Horse racing, Santa Anita

Santa Anita opinions for Wednesday, Dec. 26 (Opening day)

Preview: Remember jockey Joel Rosario is coming West to ride until the spring so look for him to get plenty of live mounts. Also, a lot of out-of-town jockeys are in Arcadia today for the stakes-filled card. These guys can ride and you will get some great prices on great jockeys. If you like one of them, bet them. I’m not sure how the turf course will play after rain on Tuesday night so make sure you check changes.

FIRST RACE: 1. Twentytwentyvision, 2. Orchestral, 3. Taelyns Prince. LONG SHOT: Comes the Dream.

SECOND RACE: 1. Naughty Sophie, 2. Chatty, 3. Come On Kat. LONG SHOT: Easter Dream.

THIRD RACE: 1. I Am the Danger, 2. According to Buddy, 3. Shane Zain. LONG SHOT: Lil Milo.

FOURTH RACE: 1. Ms Bad Behavior, 2. Amandine, 3. Love and Peace. LONG SHOT: X S Gold.

FIFTH RACE: 1. Jumpin Thru Hoops, 2. Scalper, 3. All Good. LONG SHOT: Mo Mississippi.

SIXTH RACE (Grade I La Brea): 1. Emboldened, 2. Dream Tree, 3. Happy Like a Fool. LONG SHOT: Hot Autumn.
DREAM TREE is the rightful 8-5 morning-line favorite and is the most likely winner of this race for trainer Bob Baffert, but I have to go with the “other Baffert.” EMBOLDENED has never been worse than third over this track and has been training well for her comeback. I’m a big believer that horses either like or hate 7-furlong races and both of these Bafferts have won in their only tries at this elongated sprint distance.

SEVENTH RACE (Grade II Mathis Brothers Mile) 1. Choo Choo, 2. River Boyne, 3. Sejo. LONG SHOT: Desert Stone.
Again RIVER BOYNE is the deserving 8-5 morning-line favorite and will be tough to beat as jockey Flavien Prat stays on the 3-year-old rather than ride my choice, CHOO CHOO. This son of English Channel just missed at Del Mar and Joel Rosario takes over. SEJO is an import from France and gets Irad Ortiz Jr. in the saddle for trainer John Sadler, who got shut out at Del Mar.

EIGHTH RACE (Grade II San Antonio): 1. Gift Box, 2. Battle of Midway, 3. Dabster. LONG SHOT: Tatter to Riches.
The older horses finally take to the track and the thought is that BATTLE OF MIDWAY will be singled in a lot of wagers. Not here. GIFT BOX has been purchased privately by Hronis Racing LLC for Sadler. The 5-year-old comes out of the Chad Brown barn and has a couple of great works over the track. He has never been worse than second in three tries at the distance and that man Rosario rides back. One to watch is TATTER TO RICHES for trainer Jeff Mullins. The 3-year-old will be facing older and Mullins puts blinkers on. Plus Gift Box is coming out of a key race that has produced two winners already.

NINTH RACE (Grade I Malibu): 1. Ax Man (best bet), 2. Seven Trumpets, 3. McKinzie. LONG SHOT: Copper Bullet.
The big race of the day and it drew a field of 16 (only 14 can run). Baffert has five 3-year-olds in this race and at least one (or more) will scratch. AX MAN has been seen since July, but has been gelded since that race. He has been training lights out and Baffert’s layoff stats are huge. SEVEN TRUMPETS ships in from the East Coast for trainer Dale Romans. Throw out that eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. He’s back with has own age group and finished second at this distance in the Jerkens at Saratoga.

10TH RACE: 1. Souter, 2. Avalance, 3. Cupid’s Claws. LONG SHOT: Trojan Spirit.

Good luck.

Horse racing, Santa Anita

How ‘terrible’ is Santa Anita’s turf course?

I wrote a blog last week about what jockeys and trainers were doing well on Santa Anita’s turf course since the start of the meet on Dec. 26, 2013 in Arcadia.

Along the way, I mentioned Santa Anita was one of the top turf courses around, but it would be interesting to see how it will be as racing continues into the longer meet of May and June due to the closure of Hollywood Park.

No sooner had I posted the blog than I received an email from a person in the industry who said the turf course “sucks right now. Way too hard.

“(Santa Anita) doesn’t water near enough. Too much racing.

“Right now, a terrible surface, but nobody says a word.”

I respect this person and it’s tough to argue the point, especially after the last two weekends.

Two weeks ago, stakes star Vagabond Shoes ($665,497 money won from eight career wins) broke down in the Grade II San Luis Rey, which was run at 1 1/2 miles on the turf course. Owned by Hronis Racing LLC and trained by John Sadler, the 7-year-old gelding had to be euthanized.

This past Saturday, jockey Kayla Stra had to pull up maiden Russian Silk, a 3-year-old filly trained by Daniel Dunham, in the ninth race due to a fatal injury. In the process, Stra dislocated her thumb and will be out of action at least a week, if not longer.

There hasn’t been a lot of rain this year in Southern California, but there’s no reason Santa Anita can’t water its turf course a little bit more. I know there is rain in the forecast the next few days so hopefully that will help the situation. Otherwise, maybe horsemen should speak up and make their concerns known for the good of the sport, including horses and jockeys.


@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter

Sunday’s top choice winners: 2 (Kafister $2.40, first race; Newfound Gold $7.40, third)

Sunday’s second choice winners: 2 (Fury Kapcori $3.80, seventh; Nueva Fortuna $7.20, ninth)

Sunday’s third choice winners: 2 (Street Maven $9.20, sixth; Spring Up $12.40, eighth)

Sunday’s long shot winner: 1 (Life’s Journey $15.60, fourth)