Santa Anita 2017 - Week 1 recap
by Scott Shapiro
The first full week of Santa Anita Park’s winter meeting is “in the books.”
The meet that commenced on the day after Christmas and ran five days last week – including a holiday card on January 2 – saw an abundance of rain, a top young rider leading the way early, familiar faces atop the trainer standings and lucrative payouts in the Players’ Pick 5.
It does not rain frequently in Southern California, but this past Friday and Saturday in Arcadia saw relatively cold temperatures and quite a bit of precipitation leading to races being taken off the turf course and a main track that was listed as wet/fast on Friday and Sunday, sloppy on Saturday and good on Monday.
Since the surface was constantly changing due to track maintenance and showers, it is difficult to draw conclusions on and what the first week’s results will mean going forward, but overall I think that the superintendent did a strong job to keep the track playing relatively fairly for all running styles.
Early on Friday and Saturday it was difficult to pass in the stretch, but both days saw the track becoming increasingly more fair as the days progressed. On the other hand, Monday tended to play tough on speed horses with the majority of winners coming from off the early pace.
After taking time off after an accident in late November, jockey Flavien Prat appeared no worse for wear riding home seven winners during the meet’s first week, including a win in the Grade 1 La Brea on LNJ Foxwoods’ Constellation. The young Frenchmen hit the board in half of his 28 mounts and earned $482,093. Tyler Baze took 37 mounts and was able to hit the wire first in six of them, good enough for second in the early jockey standings. Perennial leading rider Rafael Bejarano, Norberto Arroyo, Jr and veteran Martin Pedroza all found the winners’ circle four times.
It was several of the usual suspects atop the trainer standings after the first week at Santa Anita. After an incredible Bing Crosby meeting at Del Mar, Peter Miller was amongst the leaders with four wins, including a dead-heat victory between stable mates in the Grade 3 Midnight Lute on Saturday in the slop. Two-time Kentucky Derby-winning conditioner Doug O’Neill and veteran California trainer John Sadler also notched four wins, while Jerry Hollendorfer, Bill Spawr and last year’s leading trainer Phil D’Amato captured three.
It was not such a great start to the meet for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who failed to find the winners’ circle during the first six days. He had highly regarded maiden Dabster disqualified for interference in the stretch and was forced to scratch 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Arrogate from Sunday’s Grade 2 San Pasqual due to concern over the wet track. It is more than likely that Baffert will get things going soon, though, with a loaded group of runners in the barn.
The start of the Santa Anita meet saw consistent big scores in the takeout friendly Pick 5. The average payout based on the minimum 50-cent wager over the first six days was an eye catching $8,144.20, once again illustrating why it is the best bet on the Southern California racing circuit.
With holiday racing on Monday, Santa Anita has a short three-day week commencing on Friday, January 6. “The Great Race Place” has four graded stakes events this weekend with the Grade 2 San Gabriel headlining Saturday afternoon’s card and the Grade 2 Santa Ynez being the feature on Sunday.