Another good day of racing at Santa Anita today. Full fields, good weather, Michigan fans in their RVs in the back parking lot (smart bettors are telling me they love Michigan getting a point and a half in tomorrow’s Rose Bowl).

Pick Six players bet nearly a million today chasing the $160,000 carryover. Congratulations to 24 ticket holders, who cashed in for $28,930. Speaking of large payouts, the early Pick 4 returned a whopping $8,091 after the first three winners paid $18.40, $19.60 and $49.00.

In today’s featured San Gabriel, KING’S DRAMA outclassed a gutty RAILROAD in the final 30 yards to give Frankel his third stakes win of the meet, with unlucky HENDRIX winding up third after being forced to steady between horses in mid-stretch. It was good aggressive race riding by Flores that put Nakatani in tight, but Hendrix might have been right there with a clean trip.

Earlier, VALBENNY made it two straight in this country by holding off well-meant COURTWOOD in the Blue Norther for 2-year-old fillies. She gave Solis his first winner of the meet, although the rider didn’t do a whole lot to help her cause. She was caught 4-wide through the final 3/8ths and may have been moved a bit too soon, but the Gallagher-trainee was good enough to sustain her run to the wire.

TIZ ELEMENTAL was a smart debut winner coming down the hill, wrapping up a huge year for Carla Gaines…inside speed looked like the place to be in the early main-track races but both NOSSA CANCAO (7th race) and TWICE UNBRIDLED (9th race) rallied wide from off the pace…Jorge Periban, who trained the last-race winner (first off the claim) does an excellent job with limited opportunities. He is definitly one to keep tabs on in ’07.

Have a safe New Year’s Eve…see you tomorrow for 12:30 post.

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I worked at home today (and watched the races on a tiny computer screen through my account), so, needless to say, I’m not much good on commentary or observations this time. The floor is yours…I invite readers to fill in the missing parts with your own comments.

I do know that we have a Pick Six carryover of more than $160,000. With huge fields again tomorrow (and New Year’s Day), this thing could roll again.

DOWNTHEDUSTYROAD, after three consecutive runner-up efforts vs. older, was a dominating winner of the La Brea. The Baffert-trained filly never looked like a loser while stalking the leaders from outside.

Steve Knapp is off to a hot start (struck again with longshot RUN WITH THE MONEY in 1st race). Unusual because this low-percentage barn often times starts off new meetings with a prolonged losing streak.

Jose Valdivia continues to be one of the best grass riders on the circuit, winning with sharp GEM PROOF in the 4th and KOLO in the Eddie Logan (7th).

Nice ride by Julien Leparoux, who picked up the mount on IMITATION after Corey Nakatani took off his mounts (reportedly ill). There’s a reason this guy leads the nation in winners.

That’s it for tonight. Good luck tomorrow and enjoy the full fields while they last.

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Due to day-long telecommunication problems at Santa Anita that prevented tote transmission from out-of-state sources, the results of today’s Pick Six are still not known as of 8:30 p.m. (Pacific). So with a huge carryover on the line and a couple longshot bombers in the mix, who knows what we have going into tomorrow. According to one unconfirmed report, there was a winning ticket in the FrontRunner restaurant. If true, that would wipe out a massive double carryover into the extremely difficult Saturday card.

SWISS DIVA made it three-for-three with an easy victory in the Cal Breeders’ for juvenile fillies. She has moved right up the ladder for Paddy Gallagher and was ridden perfectly by underrated rider Agapito Delgadillo.

Nasty spill in the last race as WESTERN MATRIARCH appeared to clip heels and fall entering the stretch. Many horses were impeded (most notably PINK POLKADOTS and UNION CAMP) and two riders went down, but both Clinton Potts and David Cohen (aboard POLO LOUNGE) walked off under their own power. Both fillies seemed to be fine, too. After three wide trips in a row for ‘POLKADOTS, it looked like Alex Solis (who was riding his only mount on the 8-race card) made a concerted effort to stay inside and it backfired this time.

Speaking of Solis, his business has really tailed off. He has only four mounts tomorrow on a card bursting with full fields.

