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In The Gate #406 - Santa Anita Suspends Racing
"It ought to be. This is in the gate ESPN's. Thoroughbred racing podcast. My name is Barry Abrams. You can follow me on Twitter at be Abrams voice or on Facebook at Barry Abrams voice. You can also get us on our YouTube channel by searching in the gate podcast. You can get us on soundcloud as well. Get us at the I tune store or tune in dot com. You can get us on that little pink pod catcher app on your phone. You might not even know you have a now you can subscribe to win the gate in the listen tab of the ESPN app for the full in the gate experience of scribe now in the listen tab of the ESPN app Santa Anita racetrack opened for its eighty second. Famed winter meeting the day after Christmas as it always has. But since that day twenty one horses have died there. Most in either racing or training accidents last week the track cancelled two days of training. So the surface could be examined renowned racing surface expert, Dr Mick Peterson declared San. And a ready to go and racing resumed on Thursday. But then another fatality struck on Saturday during a race. And this week said Nita officials decided to suspend racing and training indefinitely. So the track surfaces can be examined more closely that leads to a whole host of questions, first and foremost, the need to reschedule all of the stakes races, most notably the San Felipe bay the Kentucky Derby prep race. That was supposed to be the season debut of the top two contenders. To win the run for the roses Breeders Cup juvenile champ and two year old champion game winner and multiple stakes winner improbable both trained by Bob Baffert. The Santa Anita handicap the big cap is also among the big races affected by the situation to try to shed some light on what's going on. We're grateful to have with us. Tim writ fo the chief operating officer of the strana group which owns and operates Santa Anita when you closed the track last week and make Peterson came in started looking. Ng at the track surface. I imagine he must have had a game plan for what he was looking for. But now that this is happened again, where do you even start in coming up with a game plan to figure out what is going on? Yeah. We put another set of eyes with Dennis on it. I mean MC Peterson's, you know, one of the Gu's the industry did everything was that needed to be done. We've pulled back to surface. We looked at the base which was in excellent condition. We had soil analysis done. And the good thing is we've had been doing soil analysis for the last five years every week. So he had a good baseline to look at what we had before all the reins, and what we had after the range to see if there was any separation of the material. There was no separation put it all back, and we still feel completely comfortable. I mean, unfortunately, these incidents attributed to a bunch of different factors. So we still feel comfortable that the tracks in good shape. But there comes a point where you just have to basically start right from scratch and look all over again. And just make sure we miss anything. Obviously, the timing of this with your big weekend coming up is catastrophic but all of those other races, including the big cat can be rescheduled other. I know the. Big cap is always been that first weekend of March going back to the days of seabiscuit. But the big one is the San Felipe because of the progression toward the Kentucky Derby, where are you in all of those mechanisms? Yeah, this time we really can't say I mean, most of first and foremost is right to help safety of the horses. I mean, obviously for people that are aiming for the big races and the triple crown races and being an ex trainer and jockey myself. I completely understand, you know, sympathize with those people that are, you know, have these great horses keying up for maybe once in a lifetime opportunity, but at the same time that cannot wait a masses of what's happened. And we really have to just take a step back. Take a look at everything to track conditions. Everything horse would have to look we all have to look at our selves and figure out what what's going on here. And you know, it's just one of those things where we group and unfortunately, the health and safety of the horses the horse the Klein is in the human. Athletes has to come first and foremost over scheduling of future racist. It's just some we have to know, obviously, you would need cooperation in the southern California area to move racing around there. And to that extent, Los Alamos has made several hundred stalls bailable on a short term basis so horses can ship in there and train you do own. The strana group owns Portland meadows up in Oregon is that under consideration as a place to move the racing short-term? So everything's under consideration. We haven't considered that yet. I mean, Portland just finished. It's me, and it's closed up. But you know, we're hoping that we can really get a grasp of this take a look at everything. I mean, if we would've Scott something that was a longer term than we would consider those factors. But right now, we appreciate doc reaching out and giving an opportunity for some of those guys to train over there. Because you know, as we continue to. Research this, and when we decide to open back up for training, we need to give the horsemen and horses an opportunity to train before we even think running and making sure that we're comfortable. And then once we are then we will decide on what the schedule looks like moving forward, you mentioned Dennis Moore as coming back to help Dr Peterson Dennis more for those who don't know with the track superintendent at Santa Anita for four years and retired on December thirty first the fact that all of this has happened largely since he last was involved in day to day. Is there a connection to be made there now? No, no, that's that's it would be a bad assumption. Any Araca has worked under Dennis. And and great trucks. Pretendants? Dennis was always around. Dennis was always more of a consultant and advisor, sa- Dennis's influences are always still there. The fact that it rains sixteen and a half inches would probably be more