Tracking Breeders’ Cup preps for Santa Anita dirt races

Profile Picture: James Scully

October 26th, 2016

Santa Anita will host the Breeders’ Cup for the sixth time in nine years. Much has been made of the Europeans’ success in Breeders’ Cup turf routes at the Arcadia, California venue, with horses making their last start overseas winning at a 60% rate since 2008, so let’s turn our attention to dirt races.

Two of the past five editions at Santa Anita were run on a synthetic Pro-Ride track (2008-09), which holds little value in regards to dirt form. We’ll focus upon the recent three-year stretch at Santa Anita, looking at the results of the 7 current Breeders’ Cup dirt races from 2012-14: the Classic, Distaff, Sprint, Juvenile, Juvenile Fillies, Dirt Mile and Filly & Mare Sprint.

From 21 races, horses making their last start in California (Del Mar or Santa Anita) accounted for 9 wins. Five winners were exiting a prep at Belmont Park. Four made their last appearance at Keeneland and three at Parx.

Final Prep


BC Dirt Wins at SA

Del Mar/Santa Anita


9 (43%)

Belmont Park


5 (24%)



4 (19%)



3 (14%)





Given Santa Anita’s reputation of a home-court advantage, I was surprised to see only 9 wins from California-based horses. Thought the strike rate would be greater than 50%.

My mindset was likely influenced by the 2003 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita in which the local contingent dominated, winning 4-of-5 dirt races, the lone exception being the Kentucky-based Cajun Beat in the Sprint. Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella sent out a total of four winners, including three on the old main track.

The fact that New York shippers captured nearly 25% of the Breeders’ Cup dirt races at Santa Anita also took me by surprise. Four of those came in 2012 -- Royal Delta (Distaff), Shanghai Bobby (Juvenile), Fort Larned (Classic) and Tapizar (Dirt Mile).

Recent results show Santa Anita’s dirt track as being more hospitable to shippers than initially expected.