Majestic City, inside, wins the Big Bear stakes on Thursday of Breeders’ Cup week at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia. BENOIT PHOTO
Did Breeders’ Cup fiasco result in Santa Anita track superintendent change?
In case you missed it, Santa Anita Park put out the following press release late Wednesday afternoon:
Santa Anita Park has announced that highly respected trackman Dennis Moore will take over duties as Track Superintendent effective immediately. Moore has built and maintained track surfaces the world-over for the past 40 years and is currently in charge of main tracks at both Betfair Hollywood Park and at Los Alamitos Racecourse.
“We have so many variables to contend with here, from hot and dry conditions to large amounts of rain and limited sunshine in the winter months,” said Tom Ludt, Senior Vice President, Racing & Gaming for Santa Anita. “It is imperative that our racing surfaces are maintained in world-class fashion and Dennis provides us with the level of expertise and understanding that is required. This is great news for Santa Anita.”
A Southern California native, Moore, 63, has maintained surfaces at racetracks and training centers throughout North America and in Canada, Dubai, U.A.E., England, and Germany as well.
Now one can’t help wonder if this change came about because trainer Bob Baffert was bitching and moaning about the Santa Anita main track before the recent Breeders’ Cup and the fiasco that was Thursday and Friday of Breeders’ Cup week when the dirt surface was a paved highway when you got inside, the lead and you probably won the race.
Breeders’ Cup officials were none too happy with that surface on Friday which resulted in tractors hitting the surface soon after the last race and not stopping until morning training 12 hours later. The result was a much fairer track for Saturday’s championship races.
When media members asked about what was done to the main track overnight, they received a response from Nate Newby, vice president, marketing for Santa Anita, which said, “Santa Anita’s main track is fast and the turf course is firm (Rail set at 0 feet). Main track conditioners are set at 3.5 inches. The current moisture in the main track is 19% by volume and will be closely monitored throughout the day by track consultant Dr. Mick Peterson. Watering schedules will be adjusted to keep the moisture content at optimum levels per Dr. Peterson.”
No. 1, what track has its marketing director talk about the main track and where was Dr. Peterson on Friday when the track was apparently bone dry?
According to my sources, Santa Anita’s main track superintendent before Wednesday was Andy LaRocco, not that you could find the information anywhere in the press guide, unless I missed it, and if it I did, I stand corrected.
LaRocco holds the same position at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla. This is the way track owner Frank Stonach tries to save money. Why have two guys with the same title when one will do? Never mind that Gulfstream and Santa Anita race at the same time of the year and don’t even remotely have the same climate.
The fact that Moore became available because Hollywood Park is going out of business next month probably had something to do with the change, but I willing to bet the fact that the Breeders’ Cup is coming back to Santa Anita next year again had even more (no pun intended) to do with it.
I’ve heard nothing but good things about Moore. Southern California trainers have routinely raved about the Hollywood Park surface as being the best in the state so it appears Santa Anita is getting a good one. Let’s hope so for everyone’s sake: owners, trainers, bettors and thoroughbreds.
At least he lives in Southern California.
@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter