04/07/2010 5:08PM

Santa Anita: Small fields for Saturday

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Saturday's nine-race program is marred by small fields and a shorter program that track officials intended. There are 59 horses entered on the nine-race program; track officials had hoped to card a 10-race program on the second-to-last Saturday of the winter-spring meeting, which ends on April 19.

The program was not finalized until approximately 2:45 p.m., or about three hours later than had been the case earlier at the meeting.

None of the races drew double-digit fields. Two races drew fields of five, including the $60,000 Santana Mile. There are four races with six-horse fields.  The $100,000 La Puente Stakes for 3-year-olds on turf drew nine runners, the largest field on the card.

Southern California has suffered a prolonged horse shortage in the last year, losing owners to tough economic conditions and the exodus of scores of cheaper horses to tracks such as Philadelphia Park and other venues that have purses aided by slot machine revenue.

The Hollywood Park meeting that begins on April 21 is braced to some extent for a slow start. The track has scheduled four days of racing for the first two weeks, racing on Wednesdays and a Friday-through-Sunday basis through May 2. Santa Anita scheduled five days of racing per week since the start of the meeting on Dec. 26, with the exception of five days in January and February that were cancelled when the synthetic main track failed to drain sufficiently.