Racing! Santa Anita is back racing today

Jockeys ease off their horses after crossing the finish line during a race on opening day of the winter/spring meeting.
Racing returns to Santa Anita today.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome to our horse racing newsletter as we wish happy birthday to ourselves.

We’re going to be self-indugent for a minute. Today begins the third year of this newsletter. It started two years ago with the fall Santa Anita meet. Our goals were modest. We thought it would be really good if we had 2,000 subscribers. We had no faith. We now have more than 9,000 and growing. And, it’s still free and should remain so. A tip of the hat to you folks. Our newsletter is among the highest anywhere when it comes to open rates, meaning you folks don’t let it sit in the email basket, you actually open it and, gasp, read it.

I’m not foolish enough to think you come to this to read my ramblings. Let’s face it, you come to read the stewards rulings or Jon White’s Triple Crown previews. That’s not to mention the weekend previews of Orlando Gutierrez and Matt Dinerman or the handicapping picks from Ed Burgart, Rob Henie, Bob Ike and Ciaran Thornton.

If you go back to the first issue I said 10 things that I believe about horse racing. Let’s see how I did.


1. Santa Anita is the most picturesque — and my favorite — racetrack in America. We’ll be watching to see if Tim Ritvo, a pretty smart guy, can fix it. (Tough to defend this one after what went on this year.)

2. I hate the drive to Del Mar — a lot. And the backup off I-5. And parking on big days. But the climate is great. (Check.)

3. Ed Burgart is the Vin Scully, Chick Hearn and Bob Miller of quarter-horse racing. The best in his sport — ever. (Check.)

4. I have no desire to ever ride or own a thoroughbred. (Check.)

5. Larry Collmus is a good announcer, but our guys — Trevor Denman, Frank Mirahmadi and Michael Wrona — are all better. Listening NBC? (We’ll be welcoming Wrona back to Los Alamitos when Burgart retires at the end of the year.)

6. Bob Baffert and Mike Smith make up the best trainer-jockey combination in recent memory. And both are exceedingly generous with their time to promote the sport. (Check.)

7. I hate covering the Kentucky Derby. Too big, too pretentious and then there is the near windowless media bunker. (Check.)

8. I love covering the Preakness, although I know Pimlico may fall apart because of age and lack of upkeep. Hope I’m not there that day. (Check. This past year there was no running water at most of the track.)

9. Any horse, on any day, no matter how good, can be beat. Horses, just like newsletter hosts, have bad days. (Check.)

10. Bridge jumpers aren’t very smart (see item 9). (Check.)

So, I guess a lot hasn’t changed in two years. On to stuff you care about.

Santa Anita is back

Friday is the first of 23 days of racing at Santa Anita and never has a meeting been so important. Everyone will be watching to see how safe the track will be especially considering that the Breeders’ Cup will be held there Nov. 1-2.

Southern California racing hasn’t had a racing fatality since June 9. But there have been five during training, four at Del Mar and one at Santa Anita earlier this week. Two of the Del Mar fatalities were due to a collision rather than a break down.

The track should have a stronger condition book because Del Mar’s Tom Robbins and David Jerkens were enlisted to help Steve Lym, Santa Anita’s racing secretary. Robbins and Jerkens are much more familiar with the Southern Caifornia horse population, as opposed to Lym, who has been here less than a year.

Aidan Butler is the new boss at Santa Anita, replacing Ritvo, who was the guy in charge when 30 horses died, a moniker that will be difficult to shake. Ritvo remains the chief operating officer of racing for the Stronach Group but Craig Fravel, current head of the Breeders’ Cup, was brought in over Ritvo and will assume the chief executive role after the Breeders’ Cup.

They dug up the dirt course and put in new drainage, there is a newer videoboard. You can read more about Santa Anita’s opening day. Just click here.

Oh, there is one more thing. A subtraction, not an addition, which leads us to …

Aidan Butler needs your help

One of Aidan’s first moves was to dump the widely ignored “roulette” bet. It’s gone. Now, we’re not going say this move took great courage considering the mutuel handle on these bets was mostly in the three figures. It’s kind of like an editorial page that comes out against fires or crime.

But, Aidan is interested in what kind of bet you want to see to replace it. The goal is to have something that would entice new bettors, or get the casual racegoer interested. So, send me your suggestions for a new bet. Put Santa Anita bet in the subject field and send to

We’ll publish the results next week and I promise you that Aidan will see them. The changes couldn’t realistically happen until the winter/spring meeting starting Dec. 26.

Santa Anita preview

Santa Anita returns with a great card on Friday, with two Grade 1s and a Grade 2. The field sizes look good. In addition there are three allowance races and four of the races are on the turf.

Let’s look at each of the stakes:

Grade 1 $300,000 Chandelier Stakes. This is for 2-year-old fillies with the winner getting a free pass to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. It’s a six-horse field going 1 1/16 miles. The favorite at 3-5 is Bast for trainer Baffert and jockey John Velazquez, who came in from New York to ride the two stakes for Baffert. Drayden Van Dyke is the usual jockey but he hasn’t returned to daily racing since injuring his hand at Del Mar. Bast won the Del Mar Debutante by 8 ¾ lengths after a second-place in his first race.

The second favorite is Been Studying Her, at 9-2, for Dan Ward (Jerry Hollendorfer’s top assistant) and Mike Smith. She has won both her races but not as convincingly, or as high a level, as Bast. Post is around 3:10 p.m.

Grade 2 $200,000 Eddie D. Stakes. This is a five-furlong race but was supposed to be a 6 ½-furlong race down the hill. That course is closed for this meeting. The race is named for Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Delahoussaye, who was king of the downhill turf course. The slight favorite, at 5-2, is Mr Vargas for Brian Koriner and Joe Talamo. He’s won two in a row, both at five furlongs. He’s four-of-11 lifetime.

There are two horses at 3-1. There is Eddie Haskell for Mark Glatt and Joel Rosario and Pee Wee Reese for Phil D’Amato and Flavien Prat. Eddie Haskell has four wins and two seconds in his last six starts. Pee Wee Reese has won his only start this year, on March 31 at Santa Anita. He is seven-of-14 lifetime. Post is around 3:40 p.m.

Grade 1 $300,000 American Pharoah Stakes. This is a very competitive and very important race. The winner gets a free pass to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. All of which makes it a good betting race. Eight Rings is the 9-5 favorite for Baffert and Velazquez. He won his first race by 6 ¼ lengths. But in the Del Mar Futurity, he got spooked and ducked in and threw jockey Van Dyke, who suffered the hand injury.

The second favorite would be a steal at 4-1, so don’t be surprised if he’s much lower. After his second-place finish in his first race, he won a maiden special in his second by 14 ¼ lengths. He is trained by John Shirreffs and will be ridden by Smith. The winner of this race could end up as the favorite in the Juvenile. Post is around 4:40 p.m.

Here are the field sizes, in order: 6, 12 (2 also eligible), 7, 8, 6, 8, 9, 9, 11.

Ciaran Thornton’s SA pick of the day

RACE EIGHT: Storm the Court 15-1

This colt, ridden by Flavien Prat last out, was bumped by the favorite in this race and also like Eight Rings, lost the jockey. Prat sticks with this mount. At 15-1, even if the horse had only three legs I would be using. Sharp work, great value. Defense Wins ran third in the same race. On the gallop out in that race, this horse passed the winner easily and this 15-1 morning line is also a fantastic value. This is a great betting race.

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

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.

“The 2019 summer meeting at Golden Gate Fields goes out with a bang this Friday through Sunday, with the final three live racing days at this meeting. First post is 1:15 p.m.

“There are eight races on Friday and the fourth is Leg D of the Stronach 5 wager. It’s a solid allowance group will voyage one mile on the Tapeta, with 10 fillies and mares. The morning-line favorite is 7-2 shot No. 9 Ruby Bradley, who hasn’t routed since winning the Melair Stakes for California-breds at Santa Anita in June. She makes her first start for the Steve Miyadi barn. I could make a serious case for nine of the 10 runners entered in the race. There are also three turf races on Friday.

“There are 10 races on Saturday with good-sized fields, including four turf races and a pair of quality allowance races which are co-features of the day. Our late Pick 4, Pick 5 and Pick 6 sequences average more than 10 horses a race while the early Pick 5, a low 14% takeout wager, begins in the first race.

“Sunday is closing day, which means mandatory payouts. Both Pick 5 wagers, the Rolling Super High Five and 20 cent Golden Pick Six jackpot wager are guaranteed to be paid out. The Late Pick 4 pool on Sunday will be guaranteed at $100,000. The late Pick 4 is a 50-cent minimum and attracted 45 entries, averaging at 11.25 horses a race. Well done to our horsemen, racing office staff, jockey agents, and of course, our Racing Secretary Patrick Mackey, all whom work very hard to make our product as good as it can be. They all deserve a lot of credit for their dedication and hard work.

“With three days to go, jockey Irving Orozco and trainer Jonathan Wong look tough to catch in the standings, respectively. Well done to them.

“Northern California horsemen and horses travel to Fresno for a couple of weeks and return at Golden Gate on Thursday, Oct. 17, opening day of the 36-day Fall meet, which runs through Sunday, Dec. 15. There are nine stakes races, at least one each week and we reportedly have a healthy horse population the rest of the year. We’ll see you then!”

