Breeders' Cup, Del Mar, Horse racing, Santa Anita

Breeders’ Cup 2014: Fair Santa Anita track needed both days

@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter

First, let me state, I enjoyed covering almost every minute of last weekend’s Breeders’ Cup.

Put me in the category of the Breeders’ Cup should be in California every year —- whether it be Santa Anita, or maybe the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club some year down the line. I think the weather outweighs a lot of negatives.

Then, again, I understand that a historic track like Churchill Downs should also be in the rotation every three or four years. As for the East, forget about it. No more, Monmouth Park monsoons. I really don’t care if owner Mike Repole keeps his horses in Todd Pletcher’s barn in New York because The Cup won’t come back to Belmont Park.

The one negative in my mind for Santa Anita is its racing surface.

I found Santa Anita president Keith Brackpool’s comments to Ed Zieralski of the San Diego Union-Tribune to be out of touch.

“I haven’t slept in six days,” Brackpool said. “Look, we’ve been blessed with the weather. We had great fields, great races, fair races. Standing here in the paddock before the last, this is the best Breeders’ Cup I’ve seen in years.”

Keith, did u watch Friday’s races? Or even Thursday’s races? What was fair about them?

When I arrived on Thursday, it was obvious the Santa Anita track was a paved highway for inside speed. The jockeys took notice and acted accordingly.

On Friday, it was more of the same. Would the winners still have won on a fair track? Maybe, but we’ll never know.

According to at least one media report I read, BC officials were concerned and told Santa Anita officials that. The affect was immediate, as those of us who were still working after the races on late Friday afternoon saw with our own eyes. The tractors were out working the inside of the track. They didn’t stop for a reported 10 hours.

Saturday’s surface was fair to all horses, speed types and closers. The best horses won. There’s no doubt in my mind.

The problem is that handicappers, people who bet their money and make this game go round and round, didn’t know what to expect until they saw some results.

Saturday’s track should have been Thursday and Friday’s track.

Trainer Bob Baffert said a week before the event he was concerned about the surface because it changed on a “day-to-day basis.” He was right and Santa Anita needs to take measures to have a fair surface all the time and especially at Breeders’ Cup 2014.

Surfaces can’t change from day to day. That’s a recipe for injuries and deaths.

Unfortunately, BC 2013 had two horses suffer broken legs. Centralintelligence suffered one on Friday and had surgery on Sunday. Baffert’s nice 2-year-old filly Secret Compass suffered one in the Juvenile Fillies on Saturday and had to be euthanized.

Del Mar track officials and trainers have told me through the years that their biggest fears for catastrophic injuries always came at the beginning of the meet because horses were changing surfaces from Hollywood Park to the seaside oval.

Did Santa Anita’s working of the track surface overnight result in Secret Compass’ death and jockey’s John Velasquez’s injuries (he was aboard the filly and had to undergo emergency surgery to have his spleen removed)? We’ll probably never know, but it’s something to ponder.

I hope to be at BC 31 in 2014 at Santa Anita. I also hope the track is safe and fair.

Now for a little bookkeeping from last week as we got behind on posting the results of our picks:

Thursday’s top choice winners: 3 (Pasalm Sixteen $6, first race; Sinfully $7.40, third; Koast $8.40, fifth)

Thursday’s second and third choice winners: 0

Thursday’s long shot winners: 2 (Majestic City $32.40, sixth; Bright Town $18.80, eighth)

==

Friday’s top choice winners: 2 (Chriselliam $15.80, ninth race; Beholder $7.60, 10th)

Friday’s second choice winners: 1 (Heir of Storm $77.60, second)

Friday’s third choice winners: 1 (Pure Loyalty $10.80, first)

Friday’s fourth choice winners: 1 (Goldencents $9.60, eighth)

Friday’s long shot winners: 0

==

Saturday’s top choice winners: 5 (Richies Party Girl $15.60, first; Dank $5, fifth; Mizdirection $7.40, seventh; New Year’s Day $23, eighth; Mucho Macho Man $10, 12th)

Saturday’s second choice winners: 4 (Pontchatrain $6.60, third; Magician $27, ninth; Secret Circle $7, 10th; Wise Dan $3.60, 11th)

Saturday’s third choice winners: 1 (Zeewat $12, second)

Saturday’s fourth choice winners: 0

Saturday’s long shot winners: 1 (Ria Antonia $66.60, fourth)

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