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Anyone who saw what the Santa Anita track looked like on Friday afternoon could not have believed it possible that there would be racing the following day. But thanks to a Herculean all-night effort by trackman Richard Tedesco and his crew—and a break in the weather—the Sunshine Millions card came off without a hitch. In front of 28,414 eager fans, who had not seen live racing since the previous Monday (racing was cancelled on Thursday and Friday, then again the day after ‘Millions when another storm came through), Santa Anita staged an excellent 11-race card that included the four local ‘Millions races. While only about $2.8 million was bet on track (the $100 per capita figure is very low, meaning a lot of those partaking in the infield microwbrew festival weren’t exactly pouring it through the windows), overall handle for the day was nearly $15 million. Although these figures pale in comparison to last year’s 36,355 on track patrons (who bet $4.47 million) and overall handle of more than $20 million, it’s still not a bad day considering the uncertainty of the weather and Santa Anita’s understandable reluctance to promote the event too aggressively.

On the racing front, we saw DEAREST TRICKSKI rattle off her eighth win from nine previous starts in dominating the Filly & Mare Sprint; QUITE A BRIDE pull off a mild upset over NASHOBA’S KEY in the Filly & Mare Turf; BOB BLACK JACK set a new world record, winning the Sunshine Dash in 1:06.53 to break IN SUMMATION’S five-day-old track record (by the way, to contrast Santa Anita’s Cushion Track with Del Mar’s Polytrack, In Summation ran the fastest 6-furlongs of the summer meet, going 1:11.06 in the Bing Crosby); and GO BETWEEN sweep wide and inhale his foes in taking the Sunshine Classic. In Florida, BENNY THE BULL cruised in the Sprint; AMERICAN COLONY took the Oaks; Eclipse Award-winning GINGER PUNCH returned to overwhelm the field in the Distaff; and WAR MONGER won nicely in the Turf. “Bicoastal” Bill Mott was the trainer of the day, winning twice at Santa Anita and once at Gulfstream. Someone said that the Florida-breds outpointed Cal-breds once again but, sorry, I wasn’t paying attention to that meaningless angle. Neither was anyone else.

NOTES: Tough day for track announcer Trevor Denman, who misprounced a number of names throughout the day. LARDOG (owned by Larry Edwards, so the obvious pronunciation would have been Lair-Dog) was called Larr-Dog; DEAREST TRICKSKI was called Dearest Trixie all the way around; MR. ELROY became Mr. McElroy at one point; NOW VICTORY was called Victory Now; but his most egregious mistake came in the ESPN2-televised Classic when Denman confused two horses and kept calling the eventual winner (Go Between) ELECTRIFY until the last few jumps. That must have been quite a surprise to Electrify’s connections, especially since he never got closer than eighth at any point in the race…as good as the day was, Kurt Hoover made an excellent point on Sunday’s “Thoroughbred Los Angeles” radio show: with purse money so inflated on ‘Millions Day that it attracts top Grade I-type horses, those runners end up dominating at short prices. It’s almost as if the success of the event has made it a less attractive wagering event—at least that’s what happened this year.

Odds and Ends: Santa Anita CEO Ron Charles had the quote of the meet when talking about two major problems with Santa Anita’s main track: it doesn’t drain and it doesn’t dry…apparently representatives of Cushion Track are no longer returning emails or phones calls from SA…an article in Saturday’s LA Times referred to Santa Anita’s FrontRunner restaurant as the RoadRunner. A friend emailed and wondered if Wile E. Coyote was the maitre’d…with seven days of racing cancelled already, Santa Anita has issued a memo to horsemen concerning its main track renovation plans (click here to see). As of now, the plan is to shut down after racing on Sunday, renovate Monday through Thursday, and be back running by Friday. As we’ve seen before, that is certainly subject to change. Interestingly, the memo talks about a contingency plan for moving the races to Hollywood Park on 48 hours notice…with plans of running extra races each day and the sure request for makeup dates, Kevin Modesti’s commentary in the LA Daily News (http://www.dailynews.com/search/ci_8080294?IADID=Search-www.dailynews.com-www.dailynews.com) was a breath of fresh air. He builds a strong case for less racing dates, while making horse racing a more seasonal sport. He writes that “less could be more, that horses and humans would be better off if they took more days and weeks off, that the general public would care more if it was allowed to miss racing every now and then and anticipate its return.” Makes sense to me.

Finally, handicapper Aaron Hesz, a contributor to “Thoroughbred Los Angeles”, on Sunday recounted a sad story about a 13-year-old mare who was brought back from a nearly six-year layoff to compete in a $2,000 claiming race at Los Alamitos the night before. The sad but not surprising result was that she broke down in the race and had to be euthanized. To view Hesz’s letter to Los Al owner Ed Allred, click here .

To view Free Samples of last week’s Premium Plays, click below: Jan. 21  Jan. 26

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