It’s early Wednesday evening and rain has been falling steadily in the Arcadia area for more than two hours. The Santa Anita Cushion Track has been sealed tighter than a drum. The parking lot area behind the backstretch, across from the 3/8ths-pole, is home to tons of Cushion Track material, each in separate mounds of dirt, sand or God Knows What. The new material that will be added to the existing surface is sequestered off to the side, carefully covered with huge plastic tarps held down by sandbags. It looks more like the Irwindale gravel pits than the back parking lot of a world-renowned racetrack.

With more rain expected over the next couple of days, can Santa Anita take a chance on ripping open the sealed track for racing on Thursday and Friday, and possibly endangering its showcase Sunshine Millions event on Saturday? What happens if the track gets saturated as it did in early January (causing three days of cancellation), rendering it useless for Saturday’s 11-race card? Could Hollywood Park be a viable, yet embarrassing, option for hosting Sunshine Millions, one of Santa Anita’s marquee events? With no inside information at all, my guess would be that SA management has to be considering scrapping the next two days of racing in order to save the track for Saturday, hoping the wet weather has cleared out by then. What a mess. It’s safe to say that the 2008 season will not go down as Santa Anita’s finest moment.

NOTES: The Cushion Track is playing ridiculously fast, evidenced by GAYEGO running 1:13.07 in winning the San Pedro Stakes on Sunday (6 furlong split of 1:06.82 set by SEA OF PLEASURE), and IN SUMMATION narrowly defeating BARBECUE EDDIE in Monday’s Palos Verdes while sizzling 1:06.67. As one pressboxer cracked, they should be starting these races with a checkered flag…four wins for trainer Doug O’Neill on Saturday, including a natural hat trick (races 3-5). Not a bad way to break out of a slump, putting O’Neill back on top of the trainer standings, tied with John Sadler at 10 winners, one ahead of Jeff Mullins…bad week for jockeys as Corey Nakatani and Agapito Delgadillo (nasty spill in Saturday’s 7th race) both suffered broken collarbones. Nakatani’s injury occurred in a training accident on Saturday morning and cost him winning rides on both TRICK’S PIC (Saturday’s Tuzla Handicap) and IN SUMMATION. He is expected to be out of action for three to four weeks…CHAMPS ELYSEES overcame a wide trip and did what he had to in winning the San Marcos over five overmatched foes. He wants to run all day (San Juan Capistrano) but doesn’t strike me as a world beater…TRAIL MIX stepped up three levels to win his third straight for Gary Stute and Black Diamond Racing…super field for the Sunshine Millions Classic, by far the strongest in the six-year history of the series…how was PROMISE OF SPRING not disqualified out of Sunday’s last race? She came out and racked up the field in mid-stretch, then came out again near the wire, yet the stewards ruled “several horses were equally contributable”. A better explanation would have been, “It’s the last race of a long 10-race card and it’s too confusing to figure out where to place her, so let’s just leave it alone and get out of here.”

MLK Weekend Attendance Figures, with corresponding ’07 figures in parentheses: Saturday—9,456 (12,494); Sunday—6,759 (7,182); Monday—7,048 (10,681). That’s a 23% decline…Yikes.

To View Free Samples of last week’s Premium Plays, click on the links below: Jan. 17Â Â Jan. 18Â Â Jan. 19Â Â Jan. 20Â Â Jan. 21Â


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