Santa Anita Opening Day Launches New Era in California Racing

by | 12.26.2013 | 9:30am

The day after Christmas is always a big day for the racing industry as Santa Anita traditionally kicks off its primary meet. But the 77th winter/spring meeting at the Great Race Place carries with it an extra level of anticipation due to the changing circumstances in California racing.

The closure of Betfair Hollywood Park will result in a substantial shift in the calendar and more responsibility for Santa Anita, which has picked up the spring dates previously held by the Inglewood venue.  Santa Anita will race from Dec. 26 to April 20 but then start back up five days later and run through June 29, mostly Thursdays through Sundays.

Thursday's nine-race program begins at noon, PT.  There will be a guaranteed $500,000 pool for the late Pick 4, and three separate 18 percent-takeout Daily Doubles – wagers that will be available each day throughout both meets.  Santa Anita has been offering Daily Doubles since 1961.

“After consulting with many of our best customers and the TOC, we felt it was time to make some ‘player-friendly' adjustments to this iconic wager,” said Tom Ludt, Santa Anita Senior Vice President, Racing and Gaming. “Lowering the takeout to 18 percent is obviously something that everyone is in favor of. Additionally, by offering three Doubles per day, we're confident we're going to see a significant increase in pool sizes that will result in bigger payoffs–which is why the vast majority of our customers come out to the races.”

Santa Anita's overall wagering menu will again include the “Players' Pick 5,” a popular 14 percent-takeout wager with a 50-cent minimum. The “Players' Pick 5” requires players to select the winners of the first five races on each day's card.


Opening day will also feature three graded stakes races – the Grade 1, $300,000 La Brea Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs, the G1, $300,000 Malibu Stakes for 3-year-olds also going seven furlongs, and the G2, $200,000 Sir Beaufort Stakes for 3-year-olds at a mile on the turf.

The opening day stakes have attracted East Coast-based riders Joel Rosario and Javier Castellano.  Jockey Tyler Baze is set to return to action Jan. 1 following a suspension in June because he failed a sobriety test.

While the 2014 racing schedule will look quite a bit different without Hollywood Park in the mix – Del Mar is also picking up additional dates – Southern California-based trainers are hoping for the best.

“We'll just have to see how it plays out,” said Bob Baffert. “This meet starts out strong, then it hits a lull, but every year at the end of the meet, it seems to pick up again, like people can't get enough of it.

“Maybe that will carry on through June, because I've always noticed a surge when the weather's perfect. That's when people like to come out and enjoy the beauty of Santa Anita, the backdrop, the mountains.”

“I'm trying to be an optimist,” said fellow Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella. “I think things will only get better. I'm very excited about Del Mar having another meet (in November) beyond its regular summer dates. I only wish it was longer, because that is where we've really captured the public's fancy, and where the fans come out to see live racing.”

  • Roger

    Ludt’s theory is so FLAWED………2 of his designated 3 doubles begin with a much more popular exotic…the P-5 in Race 1 and the P-6 in Race 4 which leaves the late double which is usually the cheapest mdnclm race on the card. The Daily Double of Ludt’s youth didn’t have an exacta,quinella,trifecta, superfecta (if enough horses), P-3 and P-5 also available in the first race so the question looms…..when will Stronach FIGHT for 18% takeout rate for rolling doubles with
    the TOC because slashing the doubles menu isn’t “player friendly.” The TOC expects the P-3 pools will increase with this Rolling Double Assault at the highest takeout rate at 23.68%….that
    He also infected GGF with his vision…..moving their P-5 from the last 5 races to the first 5 races weakens their early double pool and judging from today’s betting interests in the first 5 races vs last 5 races (37 vs 52) their P-5 handle as well. GGF is much different than SA and to make wagering menu changes similar to both tracks shows a complete lack of knowledge of both tracks and the MAJORITY of their customers.