Los Alamitos weekend preview

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

“Track announcer Ed Burgart returns to the microphone on Friday after a well-deserved vacation. Burgart’s first assignment is an action-packed program highlighted by a $26,077 Pick Six carryover. First post is 7 p.m.

“The Pick Six sequence starts in the second race. With the new money expected to be wagered on Friday, the total pool in the Pick Six could be around $100,000. The main event is the sixth race with a competitive field of seven juvenile sprinters going in a $12,125 allowance at 330 yards.

“Cattail Cove is the marquee name, as the son of Favorite Cartel enters Friday’s race after a third-place finish in the $365,000 Governor’s Cup Futurity on July 27. Cattail Cove, purchased for $62,000 at the Ruidoso Yearling Sale last year, won his Governor’s Cup trial by an impressive 3/4 lengths.

“On Saturday night, talented sophomore Apollitical Pence returns to Los Alamitos for his first local start since winning back-to-back outings at Remington Park in late spring. His trip to Oklahoma was highlighted by a neck victory over 2018 Black Gold Futurity winner Viva Le Don in the Grade 3 Heritage Place Derby on June 1. Now back, Apollitical Pence will face older horses for the first time in the $13,500 allowance main event at 330 yards on Saturday night. Earlier this year, the son of Apollitical Jess ran second to Powerful Favorite in the Grade 3 El Primero Del Año Derby on May 31. He was a three-time Grade 1 futurity finalist here last year. Trained by Monty Arrossa, Apollitical Pence will be ridden by Jesus Rios Ayala from the seven post. Apollitical Pence is pointed to the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Super Derby on Saturday, Oct. 19.

“Among the horses in Saturday’s feature, four have recent allowance victories. On Our Way defeated fillies and mares in an allowance on Aug. 11, while the multiple stakes winner One Proud Eagle flew late to win an allowance on June 22. The two others are changing distances for this start. Run Raging Rhino Run’s won at 870 yards in his last outing and shortens to 330, while Rite Quick won his last two outings at 110 yards and will now compete in this longer distance. Rite Quick won at 330 yards on Jan. 11. Chicks Fayvorite, seventh in the Grade 1 Go Man Go Handicap, Splendid Cause, and Elicity complete the field.”

Ed Burgart’s LA pick of the day

THIRD RACE: No. 1 El Koreano (4-1)

This gelding can sizzle from the gate and had a tough trip when forced wide on the turn when dueling for command vs. earlier 870-yard stakes winner Run Raging Rhino Run in last fourth-place try. He since recorded a very quick three-furlong work of 34.80 on Sept. 6 when the next fastest drill was 37.40. I like his chance to take the field wire to wire from his inside slot. Love Your Love, in search of his third straight victory, is the one to beat. I suggest a win bet on El Koreano and an exacta box of 1-3.

Final thought

If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter you can click here and sign up. Remember, it’s free, and all we need is your email, nothing more. Tell your friends, or even people you don’t like that much.

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, September 27.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 1st day of a 23-day meet.


6½ Furlongs. Purse: $22,000. Maiden Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $40,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1NorskiEswan Flores122Hector O. Palma5-240,000
2ZorichAbel Cedillo122Mark Glatt7-240,000
3Gate SpeedJoel Rosario122Mark Glatt9-540,000
4RineshaftTiago Pereira122Hector O. Palma8-140,000
5Red ValorRuben Fuentes122Val Brinkerhoff5-240,000
6Calder ValeEdgar Payeras122Ricardo Zamora20-140,000


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $50,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies. 2 year olds.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Enchanted NileJoseph Talamo122Neil D. Drysdale8-1
2Queen LiciaMartin Garcia122Philip D'Amato12-1
3ConvincinglyJohn Velazquez122Michael W. McCarthy8-1
4LakayaEvin Roman122Robert B. Hess, Jr.30-1
5Almost a FactorGeovanni Franco122Carla Gaines20-1
6Text Dont CallAbel Cedillo122Doug F. O'Neill5-1
7A G IndyRafael Bejarano122Richard Baltas10-1
8UndisturbedFlavien Prat122Jack Carava6-1
9K P WhirlwindJoel Rosario122Jeff Mullins15-1
10French RoseKent Desormeaux122J. Keith Desormeaux8-1
11Awesome DriveRuben Fuentes122Andrew Lerner6-1
12AntigoneDrayden Van Dyke122Simon Callaghan7-2
Also Eligible
13AugureFlavien Prat122Richard E. Mandella12-1
14Lucia's DesignJorge Velez117Craig Anthony Lewis20-1