factor than one and a half inches last year. Yeah. So for sure I mean ending rocker, and I feel bad for him. Right. Because it's all happened under his watch has been there for about thirty five years and worked under some of the greatest track superintendents and continued to maintain the track the same way about three years ago. We had some incidents rain that was really hard to handle Dennis went through those. And you know, it's a lot tougher out here when it rains in comparison to the east coast tracks because these tracks, you know, it just not used to sixteen inches of rain. It's just something. That's you know, an anomaly not even blaming it all on the surface could be the idea that you know, one day, you're trading on floated track which is sailed and the next couple of days it's loose because you're you're harrowing it in a little deeper. So when we talk about on even inconsistent. We're only talking about it through couple of days. So maybe just the adjusting the horses that have not been used to where they run over a seal track and then run over a drying out race track. Those scenarios that we're looking at. It was one of the reasons we look. At this weekend to cancel as we have a bunch of rain come in the next couple of days, and we do not want to have to sail. The track have them train over it. And then get the track right on the weekend and run over it. So we want to try to get back to some kids system see in the track as far as weatherwise, and hopefully do all studies and everything else, and then, you know, even from a hosting perspective. Everybody just think a little bit harder and take a little longer look at all their horses. So that we're all in this together. Tim Reid VO is the chief operating officer of the strana group that operates said Andy, thank you so much for a few minutes, sir. Thank you. Please. Stick around. Let's consider the secret life of the infamous nesting doll living, most of her life in the dock inside the other nesting, does he has plenty of time to think if we could sadly, he has no brain, however, when in a most nesting dole, his gyco not only saves people money, but also has been providing great service for over seventy five years. She thinks it's obvious. You should switch because. Yes. Switching to Geico is a no brainer pity INA. Most nesting Dollond her lot in life. The the gate podcast. Obviously, we need to talk about the effect of the suspension of activities at Santa Anita on the horsemen, especially someone like Bob Baffert who has the two leading Kentucky Derby contenders. Game winner, an improbable all dressed up with no place to go. At least as our recording this podcast on Wednesday afternoon marched the six Mr. Bamford and his assistant Jim Barnes a little busy right now. You can imagine their phones have been blowing up so to get that perspective. Instead, we welcome in Steve Anderson of the daily racing form have him back here on the gate his phone blowing up to but he was nice enough to spare a couple a minutes for us. So what have Bob Baffert and the other horsemen been saying and doing in light of all of this? Well, here we are on Wednesday morning, California. And so much of this is so fresh so brand new listen twenty four hours since the announcement was made the people are still absorbing the information. And I think in a lot of cases related to the three runners that are being prepared for the triple crown one of the. More viable options. If they do choose to leave California is to clone for the rebel stakes and the big mile sixteenth prep to the Arkansas Arkansas derby that's being scheduled for March sixteen. That's if the Santa Anita race, the San Felipe stakes isn't immediately rescheduled Senate officials mentioned on Wednesday morning. They were having a series of meetings today to discuss many factors related to this suspension of racing. And one of which was the rescheduling of several of those steaks rates. Really, the San Felipe stakes needs to be run. Probably by the weekend of March sixteenth and seventeenth to be a good time period prep race, the Santa which was on April sixth, and that, of course, leaves four weeks to the Kentucky Derby, so if you go three weeks to to between the San Felipe bay and the and the derby and then four weeks to the Kentucky Derby, some people may accept that schedule whilst the ideally would have been as scheduled as the schedule was which was four we gap between the San Felipe, sandy dirt. And then another four week gap. So it's there's a lot of variables that have to be determined in a short period of time. And I think each stable has to kinda way what's best for their runners in terms of frequency of races here in in March and April getting closer to the triple crown races. Now, I spoke off camera audio with Joe Harper of del mar and asked him how long it would take to get that place up and running. If Santa Anita would be closed for a lengthy period. He would not speculate on that. But here's the other thing. I rented a Tim writ. Vo earlier in the show. What about Portland meadows strana group owns that? But you also know as well as anybody that moving dates is not just as simple as the track owns both places. Let's go there. There are state regulations that would have to be vetted and addressed as well, what do you see here as an option? Alameda, doesn't have turf course, what are the options here? The options here crossing your fingers and hoping San gets moving in the right direction here in the next ten days, which in seven to ten days, everything is very likely in the sense that as soon as you know, there's rain falling in California the afternoon and and this morning Dennis Moore track consultant was announced on Tuesday to rejoin sandy team after stepping away from that position with that track. At the end of the end of December more has a lengthy history of working with tracks that Los Alameda del mar and Santa need until the end of last year for several years and is widely widely respected. So when he gets in there when this surface does dry out over the next few days and has a chance to analyze the surface. He might be able to come up with an answer to win racing can resume and how to go forward. Los Alameda is going