12/23/2013 8:56AM

Santa Anita opens long meet, takes on larger role in racing

Susie Raisher
Santa Anita will hold 109 days of racing stretching from Thursday through June 29.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Thursday represents more than the cherished opening day of the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting. It starts a new era of racing in California.

With Hollywood Park having closed Dec. 22 and scheduled for residential and commercial development, Santa Anita takes on a greater role in the sport. In past years, the meeting that begins Thursday typically would run until late April. This year, it will continue through June, absorbing most of the former Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting days.

There will be 109 days of racing at Santa Anita from Thursday through June 29. With that comes added responsibility for Santa Anita – serving as the home of Los Angeles-area Thoroughbred racing and working to keep the interest of both dedicated and casual fans through a marathon six-month season.

It is a job that Santa Anita chairman Keith Brackpool embraces.

“It’s what we’re in this business for,” Brackpool said last week.

[Santa Anita opening day: Get PPs, watch Thursday's card live]

Last summer, Santa Anita invested approximately $15 million to upgrade the concession stands, bars, and betting area of the mezzanine level, upgrade the box-seat area, remodel the clubhouse dining area overlooking the track, and redesign the Chandelier Room of the Turf Club.

Most improvements were in place in time for the autumn meeting. Those facilities will get a full test in the coming months.

“Hopefully, the improvements we made earlier this year will stand us in good stead with the existing, returning, and new customers to the track,” Brackpool said. “I’m looking forward to some of the promotions we put together. Make no mistake, it’s a new world for us to go this long.”

The racing schedule through mid-April is largely unchanged from past seasons. The top races are familiar, such as the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap on March 8 and the $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 5. The purse of the Santa Anita Derby has been raised from $750,000 for this year’s running.

After opening day, the big event in January will be the Sunshine Millions program on Jan. 25, which has been merged with the California Cup program that was held in the autumn until 2012. The Jan. 25 program features six stakes worth $125,000 to $250,000 each.

There are significant changes to the betting menu this winter. The track has eliminated rolling doubles in favor of three doubles per day – the first two races, the fourth and fifth races, and the last two races. The takeout on those bets has been reduced from 22.68 percent to 18 percent to spur interest. One bet omitted from the menu is the place pick all.

The popular pick fours and pick fives will still be available, with a guaranteed late pick four pool of $500,000 on Thursday.

The real changes begin in April. Instead of wrapping up the winter-spring meeting as it did before, when the circuit switched to Hollywood Park for a spring-summer meeting, Santa Anita will have more than two months left in its meet.

During the winter and spring, racing will be conducted fours day per week, for the most part, through April 13. The following week, there will be two days of racing April 19-20 before the start of the spring-summer portion of the meeting Friday, April 25. With that program, Santa Anita will launch Friday twilight racing – first post will be 3 p.m. Pacific – through June. In May and June, racing will continue on a four-days-per-week basis.

“I’m particularly intrigued and looking forward to twilight Fridays,” Brackpool said.

That many months of racing in one venue will lead to a different calendar of stakes in May and June. The track has published a stakes schedule through April 13, with the remaining schedule expected to be announced as soon as next month.

Santa Anita racing secretary Rick Hammerle said the stakes schedule for the final months of the meeting will mirror what had been run in past years at Hollywood Park.

After Hollywood Park closes its barn area in late January, Santa Anita will have a full stable area, with auxiliary stabling at Barretts Sales and Racing at the Los Angeles County Fair, Los Alamitos, and the San Luis Rey Downs training center.

In that regard, 2014 will be quite different, Hammerle said.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Hammerle said. “Change is something that is not taken lightly by some people. Here’s a chance to make things different and better. This will be a challenge for all people in this game. Our barn area will be full, and we’ll have a different group of horsemen here full time.”

What is unclear as the meeting begins is how extensive the turf course will be used, given that it must be preserved through June. The usage will depend on weather conditions in the coming months, Hammerle said.

“We’ll keep a close eye on it,” he said. “We’ll severely limit the number of turf workers. In mid-March, if we’ve had 10 to 12 days of rain and have been off the turf, it will have had a good break. It’s one of the most durable turf courses I’ve seen.”

