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Santa Anita plans no extra grass racing
INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Santa Anita will not expand its menu of turf racing at the upcoming winter-spring meeting to compensate for a lack of turf racing during the current fall meeting at Hollywood Park, track officials said on Thursday.
According to racing secretary Rick Hammerle, Santa Anita will offer one to three turf races per day, depending on the day of the week.
"We've got a four-month meeting. We won't change the way we do things," Hammerle said. "There are plenty of opportunities to run. It will be just like normal.
"We'll add one here and there, but we don't want to pound this track early. If we had a two-month meeting, it would be different."
Santa Anita opens its winter-spring meeting on Dec. 26. There are three one-mile turf races scheduled for that card - an allowance race, a $50,000 claimer, and the $100,000 Sir Beaufort Stakes for 3-year-olds.
Over the following four racing days, through Dec. 31, the track has scheduled one to three turf races per day. The Dec. 30 program has one allowance race on the hillside course as the only turf race listed in the main body of the condition book. There is an allowance race on grass listed as a substitute race.
The absence of turf racing since Nov. 6 has disrupted racing in Southern California. Hollywood Park announced in early November that its turf course would not be used during the fall because it failed to take root when re-sodded in late summer.
Woodbine trainer in cross-continent experiment
Josie Carroll, one of the leading trainers at Woodbine in recent years, will have 22 horses based at Santa Anita this winter.
It marks the first time that Carroll will train in Southern California. In the last seven years, she said, she has been based at Fair Grounds in New Orleans during the winter. There is no racing in New Orleans this year because of damage done to the track by Hurricane Katrina.
Carroll, who won eight stakes at Woodbine this year, has several stakes horses in her Santa Anita unit.
Some of her top horses include Ballroom Deputy, who won the Maple Leaf Stakes at Woodbine on Nov. 12; Carlea, who was second in the Fair Grounds Oaks last March; and Estevan, the winner of the Labeeb Stakes at Woodbine on Nov. 10.
Carroll's stable will bring much-needed fresh runners to a circuit that seldom attracts stables from other parts of the continent. She said prize money was a leading factor in the decision to move to California.
"Of course, I wasn't going to be able to go to Fair Grounds. I was looking for an alternate," she said. "There are small field sizes and a lot of money in California. They were recruiting pretty actively.
"I know it will be a tougher circuit, and we'll do our best. I hope we just fit in. I thought we better bring our better horses."
Carroll said she has six horses based at Louisiana Downs, which is currently operating a meeting in place of Fair Grounds. Those horses may join the California team in early 2006.
Ochoa enjoying the ride
Apprentice jockey Juan Ochoa had a two-win day on Thursday that may earn him a spot among the 10 leading riders at this meeting, which ends on Dec. 19.
Ochoa, 23, overcame trouble to win the first race on Powerful Sister. He won the last race aboard Jet Iron. Through Thursday, he had eight wins at the meeting, was winning at a 20 percent clip, and was tied for eighth in the standings.
"I'll be happy in to finish in the top 10," said Ochoa, who grew up in Los Angeles. "It's a privilege to be riding with guys like Alex Solis, Patrick Valenzuela, and Jon Court. You're riding and learning at the same time."
Ochoa grew up around racing. His parents work for Santa Anita-based trainer Jerry Fanning - his mother as a foreman and his father as a groom.
It was Fanning who helped Ochoa begin working as an exercise rider and later advised him to travel to Philadelphia Park and Monmouth Park to gain more experience.
"I was going to college at the same time," Ochoa said. "I rode a couple of races and [Fanning] said, 'Go back East and get more experience.' "
Ochoa returned to California earlier this year after suffering rib injuries in a starting gate accident, a setback that kept him sidelined for six weeks. He was winless with two rides at Fairplex Park, had two wins from 47 mounts at Oak Tree at Santa Anita, but has done considerably better at the current meeting.
His collegiate days at Citrus College are "on a timeout," he said. Ochoa is a full-time jockey. He claims seven pounds, and will keep his apprentice status for another year.
Ochoa was unseated in Friday's seventh race after winning aboard Temptation's Call. The horse appeared to stumble galloping out. Ochoa was removed from the track on a stretcher.
Balance works fastest
Balance, the winner of the Sharp Cat Stakes on Nov. 27, worked six furlongs in 1:13.20 at Hollywood Park on Friday, preparing for her graded-stakes debut in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet on Dec. 18.
The workout was the fastest of 18 recorded works at the distance.
Owned by Amerman Racing and trained by David Hofmans, Balance is a top contender in the Starlet, which is run at 1 1/16 miles.
Balance is expected to face the Diplomat Lady, Fall in Love, Itty Bitty Pretty, Loosends, Meetmeinthewoods, Private World, Sabatini, and True Xena.
Saturday's program features the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity. The race is led by Bob and John, who was demoted from first to third after causing interference in the Real Quiet Stakes on Nov. 26.
Parade of favorites continues
Favorites won 7 of the 8 races on Thursday's program, continuing a trend that has been dominant throughout the fall meeting.
Since the meeting began on Nov. 9, favorites had won 77 of 160 races, or 48.1 percent. Short fields and noncompetitive races are the leading factors in the far higher-than-normal number of winning favorites.
On Thursday, the $2 win payoffs of the first seven winners ranged from $3.40 for King Farouk in the second race to $7.80 for Blowing Bartok in the fifth race.
The only winning non-favorite was Jet Iron ($9.40) in the eighth race. With favorites winning the first five races of the pick six, the bet returned $2,094.