to be a more active role in training of these sandy debase thoroughbreds here in the next few days. They have some stall space available there to accommodate extraordinary. Is if those trainers want to move those horses down to town to Los hours about thirty thirty three mile drive, thirty three mile van ride, and therefore they could they those horses could stay active to a certain extent is one mile track there, and it's it's not heavily used quite a lot of the quarter horses that are racing there at night, those that breed is not train like thoroughbreds. Do. They don't go to the track every day. They go to the track a couple of days a week. So you don't see the same level of activity on day to day basis attracts such as Los Alameda. So that you would attract such as Santa Anita. So there's an option very close to to Santa Anita for trainers to utilize if they want to keep those runners, you know, galloping jogging or even having workouts, then also several stable notably Baffert Doug O'Neill and Johnson for among amongst others have horses in both Staples. Because there have a limited number of stalls at Santa Anita. And then they have horses. At low, Sal that might be maybe suited to loselle as an individual. Or in most cases, they're either very young horses. We've yet to run might be horses who were just coming back from arrest or something who are just in the early stages of training, and they are prepared there before they're sent to sanity to get closer to the racing days. And also you see the same thing situation at San Louis Ray down straining center, where there's a lot of that's in northern San Diego County in Bonn, and there's five hundred stalls there that that can be used for similar purposes. Peter Miller is base there, for example. And we certainly know that San Louis Ray has been rebuilt after what happened with the fire just over a year ago. How much space do they have how many horses can they take for ninety five four hundred ninety five or so so there's there's a good amount there if capacity, although they're they're usually pretty popular it's usually quite a few horses. They're speaking of where two year olds go when they arrive to the race tracks in southern California loads of two year old star. They're they'll they'll just you. It's much more tranquil setting with a smaller. Smaller capacity. You can just have a little bit of chance go slowly with horse instead of the more hectic and activity at a racing track where it was coming and going on the morning afternoon basis. Steve Anderson of the daily racing form with us here on the gate. It's a chaotic week it said and Nita they have closed the track for reexamination really after a yet another fatality during last weekend's racing mic. Peterson who's been a guest on this show knows what he's doing when it comes to examining racing services, and he proclaimed that surface one hundred percent before the four day racing week last week Thursday through Sunday now that he has to start from scratch along with Dennis Moore and others. What is he even looking for? Now, you've doubled the number of experts in the room to one hundred percent. So between. The two of them, they'll they might be able to bounce ideas off each other and look at things, and and have some conversations that might even aid circumstances. Even better, they certainly are to the the two men who you wanna wanna have an in in circumstances quickly as possible. Let's be clear. It's if there's a all well on fire, call read, a dare get him in here and get this thing out. I mean, this is the type of thing these guys can specialize in if there's an issue with the racetrack. There's any sort of concern about, you know, the base or the texture of the soils and all that most of which all of which Peterson already said that he was very happy with a week ago. Now, they can look at it. Again, just see if you know, the two more rainstorms at any effect on this thing. And that's something that I think they'll have to determine over the next couple of days, particularly when this court dries out, you know, Thursday and Friday after a half, an inch of rain if not more here today and earlier overnight just a few minutes after I finish talking with Tim writ, though, whom you've heard at the beginning of this show. I saw an Email from Doug O'Neill saying that the training track. At Santa Anita was going to remain open this weekend for training, though. The main track and is not open for either racing or training. Is that accurate? I haven't. I haven't heard that yet. I expected later today when I have a conversation with the racing secretary of Santa needed. It'll be one of the subjects that Scott would sound like a possibility because that surfaces completely different. It's more fan base surface than than the main track is so it's maintained differently. It's very small only five three quarters while around. So it's got a limited capacity in terms of activity. There have been times in the past. When that track has been used more extensively such as longer training hours to help people out when the main track is close say on a normal rainy day that track would stay open and people just take horses out for job or Gallup. There's some trainers who are very adamant about working horses on that. Surface such as Jeff Mullins and Phil D'amoto. They're very big fans of working on that. But if you wanted to have a horse at Santa Anita that you just needed to get some activity in you didn't want to travel to Los Alameda family, Ray, an open training track would satisfy a lot of those those needs. But again, there's a capacity issue. It's smaller little oval than than the main track by like consider margin. So there there's limitations within that. So we'll see how that gets sorted out. That would probably be one thing that would help the sandy debase trainers in the next few days is if that were open, they can say, well, you know, I'll I'll take a few out for a Gallup or jobs to keep them ticking over 'cause Jim Cassidy the president of the t- told me this morning or so me last night, rather there's only so many days you'd walk these because they're going to be eager to do something else. Well, two things first of all just