6½ Furlongs. Purse: $21,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies. 2 year olds. Claiming Price $30,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Kuda HuraaMario Gutierrez122George Papaprodromou10-130,000
2Lovely LiliaJorge Velez117Philip D'Amato2-130,000
3MuchomoneybabyEdgar Payeras122Ricardo Zamora12-130,000
4CaleseAbel Cedillo122Robert B. Hess, Jr.5-230,000
5Wakes Up HappyRafael Bejarano122Doug F. O'Neill9-530,000
6ChieftessDiego Sanchez122J. Keith Desormeaux10-130,000
7Fran's EmpireEvin Roman122Vann Belvoir12-130,000


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $51,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $40,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Salsa Bella Rafael Bejarano125Andrew Lerner6-1
2Curlin's JourneyRuben Fuentes125Dallas E. Keen6-1
3QuerelleVictor Espinoza120James M. Cassidy12-1
4Pride's GoldDrayden Van Dyke125Eoin G. Harty10-1
5Sunrise RoyaleAbel Cedillo123J. Eric Kruljac4-1
6Invincibella Geovanni Franco120Hector O. Palma6-1
7An Eddie SurpriseMario Gutierrez125Doug F. O'Neill5-2
8Gallovie Flavien Prat120Richard Baltas7-2


1 1/16 Mile. Purse: $300,000. 'Chandelier Stakes'. Fillies. 2 year olds.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Been Studying HerMike Smith122Dan Ward9-2
2K P DreaminRuben Fuentes122Jeff Mullins6-1
3ComicalAbel Cedillo122Doug F. O'Neill8-1
4BastJohn Velazquez122Bob Baffert3-5
5Buyer's RemorseMario Gutierrez122Doug F. O'Neill12-1
6LeucotheaNorberto Arroyo, Jr.122Peter Miller5-1


5 Furlongs Turf. Purse: $200,000. 'Eddie D Stakes'. 3 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Eddie HaskellJoel Rosario125Mark Glatt3-1
2Pee Wee ReeseFlavien Prat125Philip D'Amato3-1
3LomboGeovanni Franco125Philip D'Amato30-1
4Boa Nova Edwin Maldonado120Anna Meah20-1
5Stormy LiberalNorberto Arroyo, Jr.125Peter Miller4-1
6Mr VargasJoseph Talamo125Brian J. Koriner5-2
7Double Touch John Velazquez123John W. Sadler12-1
8TribalistVictor Espinoza123Blake R. Heap5-1


1 Mile. Purse: $51,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $40,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1JuliusRafael Bejarano123Doug F. O'Neill5-2
2Magic On TapJohn Velazquez120Bob Baffert2-1
3Platinum EquityRuben Fuentes125Steve Knapp8-1
4BoogaluteDrayden Van Dyke125Mike Puype15-1
5PotanticoJ.C. Diaz, Jr.115Vladimir Cerin12-1
6Ground AttackEdwin Maldonado125Bruce Headley8-1
7Bold EndeavorMario Gutierrez120George Papaprodromou20-1
8Secret CourierAaron Gryder120Brian J. Koriner6-1
9Gum Tree LaneFlavien Prat122Philip D'Amato6-1


1 1/16 Mile. Purse: $300,000. 'American Pharoah Stakes'. 2 year olds.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1American TheoremTiago Pereira122George Papaprodromou5-1
2Fore LeftMario Gutierrez122Doug F. O'Neill15-1
3Eight RingsJohn Velazquez122Bob Baffert9-5
4Express TrainMike Smith122John A. Shirreffs4-1
5Storm the CourtFlavien Prat122Peter Eurton15-1
6Defense WinsRafael Bejarano122Doug F. O'Neill15-1
7ShopliftedJoel Rosario122Steven M. Asmussen6-1
8NuckyNorberto Arroyo, Jr.122Peter Miller10-1
9Collusion IllusionJoseph Talamo122Mark Glatt5-1


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $77,000. Allowance. 3 year olds.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1HackberryMartin Garcia122Dan Blacker4-1
2Golden BirthdayVictor Espinoza122James M. Cassidy12-1
3Succeedandsurpass John Velazquez122Richard Baltas5-1
4Extra HopeFlavien Prat122Richard E. Mandella5-1
5Ocean FuryRafael Bejarano122Doug F. O'Neill20-1
6Eagle Song Abel Cedillo122Mark Glatt15-1
7Originaire Mike Smith122Jeff Mullins5-2
8CarnivorousMario Gutierrez122Doug F. O'Neill6-1
9Call You TomorrowJoseph Talamo122Brian J. Koriner15-1
10City RageJoel Rosario122Mark Glatt12-1
11Seven ScentsJorge Velez117Craig Anthony Lewis20-1