Los Angeles Times
Santa Anita to host the 40th Breeders’ Cup
run at those distances. It’s early and we’re still looking at both.”
A problem with using the 6½furlong course is that there isn’t a large distinction between it and the turf race at a mile (8 furlongs).
Santa Anita also isn’t looking at making a lot of changes.
“I don’t think there is likely to be any major changes to track surfaces,” said Craig Fravel, chief executive of 1st Racing, formerly the Stronach Group and the owner of Santa Anita. “We will be resodding the turf course, which we normally do every other year. So, there should be no major differences.”
Fravel was CEO of the Breeders’ Cup before joining the Stronach Group. Fleming replaced him. “If anything, I have an even greater appreciation for the Breeders’ Cup,” Fravel said. “Life is always greener elsewhere, but at the Breeders’ Cup, I missed day-to-day racing, being around horses on a regular basis. Now I’m at a racetrack, and I appreciate what a special event the Breeders’ Cup is and what a great job their team does.”
Despite the familiarity, Fravel will not overly involve himself.
“I will play an undersized role,” Fravel said. “I’m important only when things go badly.”
Fravel said Chief Operating Officer Aidan Butler, general manager Nate Newby and Senior Vice President Amy Zimmerman “will run things like clockwork.”
Fleming admitted there was discussion of what happened at the Del Mar Breeders’ Cup when a horse was accidentally scratched in the Juvenile Turf race that Friday and was reentered running for purse money only.
It infuriated bettors because they couldn’t bet on him and then he won the race.
Though it was human error, it left the California Horse Racing Board red-faced trying to explain how it happened.
“That was an unfortunate situation that affected our fans and horse players, part of the backbone of our industry,” Fleming said. “The CHRB conducted an independent review of its own. We’ll continue to work with the CHRB to prevent that from ever happening again. We have trust in the CHRB and its ability to be proactive on these kinds of things.”
The last time the Breeders’ Cup was at Santa Anita in 2019, there was a question if the races would be held after a spike of fatalities during its December-to-June meeting.
The Breeders’ Cup held a special meeting and agreed to go ahead with the event after the track instituted many safety reforms.
All was going well until the last race on the last day when Mongolian Groom broke down in the stretch of the featured event, the Classic, and was euthanized.
An investigation showed that prerace observations of the horse could have prevented the horse from running, but it didn’t happen. The track was left blameless but scarred.
“I’m personally not concerned that the very unfortunate event will be brought up and we can look at it in the rear-view mirror,” said Fravel, who was still working at the Breeders’ Cup that day. “We now have among the best safety records in all of racing. We put many processes in place. Our vet teams are fully engaged. We’re doing all the things we can do.”
In 2019, Santa Anita had 30 racing and training deaths in its signature winter-spring meeting. This year the number was eight.