Can­celed: a day of horse rac­ing

Track can­cels sec­ond race day of sea­son, cit­ing short­age of en­tries for Thurs­day.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By John Cherwa john.cherwa@la­times.com Twitter: @jcherwa

Santa Anita scrubs Thurs­day’s card be­cause of a short­age of en­tries.

Santa Anita, for the sec­ond time this sea­son, has can­celed a day of rac­ing be­cause of a short­age of en­tries. Thurs­day’s card was taken off the books and some of those races were sprin­kled over the week­end, fea­tur­ing the Bel­mont Stakes in New York on Satur­day.

“Af­ter look­ing at en­tries for Thurs­day, we de­cided it was in the best in­ter­est of our cus­tomers to put on three solid race cards, Fri­day, Satur­day and Sun­day,” said Joe Mor­ris, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of West Coast op­er­a­tions for the Stronach Group.

“The races from Thurs­day that at­tracted enough en­tries will be added over those three days to give horse­men some ad­di­tional rac­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Santa Anita also can­celed the April 27 card for the same rea­son.

De­spite the best spin Mor­ris tried to put on it, there is lit­tle doubt that Santa Anita is in a cri­sis sit­u­a­tion.

The once vi­brant South­ern Cal­i­for­nia rac­ing scene, which ran five days a week at Santa Anita and six at Del Mar, has con­tracted to four at Santa Anita and five at Del Mar.

It begs the ques­tion: Will Santa Anita con­tract once again to three days?

The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita, Golden Gate, Gulf­stream, Mary­land rac­ing and Port­land Mead­ows, sent its fix-it guy, Tim Ritvo, to Ar­ca­dia to re­vi­tal­ize the un­der­achiev­ing track.

He’s only been on the grounds for less than two weeks but you can ex­pect to see changes soon.

As far as who is to blame about the short to nonex­is­tent fields, you can point fin­gers in many di­rec­tions.

You can look to the own­ers. To them, pa­tience is a virtue, but it is detri­men­tal to the sport. Own­ers and train­ers on the West Coast seem ob­sessed look­ing for the per­fect spot to run their horse, pass­ing up op­por­tu­ni­ties to race.

A good ex­am­ple was the loaded $400,000 Be­holder Mile on Satur­day, where only three horses en­tered. Purses go five deep.

Mor­ris joked to The Times on Satur­day that he thought about bring­ing in one of his old brood­mares to run in the race just to col­lect an easy check.

The su­per train­ers, those with huge barns, can also take some blame. If you have a bunch of horses of sim­i­lar age or con­di­tion, you most likely are not go­ing to run them against each other. You hear the phrase, “Why would you run two of your horses for the same money?” So again, horses sit. And then there is the track. Is it writ­ing the right races? Once the Ken­tucky Derby is over there is vir­tu­ally no chance you will see any of those horses in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia in the sum­mer and fall.

Nei­ther Santa Anita nor Del Mar writes the kind of races that would at­tract Derby or Preak­ness horses af­ter the Santa Anita Derby. Three-year-olds have to go back to Mon­mouth or Saratoga to run.

The best horse in the world, Ar­ro­gate, is sta­bled at Santa Anita but he likely will not run there. And why should he? There is no race big enough to grab the owner’s at­ten­tion. He is a likely starter in the Pa­cific Clas­sic at Del Mar.

Song­bird, ar­guably the best fe­male horse run­ning, is sta­bled at Santa Anita but was sent to New York in­stead of mak­ing the Be­holder Mile one of the best distaff races in re­cent mem­ory. Blame the owner on that one.

Ritvo has changed and im­proved the prod­uct and ex­pe­ri­ence at Gulf­stream and the Mary­land cir­cuit of Laurel Park and Pim­lico. But fix­ing Santa Anita might be his big­gest project.

Some good news

De­spite a slug­gish start be­cause of the weather, there are some met­rics that are im­prov­ing at Santa Anita.

The re­cent three-day Me­mo­rial Day week­end was up 10,000 folks over last year to around 48,100. At­ten­dance is up about 5% and it’s likely the track will show an in­crease in peo­ple on the prop­erty for the fourth con­sec­u­tive year.

The track is also show­ing im­prove­ment on its big days. Open­ing day drew 46,514, the big­gest crowd in 22 years. Santa Anita Hand­i­cap day had 29,412, up 8%. The Santa Anita Derby drew 36,155, an in­crease of 30%, un­der­stand­able be­cause of the bad weather on race day a year ago.

Gorm­ley un­de­cided

The only West Coast pos­si­bil­ity in Satur­day’s Bel­mont Stakes is Gorm­ley, for trainer John Shirreffs and own­ers Jerry and Ann Moss. And we still don’t know if the horse is go­ing.

Shirreffs has booked a spot on a plane to ship mid­week but he and the own­ers haven’t made a de­ci­sion to run.

Nei­ther Ken­tucky Derby win­ner, Al­ways Dream­ing, nor Preak­ness vic­tor, Cloud Com­put­ing, will be run­ning in the 11⁄2-mile race.

Benoit Photo via Associated Press

STEL­LAR WIND, led by jockey Vic­tor Espinoza, main­tains a slight lead over Vale Dori en route to a first­place fin­ish in the Be­holder Mile at Santa Anita. Only three horses were en­tered in Satur­day’s race.

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