While the traditional day-after-Christmas opening of Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., has been postponed to Saturday, Dec. 28, because of an impending rainstorm, there will be plenty of action on Thursday, Dec. 26, to keep horseplayers across the U.S. busy.
On the East Coast, Laurel Park returns after a three-day break, offering a nine-race card that kicks off at 12:25 p.m. ET. The Maryland track also races on Friday and on Saturday has a quality laden program featuring five stakes offering $500,000 in purses.
Two Florida tracks, Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach and Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar, also race Thursday after getting hit by a massive rainstorm earlier this week (prompting Tampa Bay Downs to cancel its Sunday program and causing major flooding in and around Gulfstream Park on Monday). Gulfstream's 10-race card starts at 12:35 p.m. ET, with Tampa Bay Downs getting its nine-race program started at 12:46 p.m. ET.
Penn National has a nine-race night program beginning at 6 p.m. ET on Thursday.
Fair Grounds in New Orleans, La., has a 12-race card getting under way at 1:30 p.m. ET. Turfway Park in Florence, Ky., takes the Midwest racing baton at 6:15 p.m. ET when it begins an eight-race card.
Sunland Park in New Mexico launches its 2019-20 winter-spring meet on Thursday with a nine-race mixed program of Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses that begins at 2:25 p.m. ET. Highlight of the 68-day meet that runs through April 21 is the G3 Sunland Park Derby, a $700,000 race offering Kentucky Derby points to the top finishers. The $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks on the same day offers Kentucky Oaks points.
While Santa Anita delayed its opening until Saturday, Golden Gate Fields in Albany, Calif., will launch its winter-spring meeting on Thursday. Nine races have been carded on the all-weather Tapeta track, with first post at 3:15 p.m. ET (12:15 p.m. PT). Gates open locally at 10 a.m. at the Bay Area track.
Santa Anita will card three Grade 1 stakes, two Grade 2s and a Grade 3 on Saturday's 11-race extravaganza that is forecast to be run under sunny skies, with temperatures in the low 60s. First post is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET (11 a.m. PT).
Among the highlights of the day will be the return of G1 Santa Anita Handicap winner Gift Box in the G2 San Antonio (race 5), the G1 American Oaks (race 6), the G1 La Brea (race 7) featuring G1 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint runner-up Bellafina, the G3 Robert Frankel (race 8), multiple G1 winner Omaha Beach's appearance in the G1 Malibu (race 9) and the G2 Mathis Brothers Mile on turf (race 10) with a pair of newcomers from Europe in the barn of trainer Mark Glatt making their U.S. debuts.
Santa Anita officials opted to postpone its opening day when forecasts showed a high probability of heavy rain in the San Gabriel Valley on Christmas Day and Dec. 26. Admission gates will open Saturday at 9 a.m. PT for what is traditionally one of the biggest days of the year in Southern California horse racing.
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