    • Roger

      Santa Anita’s Double Handle was DOWN today from last season Opener by
      $185,274……{$440,735 vs $255,461}.
      Hey SA/TOC/CHRB how many days/weeks are you willing to sit back and watch this ill conceived slashing of Rolling Doubles LOSE handle?
      GGF was DOWN $15,956 in Double Handle from last season Dec.26….{$51,197 vs

    • Hoops and Horses

      Absolutely. If I were commissioner, the TOC would be told to butt out or face its members being suspended with my using a “Best Interests of the Sport” clause that I would require every track, owner and trainer to sign and abide by.

  • harry

    “New Era” for Santa Anita racing. Its not Santa Anita’s fault Hollywood closed forever but Santa Anita running this long meet will hurt Santa Anita big time!!!Every thing starts out great but after Santa Anita Derby Santa Anita will turn into a GHOST TOWN and the betting will decrease tremendously. Simply put this is a meeting that is way way to long especially for Southern California. Closing Hollywood has changed Southern California forever. I hope I am wrong but only time will tell.

    • Hoops and Horses

      This is why what should have also happened with Hollywood closing was the consolidation of racxing between Northern and Southern California into a single circuit. Some horsemen would likely have been up in arms about having to ship from So. Cal to No. Cal for a Golden Gate meet that as I would have done it would run Oaks Day (May 2) to the Sunday of 4th of July weekend (July 6) that would have run unopposed from So. Cal and again in the fall in November and December and for No. Cal trainers, having to race in So. Cal from Dec.26-April and in September and October, it would have made for fuller fields and more race dates for whicher circuit was running (the No. Cal fairs could continue to run as they do now since Del Mar does a good enough job of getting shippers). This may have to eventually happen anyway due to a horse shortage.

      • Zaffiro1

        As an owner, I do not want my horses running up North. It is difficult to have all the necessary staff to be there as well for so long a period of time, as well as their exercise riders. Right now some of the staff can’t be away for so long even to Del Mar. They have to pay their way if not living in the barn. Families are disrupted.
        Also many horse do not like the Tapeda surface at Golden Gates. It is not just a matter of only “horses” racing away from home or a meet.

        • Hoops and Horses

          The way I would do it would actually be a return to the way it was done in California prior to 1967. Back then, there was no fall meet at Santa Anita and Hollywood’s meet was much earlier in the year. Racing as I recall then went to Golden Gate and Bay Meadows unopposed before Del Mar raced with I believe only when the fairs were operating and Del Mar was as well when No. Cal and So. Cal were both running, That’s what I would be returning to.

          The fact is, we are dealing with a horse shortage that is looking more and more to force this in a few years anyway.

  • Roger

    Today at Santa Anita
    38 available wagers at OVER 22% takeout rate
    9 – exactas …..22.68%
    9 – trifectas ….23.68%
    9 – superfectas….23.68%
    7 – P-3’s…..23.68%
    2 – P-4’s…..23.68%
    1 – P-6…..23.68%
    1 – Super High 5 …..23.68%
    13 available wagers UNDER 19% takeout rate
    1 – P-5…..14%
    9 – win/pl/show…..15.43%
    3 – doubles…….18%
    That’s not a very balanced wagering menu that’s PLAYER FRIENDLY …..hey TOC/Stronach/CHRB give CA horseplayers Rolling Doubles back at 18%.

  • Some things have and will change as time passes, however I don’t see even a suggestion that racing commissioners will cease to be gubernatorial appointees or that these appointees will no longer decide who can work as stewards and who can not. I believe this is so because so few stakeholders realize what a cancer this is on the regulation of the industry. Not until they feel the savage bite of an act or omission by one of these bodies.

  • Jerry

    ………………………………….and the new era will spell the further reduction of horseracing in the State. Just wait until the CHRB and TOC make some more BAD DECISIONS..
    How about a TAKEOUT INCREASE, that will stimulate wagering!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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