Santa Anita looks very different on Friday when the weather goes racing after a 54-day absence caused by the corona virus.
Santa Anita was closed by the LA County Health Department on March 27 and received OK on Wednesday to resume racing as long as strict protocols are followed.
Riders rave about the return with races through the weekend pulling strong fields, but fans will not be allowed in, and the precautions will be different.
Some of the main protocols are:
▮ There is a limited area where jockeys, attendants and essential personnel can be accommodated. They will live there from the moment they check in on Friday until they leave for the weekend. They must undergo a health check at check-in, including a temperature check.
Train All trainers, workers and essential racing staff must wear face cloths covering their nose and mouth and practice social distances while in Santa Anita.
▮ All trainers, employees and essential race personnel must wear a race day wristband on site, indicating that they have passed the daily health check.
Grooms with appropriate wristbands for race day will bring horses to the receiving shed. Match day grooms who will accompany a horse must stop at the stable gate before bringing their horse to receive a match day wristband.
▮ Trainers must saddle their horses in the receiving stable and are not allowed in the running ring. They are assigned specific areas in the stands to watch the race depending on the number of horses.
Grooms bring their horses to the running ring and jockeys get a leg up by a limited attendant just after the horses arrive in the running ring.
▮ Winning horses do not enter the winner’s circle, but instead stop at the finish before leaving the track for a ‘circle photo of the winner’ showing the winning horse and the jockey.
Of course PETA is not happy that Santa Anita is active again.
“Now that gambling has become a priority over public health, the death toll – for horses and humans – should not increase,” said Kathy Guillermo, PETA’s senior vice president, in a statement.
“Horses died during training in Santa Anita Park, even after the Los Angeles County Department of Health suspended the races. If a thoroughbred is killed again, racing for the health of horses must be stopped regardless of COVID-19. ‘
Ninety-seven horses were entered in the nine-race program on Friday and Saturday’s card has an average field size of 9.9 horses per race on a 10-race card. On Sunday, 99 horses were entered for a 10-race program, including the first baby race of the competition. Six 2-year-old fillies were entered for the second race and will go 4 1/2 furlongs.
The spring portion of the Santa Anita meeting will include four Grade I races – the $ 300,000 Shoemaker Mile and the $ 300,000 Gamely Stakes on May 25 and the $ 400,000 Santa Anita Derby and $ 300,000 Gold Cup in Santa Anita on June 6.
The June 6 card features five other bets, including the $ 200,000 Grade II Santa Anita Oaks for fillies with Kentucky Oaks ambitions. The Kentucky Oaks has been moved to September 4.
The Santa Anita Derby is expected to feature a rematch between the top two finishers in the San Felipe Stakes, Authentic and Honor A.P.
“We’re back to where we were before San Felipe, trainer John Shirreffs told Santa Anita publicity, referring to the fact that Honor AP has not raced since October 13 before driving a strong second in San Felipe on March 7 . ” He looks really good and he has trained very well.
“Authentic took the lead (in the San Felipe) and almost completely dictated the pace. Since we weren’t racing here, I kind of walked back on Honor A.P. and didn’t work him too hard, but at the moment he’s training strong and I think he’s going to come to the Santa Anita Derby very well. ”
Honor A.P. worked Thursday morning 7 furlongs in 1: 26.40 in Santa Anita.
“He went very well and had a strong canter,” said Shirreffs. “Mike (jockey Mike Smith) was very pleased with him.”
Private clock and blood supply agent Gary Young told Santa Anita publicity, “The Santa Anita Derby is going to be a good race. Authentic and Honor A.P. look like the main two in what forms as a short field. If Authentic is in the lead, it would certainly give him a head start. ”
When asked who he prefers, Nadal or Charlatan, Young said, “At this point I prefer Nadal over Charlatan by a small margin.”
Follow Art Wilson on Twitter @ Sham73