Los Alamitos, which has run for two weeks for the past two December, will get an extra four days this year when it kicks off with a three-week race on Friday with an eight-race schedule that attracted a whopping 85 horses.
The 11-day season, dubbed the Los Angeles County Fair Winter Thoroughbred Meet, includes three graded-stakes races and ends December 20, with racing Friday through Sunday opening weekend and Thursday-Sunday action for the final two weeks.
The first message is at 1:00 pm on workdays and at 12:30 pm on weekends.
The first two days of the entries belie the fact that there is a shortage of horses in California. In addition to the 10.6 horses per race on the opening day ticket, the nine-race schedule on Saturday includes 93 horses, or 10.3 per race. Eighty-four horses were entered on Thursday for Sunday’s nine races (9.3).
Jack Liebau, vice president of Los Alamitos, attributes the boom at the entrance box to the fact that Golden Gate Fields has been closed since Nov. 12 due to a COVID-19 outbreak, causing Northern California riders to look for a place to let their horses run. Golden Gate management announced on Thursday that it will remain closed until December 26.
“It’s better to be lucky than smart,” Liebau said during a phone interview on Thursday. “I’m (surprised) with the numbers to a degree, but I thought we would do well because of the Golden Gate (situation).
“I’m not sure how many horses we have from Golden Gate, but I’d estimate about 40 or 50 by hand.”
At no point during a meeting Liebau can remember a meeting where the fields were so large.
“Oh yes, this is the best it has been as far as I remember,” he said. “No question.”
The biggest race of the meet, the $ 300,000 Grade I Starlet, highlights the opening of the meet Saturday. It only pulled five 2 year old fillies for 1 1/16 miles, but it is a quality field.
Bob Baffert’s Princess Noor, who beat her California league by a combined 17 1/4 lengths as she rolled to three wins at Del Mar and Santa Anita, will try to make up for fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in Keeneland. on Nov. 6 as the likely favorite after the time.
Baffert also has Kalypso, a 2 1/4 length winner of the Anoakia Stakes in Santa Anita on Oct. 18, and Varda, a distant second behind Princess Noor in the Chandelier Stakes in Santa Anita on Sept. 26, to run.
Trainer Richard Mandella sends the undefeated Astute, a $ 425,000 yearling purchase, who takes a 7 1/2 long win at the Desi Arnaz Stakes in Del Mar on Nov. 14. She tries two turns for the first time.
Liebau says he will not be discounting the fifth competitor, Nasreddine, a first 1 1/4 winner at Del Mar on November 7, which will be ridden by the underrated Tiago Pereira.
“I don’t think (trainer) is imposing on Michael McCarthy any extra money because he wants to come for lunch,” he said.
Post time for the Starlet is 2.30 pm
Los Alamitos has historically gotten eight weeks of racing a year since Hollywood Park closed in 2013, but this year it only got five. By law, three of those weeks must be given to the stock market.
“We’re screwed, and that’s for printing,” Liebau said.
But there’s no question that a three-week gathering this month is gaining momentum, unlike a two-week gathering where it’s over before many fans realize they are racing.
“Some horses will run twice every three weeks,” Liebau said. “The fact that some may not get a chance to run in Santa Anita is one reason, and there is a break there (six days before Santa Anita starts). So when you are ready to run, run. ”
Liebau sees racing in December as a positive point for Los Alamitos.
“A lot of people don’t like the December dates, but we always ran them in Hollywood Park,” he said. “One of the advantages is that there is not much competition from the rest of the country. Your signal is well received compared to what else is available. Not much is available. ”
This year Los Alamitos will be available for the next three weeks compared to the usual two. That turns out to be a plus for the Orange County circuit.
Follow Art Wilson on Twitter at @ Sham73