Updated on 12/27/2013 3:46PM

Santa Anita attracts 30,540 on opening day

Benoit & Associates
Gary Stevens urges 13-1 outsider Heir Kitty to victory in the Grade 1 La Brea, the first of three stakes on opening day Thursday.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The first step of the new journey for Southern California racing was a positive one on Thursday, as Santa Anita opened for a spectacular day of racing with weather ordered up by the Chamber of Commerce, only four days after the plug was pulled on Betfair Hollywood Park.

A crowd of 30,540 attended opening day, an increase of nearly 12 percent from the 27,273 that attended a year ago, when opening day was on a Wednesday.

Betting, though, was down. Overall handle was $13,246,238, a decrease of 2 percent from $13,494,676 a year ago.

The crowd, lured by the weather, two Grade 1 stakes, and a the traditional opening-day giveaway of a wall calendar, made its way to a track that will get a full workout over the next six months, with racing being held here through late June because of the closing of Hollywood Park.

There are more changes afoot. The upper section of the box seats, near the wire and above the walkway, are gone, with four large luxury boxes being constructed there. There was plenty of open space in the box seats on most days in recent years. On Thursday, the large crowd, coupled with less space in the area near the wire, gave the box seats an aura of hyperactivity.

One constant was jockey Gary Stevens. Less than a year into his celebrated comeback, Stevens won the La Brea Stakes, the first Grade 1 of the meet, with Heir Kitty.

Stevens was the star of the Breeders’ Cup here less than two months ago, winning the Classic with Mucho Macho Man and the Distaff with Beholder. He said the main track was in far better shape than at the Breeders’ Cup, specifically the lesser amount of kickback, a factor that made it comfortable for Heir Kitty to sit behind dueling leaders without being under assault by stinging dirt.

Dennis Moore, formerly the track superintendent at Hollywood Park, was recently hired by Santa Anita, giving the track surface the daily ontrack supervision it had lacked.

This was the first opening day under the direction of Keith Brackpool, hired as Santa Anita’s chairman earlier this year, and it’s one he won’t soon forget. In addition to the encouraging on-track business, Brackpool’s talented 3-year-old turf colt Gervinho captured the Sir Beaufort Stakes despite being bumped sharply at the top of the stretch.

Asked how his day was going, Brackpool laughed.

“For me?” he said, smiling.

“Opening day is always such an enigma. It’s a huge crowd, expectations are so high, but your staff doesn’t get here until 9,” Brackpool said of starting the day after Christmas. “The first six races, I was walking around, seeing how things were going operationally, then I sat down for the seventh race, thought my horse had lost all chance when he was bumped, then he came with a run and won. It’s been very exciting.”

The racing was quite formful to begin, with favorites winning the first four races.

But longshots prevailed in much of the pick six sequence, leading to a carryover of $118,415 going into Friday’s card. Heir Kitty won the La Brea at 18-1, and then Shakin It Up captured the Malibu at 17-1.

Shakin It Up was the third winner on the day for trainer Bob Baffert, who earlier Thursday announced that New Year’s Day, whom he trained to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 2, had to be retired because of a chip atop a sesamoid bone in his left hind leg.


“The game is a roller coaster,” Baffert said. “This is why I had a heart attack. It’s always something.”




