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The Week in Review: March 7, 2019
THURSDAY, MARCH 7, 2019
by: Valerie Mellema
Changes to the Derby trail and breakdowns at Santa Anita. There's a lot going on in the world of horse racing as the first leg of the Triple Crown nears.
Santa Anita Stops Racing Indefinitely
After twenty-one horses suffer fatal breakdowns since December 26th on the Santa Anita main track, the track has finally canceled racing indefinitely to evaluate the safety of the surface. Training on the main track and the training track has also been shut down. However, none of the injuries occurred on the training track.
Santa Anita track superintendent Dennis Moore, who resigned in December, has come back to the track as a consultant and was addressing the state of the track Wednesday afternoon. The Stronach Group is working on getting the training track reopened for weekend training.
Los Alamitos Race Course has stated that they will make stalls available for training and stabling if they are needed. They have also stated they are prepared to take over Santa Anita's racing dates if they can get approved for a license. Owner of Los Alamitos, Ed Allred, said he was also prepared to run Santa Anita's stakes races that are important to the Kentucky Derby Trail. The Stronach Group has issued a press release stating that the March 9th stakes races, which included the Santa Anita Handicap, Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes and the San Felipe Stakes. Allred states he's prepared to help as necessary.
The shutdown came after the 4-year-old filly LETS LIGHT THE WAY was euthanized after sustaining a catastrophic injuring while training on the main track. The filly's trainer, Ron McAnally, stated he felt the abnormally high amount of rain that Southern California has received over the winter is the root cause of the increase in fatalities on the track.
Santa Anita paused training for two days February 26th-27th to analyze and evaluate the safety of the surface. The track brought in Mick Peterson, the director of Ag Equine Programs at the University of Kentucky and a racetrack surface specialist to consult on the condition of the track. Peterson mentioned that while he didn't see any evidence of an issue with the track during his multiple day study, he does have a "working assumption" that there is an issue with the segregation of material on the main track, as the rains are causing the finer material to move to the inside rail with the water.
Southern California is expected to have more rains this week through March 6th.
Oaklawn Jockey Club Prepared to Split Rebel Stakes to Help California Horsemen
In light of the shut down at Santa Anita, the Oaklawn Jockey Club announced March 6th that they are ready to split the $1 million Rebel Stakes on Saturday, March 16th. The shut down of the racetrack has caused issues due to the West Coast prep races for the Kentucky Derby also being suspended.
If the Rebel is split, it will be split into divisions with a purse of $750,000 each and will offer 63.75 qualifying points towards the Derby. Oaklawn President Louis Cella stated that "From a financial standpoint, splitting the race makes no sense whatsoever. If we split it, it will be strictly on the basis of sportsmanship and what is best for the sport and best for top three-year-olds trying to get to Kentucky."
Road to the Derby
The Road to the Derby is getting interesting as new horses are earning points particularly after last week's Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream. The Road to the Oaks is also getting interesting with JELTRIN stealing the show from JAYWALK in the Davona Dale Stakes.
ROADSTER was sidelined after the Del Mar Futurity with a breathing issue, but made a triumphant return at Santa Anita March 1st in an allowance optional claiming race. Baffert is shooting for the April 6th Santa Anita Derby for the son of QUALITY ROAD.
CODE OF HONOR also stepped up this past weekend at Gulfstream when he won the Fountain of Youth Stakes. He came in just ahead of BOURBON WAR, who showed that he still had some run left in him after the wire and picked up some points towards the Derby as well. CODE OF HONOR is likely to run in the Florida Derby.
HIDDEN SCROLL may not have won the Fountain of Youth, but he did pique some interest and gained some points.
VEKOMA is on the Derby trail now after finishing third in the Fountain of Youth.
Of course, Baffert's two undefeated 3-year-olds, GAME WINNER and IMPROBABLE, are set for their showdown and the San Felipe Stakes, assuming Santa Anita resumes. IMPROBABLE is likely headed to the Arkansas Derby after the San Felipe and GAME WINNER will likely stake in California for the Santa Anita Derby.
GLOBAL CAMPAIGN is off the Derby trail due to injury after the Fountain of Youth Stakes. MAXIMUS MISCHIEF is also off the train due to injury.
Have a great week!
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