Jonathan Wong, is a talented 3-year-old filly that has been well regarded for quite some time. After running through her conditions earlier in the year, she broke the 1 1/16-mile turf track record on June 9, defeating older allowance runners while completing the course in 1:40.55 seconds. She has run twice since then, finishing fourth in the Grade 2 San Clemente and the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks. Keeper Ofthe Stars is also well-bred, being from two-time Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion Midnight Lute. The 3-year-old sophomore is out of the mare Sociable, a half-sibling to multiple Grade 1 winner and Kentucky stallion The Factor.”

“This week, Leg C of the Stronach 5 wager goes as the fourth race Golden Gate on Friday, with a full field of 12 going six furlongs in a starter allowance. The (very) likely post-time favorite will be 3-1 morning-line shot No. 11 Passionate Reward, who has produced speed figures that suggest he may just be faster than everyone else. On top of that, he drops in class and ships up north for Hall of Famer Richard Mandella. In conclusion, I would be surprised if horseplayers did not bet this horse down to the favorite. It’s a competitive race, though, and we have plenty of solid racehorses in the Bay Area that look to take down the Southern California entrant. Among those are recent winners Autumn Day and Honeymoonz Over, the consistent Dramatic Ride and Two Bills, who comes off a third-place finish behind a winner who ‘freaked’ that day.”

Final thought

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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, Thursday’s entries.

Los Alamitos Race Course Entries for Thursday, September 19.

Los Alamitos Race Course, Los Alamitos, California. 7th day of a 10-day meet.


6 Furlongs. Purse: $6,000. Allowance. Arabian. 3 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1PRESTONS LADY AAJuan Sanchez118Terri Eaton4-1
2WMA PLATINUMJose Dominguez125Terri Eaton12-1
3AURA MAKARINAHugo Herrera118Abel Borg3-1
5RU MYSTIFIEDBarrington Harvey123Helen Shelley20-1
6SLUFFYS GIZMORamon Guce122Helen Shelley5-2
7MARSANNE MHFJohn Jude122Simon Hobson2-1
8WHR INCENDIARYMinor Arana125Ron E. White20-1
9RB HOT BUNSChristian Aragon120Abel Borg15-1


5½ Furlongs. Purse: $17,000. Maiden Claiming. 3 year olds. Claiming Prices $30,000-$28,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1VermeerJorge Velez117Jerry Hollendorfer3-130,000
2Coast of RoanEvin Roman120Doug F. O'Neill6-128,000
3Floyd MoneymakerJ.C. Diaz, Jr.115Val Brinkerhoff5-230,000
4CredanceAssael Espinoza122Val Brinkerhoff4-130,000
5Agent ZeroBrayan Pena122Luis Mendez4-130,000
6My Boy AndyHeriberto Figueroa122Charles S. Treece20-130,000
7Truest RewardRuben Fuentes122Luis Mendez6-130,000


1 Mile. Purse: $17,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $16,000-$14,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Sunset SevenJ.C. Diaz, Jr.117David E. Hofmans2-116,000
2FishelTiago Pereira124Elena Andrade20-116,000
3Bea's BoyJorge Velez112Sal Gonzalez12-116,000
4TopgallantRuben Fuentes121Reed Saldana5-216,000
5Ooh La La WhalahMartin Garcia115Peter Miller5-114,000
6Handsome JohnAbel Cedillo117Mike Puype6-116,000
7SeauGeovanni Franco124Quinn Howey3-116,000


6 Furlongs. Purse: $40,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Free BeliefJorge Velez115John W. Sadler3-1
2PersepolisFlavien Prat124Richard E. Mandella5-2
3AmataraRuben Fuentes120Richard Baltas8-5
4SurreptitiousRafael Bejarano120Leonard Powell10-1
5Miss TokyoAbel Cedillo120Richard Baltas5-1
6Kohala CoastEvin Roman120Martin F. Jones20-1
7True MischiefHeriberto Figueroa120Richard Baltas12-1


6½ Furlongs. Purse: $75,000. 'PHONE CHATTER STAKES'. Stakes. Fillies. 2 year olds.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Paid InformantFlavien Prat120Richard Baltas7-5
2Mean SophiaNorberto Arroyo, Jr.122Peter Miller3-1
3ConvolutedGeovanni Franco120Peter Miller12-1
4Quality ResponseJoseph Talamo122Bob Baffert6-5
5Aqua Seaform ShameRuben Fuentes118Richard Baltas12-1


1 Mile. Purse: $40,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies. 2 year olds.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1GinghamMike Smith122Bob Baffert7-5
2Seahawk LisaJorge Velez117Jerry Hollendorfer4-1
3SentimentalGeovanni Franco122Jerry Hollendorfer12-1
4Colombian GoldTiago Pereira122Andrew Lerner4-1
5LizzarioNorberto Arroyo, Jr.122J. Keith Desormeaux12-1
6I Give UpRuben Fuentes122Hector O. Palma12-1
7Dipping InMario Gutierrez122Doug F. O'Neill3-1


1 1/16 Mile. Purse: $22,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $25,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Indy JonesJ.C. Diaz, Jr.110Val Brinkerhoff8-125,000
2Street to IndyMartin Garcia121Thomas Ray Bell, II5-125,000
3Fast as CassRuben Fuentes124Steve Knapp7-225,000
4Union StationJorge Velez115Eoin G. Harty8-125,000
5Broke Away GreyTiago Pereira124Ronald W. Ellis2-125,000
6Chieftain's LadGeovanni Franco124Candelario Villamar15-125,000
7I Can Do ThisAbel Cedillo124Mark Glatt5-225,000


5½ Furlongs. Purse: $17,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $16,000-$14,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1According to BuddyEswan Flores124Hector O. Palma3-116,000
2SatoriNorberto Arroyo, Jr.122Martin F. Jones4-114,000
3The White ShadowAbel Cedillo120Andrew Lerner4-116,000
4Older BrotherJose Dominguez124Robert J. Lucas5-116,000
5The Party FactorEdgar Payeras124Jaime H. Gomez10-116,000
6Mon CamoHugo Herrera124Terri Eaton12-116,000
7Saratoga MorningMartin Garcia124Doug F. O'Neill5-2


6 Furlongs. Purse: $45,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $40,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Breakers IsleEdgar Payeras124Robert J. Lucas30-140,000
2Candy ZipRamon Guce124Robert A. Bean20-140,000
3Make It a TripleVinnie Bednar122Keith E. Craigmyle6-1
4Grinning TigerHeriberto Figueroa122Anthony K. Saavedra15-1
5J T's A. T. M.Evin Roman124Martin Valenzuela, III10-1
6Coil Me HomeFlavien Prat122Richard Baltas5-2
7ColiseumJoseph Talamo118Bob Baffert9-5
8ThreefiveindiaMartin Garcia122Philip D'Amato4-140,000
9Tap the WireGeovanni Franco118Daniel Dunham20-1
10R Cha ChaJorge Velez117Charles S. Treece20-140,000