Stay tuned for more on the Gus Headley claim of TACTICS from his father, Bruce, in yesterday’s 3rd race. The stewards have opened an investigation, and CHRB executive director Ingrid Fermin has recused herself from the case. Why? Because Bruce is her brother-in-law and Gus is her nephew.

Laffit Pincay celebrated his 60th birthday at the track today…tomorrow’s Eddie Logan Stakes is named after the 96-year-old shoeshine man who has operated his stand at Santa Anita since opening day, 1934. The self-proclaimed “Foot Man” will present the trophy…Pat Valenzuela is expected to return to riding (recovering from broken ribs) on Jan. 10.

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Day 2 brought out an on-track crowd of 8,607, which is excellent for a Thursday. Thanks to longshot winners BILLY’S ECHO and MOSLEY (who helped make for a whopping $22,515 late Pick 4 payoff), there will be a Pick 6 carryover of more than $119,000 into tomorrow’s card. Large fields on Friday could bring the possibility of a huge double carryover into Saturday’s excellent nine-race card.

Today’s Kalookan Queen Handicap was a super battle between two talented fillies, with INDIAN FLARE holding off SOMETHINABOUTLAURA in a sizzling 1:14.3. ‘FLARE gave Bobby Frankel his second win of the day and second stakes of the meet after taking down the opening day Malibu with LATENT HEAT. You get the feeling that everything in this barn is cranked up and ready to fire.

Corey Nakatani scored a riding double by winning the first two races on the card.

Strange occurence in the 3rd race as first-time starter TACTICS was claimed by Gus Headley away from his father, Bruce. This had to be a “protection play” because they thought they were going to lose the horse. However, there were no other claims in for the juvenile gelding, who had trained fast on paper but in very average style for his debut. By the way, he can’t run a little bit. Green, slow early, high-headed…looks like the state of California is the main beneficiary, collecting the 8% sales tax on the transaction.

Most of today’s races were won on the lead, although 8th race winner MOSLEY did rally from far back. The turf seems to be playing very fair.

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After a one-week break, racing returned to Santa Anita in grand style…32,931 fans on-track (boosted by spinners that wanted more than one calendar), who bet nearly $5 million. Overall, nearly $15 in total all-source handle for the nine-race card. The atmosphere was great with a definite buzz in the air.

LATENT HEAT was a very solid winner of the Grade I Malibu after getting a perfect stalking trip from the outside. MIDNIGHT LUTE compromised his chances by breaking poorly, then hung right on the line for second. BROTHER DEREK raced in traffic most of the way but never looked good out there. ARSON SQUAD was very disappointing.

In other stakes, PIRATES DEPUTY closed strongly from far back to win the Cal Breeders’ Champion Stakes over longshot TAP IT LIGHT. Maiden COMPLEXITY ran very well on the lead before tiring late to be a promising third.

KIP DEVILLE found room inside through the lane to take the Sir Beaufort over a three-horse blanket for second, giving Richard Migliore his first career winner at Santa Anita. PORTO SANTO raced wide and hung late, which he is known to do.

The riding star of the day was Garrett Gomez, who took down four winners, including two for trainer Bob Baffert. In a winner’s circle presentation early in the card, Gomez presented the Winners Foundation with a $10,000 check, showing his graditude for the Foundation’s role in helping him straighten out his life. Owner Bob Bone, trainer Doug O’Neill and jockey Patrick Valenzuela were all presented awards for leading their respective categories at last year’s meet. P.Val was dressed in a suit (still recovering from broken ribs) and thanked the fans for their strong support on opening day.

Todd Pletcher begins his 45-day suspension tomorrow…his local string will run under assistant trainer Michael (Whitey) McCarthy’s name. You’ve come a long way, Whitey.

The first-ever “early” Pick 4 at Santa Anita paid $2,123 and the late Pick 4 returned $1,717…the power of full fields at work again.

No detectable track bias as horses won on the lead and from behind. The three turf races were won by off-the-pace runners who were within striking distance at the top of the stretch.

No racing tomorrow…see you on Thursday.

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