-Photo by Terry Miller
Santa Anita Park, which has experienced significant gains in overall handle and field size through the first 31 days of its winter/spring meeting, has announced that with the approval of the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB), it will continue to run a four-day-a-week schedule through closing day, April 22.
“We’re very pleased with how the meeting is going,” said Santa Anita President George Haines. “Our overall handle is currently up seven percent and our field size has remained strong, at 8.3 horses per race, compared to 7.7 a year ago.
“The current racing schedule is working well for all of our stake holders and we want to thank the CHRB and Chairman (Keith) Brackpool for allowing us to continue to run four days a week in order to sustain and build upon the momentum we’ve been able to establish.”
The meet got off to a rollicking start on opening day, Dec. 26, as 44,579 attended on-track, the largest opening day crowd since 1994. Sunshine Millions Day, Jan. 28, was also a big attraction, as 30,514 attended on-track. In addition to world-class racing, fans were treated to a California Food Truck Festival, a Miss Sunshine Millions Bikini Contest, live entertainment and more in the track’s spacious infield.
Saturday, Feb. 4 also rates as one of the best days of the meeting. B.J. Wright’s Big ‘Cap-bound Ultimate Eagle blitzed his competition in the Grade II Strub Stakes, winning by 7 ¼ lengths in front of a crowd of 17,169. On-track handle reached more than $2.9 million and the total handle for the afternoon exceeded $15 million.
“We not only have plenty of great racing left, but we’ve got a number of popular promotions left as well,” said Haines. We want to thank our fans and horsemen for enabling us to put on a good show thus far and we look forward to finishing this meet strongly.”
Santa Anita has a number of big dates remaining on its 72-day racing calendar, including the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on Saturday, March 3. The Big ‘Cap will share center stage that day with two other Grade I races, the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (turf) and the Las Virgenes Stakes.
The Grade II San Felipe Stakes, a time-tested important prep for the Grade I Santa Anita Derby, will be run the following Saturday, March 10.
St. Patrick’s Day, Saturday, March 17, is another potentially solid business day, as Santa Anita will once again offer its $1 million St. Pat’s Day Horseshoe Pitch. The Grade I, $300,000 Santa Margarita Stakes will highlight the day’s racing along with the $100,000 Irish Obrien Stakes.
The highlight of the entire meet could well come on Saturday, April 7, as Santa Anita will offer the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby along with the Grade II Potrero Grande Stakes and the Grade III Providencia Stakes.
Santa Anita will finish its winter/spring meeting with its traditional closing day feature, the Grade II San Juan Capistrano Handicap, at 1 ¾ miles on turf, on Sunday, April 22.