by SCOTT SHAPIRO
In this year’s case, maybe not since the Breeders’ Cup World Championships is not a part of the Santa Anita schedule in 2017 after the Los Angeles-area track played host to Thoroughbred racing’s championship event in 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016.
But don’t let what’s not happening at the end of the meeting keep you away from the day-to-day action at the Great Race Place, as there is plenty of great racing and wagering opportunities expected at the meet that begins Friday, September 29, and runs through Sunday, October 29.
The Bing Crosby meeting at Del Mar begins Wednesday, November 1, with the Breeders’ Cup Friday-Saturday, November 3-4.
The opening day feature at Santa Anita is the Grade 3 Eddie D. Stakes going 6 ½ furlongs “down the hill” on turf ramps up nicely to the quintet of Grade 1, Breeders’ Cup Win & You’re In races on Saturday, September 30.
The Breeders’ Cup prep races lack some of the star power of recent years given the recent trend of training top runners right up to the World Championships. However, the stacked card will still offer Southern California horseplayers a look at some of the circuit’s top equine athletes and an overall outstanding day of racing.
The top two-year-olds of the region will be amongst those featured on the first Saturday of the meet with the FrontRunner for the boys and the Chandelier for the young ladies. The Awesome Again Stakes won last year by California Chrome and the Zenyatta captured by 2017 Breeders’ Cup Distaff contender Stellar Wind will showcase some of the region’s top two-turn older runners, while the Rodeo Drive Stakes will prepare the women for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Del Mar in November. It should be a great day in Arcadia.
While there is little doubt that the first Saturday is the pinnacle of the Autumn meeting, there are several other stakes races of note sprinkled throughout October.
The Grade 2 John Henry Turf Championship on October 1st, the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship on October 7th and the Grade 3 LA Woman Stakes on October 8th are the other graded stakes events run before closing weekend. The meet concludes with the Grade 2 Twilight Derby on Saturday October 28th and the Grade 3 Autumn Miss Stakes on Sunday October 29th.
In addition to the stakes action, it will be intriguing to follow the jockey standings at Santa Anita Park this fall.
Flavian Prat re-rallied late this summer at Del Mar to win the rider title and has been the best jockey on the circuit over the past year. He captured his first Santa Anita riding title this past winter with 62 wins and $3.9 million dollars in earnings and followed that up with 41 victories and $2.09 million in the spring, good enough to earn him a tie with Evin Roman. The Frenchman has to be considered the favorite to win the Autumn title.
Roman has been extremely impressive after a turbulent start to his apprenticeship this winter. The 19-year-old captured the July riding title at Los Alamitos with 13 wins and followed it up with 17 in September and another championship. He takes as many mounts as his agent Tony Matos can get him and is a legitimate contender along with veteran Rafael Bejarano to unseat Prat from the top spot.
Trainer Peter Miller owned the Southern California circuit through the end of 2016 and the first half of 2017. He ran away with the Spring meet title at Santa Anita notching 36 wins from April 14th to July 5th. Miller had a subpar Del Mar summer meeting winning with just 12% of his starters, but he is extremely likely to rebound this fall.
The co-leading trainers “Where the Turf Meets the Surf,” Phil D’Amato and Richard Baltas are amongst those likeliest to challenge Miller this fall. Both D’Amato and Baltas won 18 races at Del Mar and appear loaded for bear as we head into the racing calendar at Santa Anita over the next month.
Trainer Doug O’Neill merits consideration as well coming in off a trainer title at Los Alamitos in September.
For Brisnet At-A-Glance stats from the previous Santa Anita Park meeting, see below.
SANTA ANITA PARK AT A GLANCE
|Avg. Winning Odds: 4.69 – 1|
|Favorite Win%: 37%, Favorite Itm%: 73%|
|Pick 6 Jackpot||274,631.20|
|Super High Five||17,515.30|