rbmorrobay2 More than 1 year ago
Please don't have Frank Mirahmadi replace Trevor Denman. There are so many better. How can you stand the loud ending of the race from Frank. My GOD
Hector Polino More than 1 year ago
For all you place pick all fans, I am happy to say that my brother and I are going to start a petition to get this wager back. We just need all the support( signatures) as possible, this is the only $1 wager were you don't need to be part of a syndicate or have lots of money to win a decent amount. This bet was very popular and why Magna and Mr Stonach decided they could just eliminate it without any feedback. Well they're mistaken, and if you can stress the word to your family and friends to please sign petition to get this wager back to the Santa Anita line up. Thanks my email is hpolino66@yahoo.com and we will soon have this going. 04/08/14
grant caterinichia More than 1 year ago
Why would you eliminate the Place Pick All wager?!?!?! That was the most anticipated wager and the most fun b/c you didn't know what it would pay or how many tickets were live. I think that was a HUGE mistake; I definitely poured more $$ in that particular pool than any other. HUGE MISTAKE> grant
Thorobred Racing More than 1 year ago
NOTICE TO CANADIAN BETTORS AND ALL OTHERS WHO BET ONLINE. It seems that stealing tax payers’ money of over 100 million dollars through the casino programs were not enough for the Canadian tracks WOODBINE & FORT ERIE .Now they are stealing off the betting public whenever a winning ticket is cashed. It seems that the highest take-outs on exotic betting is not enough either. Compare below to realize the extent of their criminal activities. Let hope the government corrects this organized criminal activity where horse bettors will not have to go for litigation to get their money back.. Tampa Bay Downs Race 10 pay outs - $2 Pick 3 7/2/1 (3of3) $119.00 Race 10 Woodbine & Fort Erie pay outs less ($10.10) $2 Pick 3 7 / 2 / 10 (3 of 3) $108.90 Tampa Bay Downs Race 9 pay outs - $2 Pick 3 8/7/2 (3of3) $189.00 Race 9 Woodbine & Fort Erie pay outs less ($16.20) $2 Pick 3 8 / 7 / 2 (3 of 3) $172.80 Tampa Bay Downs Race 8 pay outs - $2 Pick 3 2/8/7 (3of3) $231.80 Race 8 Woodbine & Fort Erie pay outs less ($19.80) $2 Pick 3 2 / 8 / 7 (3 of 3) $212.00 Tampa Bay Downs Race 7 pay outs - $2 Pick 3 5/2/8 (3of3) $1032.40 Race 7 Woodbine & Fort Erie pay outs less ($88.10) $2 Pick 3 5 / 2 / 8 (3 of 3) $944.30
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Keep the triple bend hcp
David Ramirez More than 1 year ago
Will Trevor Denman be announcing the entire six months? In the past he took off the two months between Santa Anita and Del Mar.
MD23 More than 1 year ago
Love the horses, love the compettion, love the sport. This is why I follow it. But horse racing really needs to take a SERIOUS, HONEST look in the mirror. I'm not looking forward to the Los Alamitos thing....I can't put my finger on it but something just doesn't seem right. Santa Anita going 7 months just seems too long. I guess we'll have to wait and see how this all works out. We need to try something new. As much as the CHRB is a mess and certain people who are in charge of certain things are just morons, I truly hope California racing can get its act together. And same goes to the NYRA.
RIP Grammar More than 1 year ago
Well, just be happy you have a meet! Here in Vancouver, the owner of our track has offered us a whopping 28 day meet! In 2013 we had 59 days. They want to give us less than 1/2. We had 63 originally but lost 4 days due to horses being sick. Hastings was one of the few tracks in North America that had an increase in it's betting handle, but they're still trying to screw us. The horsemen's associations wanted an independent audit done and when the auditor showed up, the casino people turned him away. So what are you hiding Great Canadian Gaming? Hmmmm? We need a new owner, but in the meantime GCGC, drop the standardbreds and give the thoroughbreds at least the same number of days that we had in 2013. Have fun at Santa Anita, folks.
Walter More than 1 year ago
Who is the bigger horse's aS$ below? Margaret or Sylvia?
Jackson Jackson More than 1 year ago
That's a tough question since there aren't any posts from Margaret or Sylvia below .
thomas j More than 1 year ago
I believe that WPS bets, Daily Doubles and Exactas should be 2.00. People back in the 1920's and 1930's etc bet a minimum of 2.00. How much is 2.00 worth now than back then? If you can't afford that, then you shouldn't be going to the track. If a track closes down, it's called survival of the fittest. An example of capitalism. Right-wing conservative republicans should understand that. This will make the industry improve their product---which is the horse.
Jeffrey More than 1 year ago
The problem with your scheme is that it could conceivably result in a tax liability (not with win bets, but with doubles and exactas) Admittedly, the $2.00 minimum is a bit antiquated and certainly has not kept pace with inflation. However, the learning curve in this sport is brutal. Forcing people to bet higher minimums, when they are hard-pressed to bet anything all, is probably not a good idea. I definitely like your idea of more competition. The problem is that casino subsidies distort the marketplace, allowing tracks to implement high takeout rates and create a generally undesirable product. From a horseplayer's perspective, the explosion of racinos have not made the sport more palatable. If the sport is to survive they are going to have to move away from their antiquated model, which served them well in the 1980's when horseracing was a monopoly. There are way too many suppliers and not enough customers. Some obvious needed changes are 1) increased access to the online product rather than shutting down access as in Texas, Arizona, and Illinois. 2) Lower effective takeout through lower vig or rebates 3) Increased focus on horse welfare 4) A secure tote 5) Severe punishments for cheaters and enhanced detection of prohibited drugs 6) Conforming to international standards on medication use