Mike D More than 1 year ago
California racing a joke. Only 8 races carded today. First 3 races have a total of 16 horses before scratches. Awful betting.
mikey More than 1 year ago
Great to see such a large crowd.Now all they have to do is offer a stakes full card every day.When everyone goes back to work the crowd will be 5000 at best what a shame.
Jay Stone More than 1 year ago
This was racing at its best. Large crowd, full fields, and quality racing. This day was exactly the opposite of the closing of Hollywood Park. It gave most people hope for the future and quality racing. The people look happy instead of walking out of the funeral. I watched the stakes on tv and switched back and forth between HRTV and TVG to compare the coverage. HRTV was very professional and TVG The complete opposite. Todd looked like Ron Burgundy on their chatting about how bad the Santa Anita feed was and chatting with others using their nicknames. When the grass stake was over and their was an inquiry he kept knocking the feed from Santa Anita and even misrepresented the dot on the infield board that meant a dead heat for third as an objection between the two. Then you switch to HRTV and are impressed by how professional they do the job. There is no useless chatter between the anchors, their interviews are very precise and well put together. Even the technical aspects makes the other group look like rank amateurs.
IRANIANMULLAH More than 1 year ago
well I had a bad day at SA. I looked forward to SA all week, it's on the major stakes day race end of the year in the country. Only had a positive day because of the last Pick 3 at GP. Yes I like HRTV far better. I like the women and Jeff and Mr. Longshot nut Vercrussen. Jeff and Vercrussen are a great team and I've made lots of money with them. Jeff Handiicaps like me. We had the exact same horses in the breeder's cup. I need to listen to them more. I watch them on the internet. Always listen to the GP barn interviews 10-15 min before a race, quite often they're interviewing the next winning trainer or owner. The short haired British girl is good handicapper. I don't think DRF likes to hear this
IRANIANMULLAH More than 1 year ago
one thing I forgot that old guy on the show Jon white is a great handicapper, but watch out for him. He's not like Jeff, Jeff is straight up. if Jon White has a play, he will not tell a soul until after the race. I caught a few times him bragging on Steve Byk radio program about insider information and laying down a Grand to win on 10-1 shots etc etc. and I know for a fact he never said a word about it on HRTV. example; arlington Million he played the winner for 1,000 because Ken Ramsey told him he wanted to run his horse against Frankel, see Ramsey thought he was that good. Horse went off at 10-1. White's on the radio show bragging about his big hit. He said nothing on HRTV about Ken Ramsey's Frankel comment. NOTHING! I don;t like that.
mikey More than 1 year ago
White is maybe the worst morning line maker in racing.
mikey More than 1 year ago
Right on.I am loosing TVG in a few days.No loss.All they have left to offer is Keenland and its polygrip.The clowns they have are bad.HRTV now has GULFSTREAM, FAIRGROUNDS, AND ON SITE COVERAGE OF S.A. TVG can go where HOLLYWOOD PARK went.
Thomas Mcdermott More than 1 year ago
Watching the track bias change on BC weekend added an element to handicapping that make picking winners nearly impossible. The average punter was at a big disadvantage being not be aware of the track maintenance changes. Why was this not addressed by the media in the post race coverage? Why it is only mentioned months later? Two plus weeks of speed bias erased by tractors midway through BC weekend. I would expect an outcry! This game is already difficult as it is. Why make it more complex. This was is significant story ignored by the racing media. BTY, I was even after the weekend... this is not a sour grapes post.
Chuck Seeger More than 1 year ago
The next piece of investigative reporting done by a DRF writer will be the first. They do nothing when it comes to protecting/informing the public. They're nothing but a partner/cheer leader to the industry. Exhibit A: Their failure to investigate the reasons for trainers winning at a better than 30% clip for the past two decades, instead turning a blind eye to such nonsense, is a significant reason why so many gamblers no longer get involved in this game, and the handle numbers bear this out. The current condition of the printed version of DRF is all the evidence one needs to evaluate what DRF thinks about their customers.
IRANIANMULLAH More than 1 year ago
I forget , there was an slight inside bias on dirt. I thought the best horses won most of both days. don't tell me THEY MADE IT FASTER? that's'what they want! The old timer I learned from always told e to keep records of the track bias, and find the horses who ran well against the bias. Keep trackr records because the bias changes.. easy to say when he does it for a living since 1960 while I like the idea of getting an SS check when I retire. I would assume that on a big race day and it's been sunny for two days that the track will be fast on such a big day.
Patricia Doyle More than 1 year ago
i am so happy that people came out to support SoCal racing. I watched with pride for California racing. Santa Anita put on a great show. Loved Jay and the bugle players.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
That SA hired Moore reflects what I and many other SoCal fans believed, that the Hollywood Cushion Track was the best surface on the circuit. It was fair, consistent, and kind to the horses. 4 things I'm really going to miss about Hollywood Park: The history The weather(SA can get much warmer in late spring/summer) The paddock(few tracks offered one the ability to get that close to elite horses, and for an extended time not just a few minutes) The Cushion Track surface
Walter More than 1 year ago
Classic Baffert, higher price of his entries win s the race. Happens so many times,
Biggar W More than 1 year ago
What do you think that means?
IRANIANMULLAH More than 1 year ago
Bafffert made a killing. Probably had guys in the Philipines placing his bets. ...just joking
Walter More than 1 year ago
I wish I knew. I wish I knew why it happens so often.
[removed] More than 1 year ago
This comment has been deleted
Steve More than 1 year ago
This is a Horse Racing Comments section, not a Classified Ads Section Idiot
Phillip Molina More than 1 year ago
Ontrack was at least 5 to 10 thousand more. Kids and teens that were in the infield. I had my kids plus 2 of my friends brought there's. A lot of families, track was beautiful weather was great, santa anita needs to count all not just the ones who pay. Would look better on attendance. Trust me mykids ate and drank alot as did others. Need better tvs in the infields and betting machines. Thank you Phillip R. Molina
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So the director of the racetrack... the horse he owns won the race, even after a bad trip?? Need i say more about race track officials determining the outcome of horse races.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
go back to the nfl website, where you belong.
Thomas More than 1 year ago
Get back up on the grassy knoll where you belong ...
Jerry Hoelting More than 1 year ago
Dear Mr. Annoyingmouse, as most racegoers are keenly aware of, owners of thoroughbreds come in all shapes & sizes. And yes, some even own race tracks. It's almost common that they inevitably win a race or two now & then. Maybe someday even you will get a chance to own one & win a race, then we can all be happy for you...
Jon Shonk More than 1 year ago
Did you watch the race? There were five horses together at the wire. Do you really think the other jockeys let his horse win that close of a race? You need to say a lot more to convince anyone that this race was a setup.
IRANIANMULLAH More than 1 year ago
Steve More than 1 year ago
And Anonymous the cancer of racing returns....
DRFHersh More than 1 year ago
The "house horse" took the worst of the bumping incident at the top of the stretch in the Sir Beaufort. Your accusation / implication lacks substance.
Ryan Cale More than 1 year ago
I'm all for keeping them honest but the horse that won, Brackpool's horse, is a really good horse. His winning was no surprise.
Jay Stone More than 1 year ago
Stupid accusation from dumb person. Best horse by a me won race no matter who owns him.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
All you commentors: Go ahead and keep be gullible then. You show only that you are foolish.