clarify for me the training track. At Santa Anita is not that interfere oval, the one inside the turf course, this is a totally different stret-. No. You're thinking you're thinking of the correct surface one that is inside the the turf turf course in very very much adjacent to the toe board as you look out onto the onto the okay, I was wondering about that. Number two, that's not a training turf track. And there were five fatalities on that turf. Course if you've got turf runners, you simply work them on the training track. Or do you try to do something else with them? They tend to work though, sources on the on the field training track or on the main track. They're very very rare turf workouts Santa Anita in recent years. There was several years when there was a lot more of a program for that. And I think it might be they might be expanding that here as we get into the spring and get into nicer wetter, but largely there's no turf workouts in the morning at Santa Nita. By the way, there has been some talk amongst some of our cynical types. Journalists do tend to be cynical sometimes that they said it in need a handicap the big cap always run on the first or second weekend of March. Maybe ought to be moved to be a better prep for the two by World Cup at the end of March. Well, obviously now we're going in the other direction it's going to be run later. But I wonder if this sort of forced movement forces the hand of the strana group officials to maybe move the race permanently. I've had conversations with racing executives for more than a decade on this subject is particularly as the two World Cup is taking a more prominent role in worldwide older horse division since its inception in nineteen ninety six and one thing that I think leaves the race locked into its current schedule position on the first March, which is the for Saturday of March for several years. Now, if it also works well for horses that might run in the Pegasus World Cup at the end of January at Gulfstream those runners that usually don't see too many of them come into both races. But at least the option is there to run the big ticket race at Gulfstream give the horse all February off from racing and then come back into the first of March and have that sandy option in the Senate handicap, there's no doubt that Saint handicapped has been badly affected by the by World Cup. But even before the Dubai World Cup took off in the late nineteen nineties the city handicap was feeling a little bit of the effects of presence of the Breeders Cup. Classic at the end of the preceding year. Ear. So the big cats kind of hit in both directions. Not only the Pegasus World Cup and the Breeders Cup and enhance of taking on a larger role over the last thirty years and the last three years, but the Dubai World Cup at the end of the month is certainly out there for people who have no qualms about shipping horse eight thousand miles. So it take a punch and both directions. Really? It's still beautiful race. I mean, let's let's let's make let's be clear winner last year celery was, you know, the champion older male. So it's not as if the standing of the race has been terribly affected by the presence of these other big ticket stakes. It's just that. It's now much more competitive market than it was many many years ago. Steve Anderson of the daily racing former member you have to use the extinguisher. Mark ABC to put out dumpster fires like the one you've now gotten into it Santa Indiana. Just so, you know, it's gonna be a hopefully, they'll they'll be able to smooth over some of these issues that have taken place and that they can get to safety record back. I gotta. Tell you that last month at the start of February. I wrote an article for the racing form that the California horse racing board had published its annual report, which is extensive of all ume to discussing a lot of the issues going on in the game in terms of up and down the state, you know, handle breeding a lot of things in that report every year. They do have an across the statement of number forces that were lost in in racing closures and racing or training or another other situations such as maybe an illness in the fiscal year, ending June thirtieth two thousand eighteen there was one hundred thirty three approximately that many horses. Actually, I need to double check that. But I can tell you what with conviction that. There was a thirty three percent. Decline in fatalities at California racetracks compared to the fiscal year, ending June thirty two thousand seventeen a very very safe season, particularly you know, at dome are and at and Anita in the second half of twenty eighteen which is the active school year recall having several conversations. The people about how how well racing was going. And how safe things had been not only mar blow sounds Senator. But as you know, the whole season continued to see what's taking place over the last sixty days certainly heartbreaking to anyone volved in any aspect of the sport of raising. So right now, you just wonder is this a statistical blip, you know, after so many, so many safe months and even safe year, what is causing this. What is what does this? Look, what is looking this. You know in thirty or sixty days, we'll be looked back in find the period that that period was much safer. That's something that we have to determine if you watch closely as as racing resumes at Santa Anita probably within ten days from now keeping horses. Safest certainly thankless job. You can never do it. Great. You just can do it wrong. So nonetheless, thank you for sharing this with us. And we'll obviously keep an eye on it. As we go forward. Thank you, sir. Thank you. Get us on our YouTube channel searching in the gate hod cast and get us on soundcloud as well. Get us at the I tune store or tune in dot com can get us on that little pink cod catcher app on your phone. Didn't even know you had a now you can subscribe to win the gate in the listen tab of the ESPN app for the full in the gate experience. Scribe now in the listen tab of the ESPN app, and you can follow me on Twitter at Abrahams voice on Facebook at Barry Abrams voice. That's in the gate for this week. I'm Barry Abrams. We'll see you next time.