I was talking yesterday to an old Jersey buddy now working at Santa Anita, where things are not going that great...although they seem to be getting the Breeders' Cup every year. The reason for that is that no other tracks want it.
"So how's it going?," I stupidly asked.
"It's OK," he replied, "...if you don't mind standing on the deck of the Titanic."
Just in case you are not up to snuff on what's happening at Santa Anita, they already have had 10 cancellations this year due to poor drainage from the new synthetic surface.
By way of comparison, before this year there were only eight cancellations in the entire history of the track.
But the bottom line is that no one hit the Pick Six last Saturday, producing a $181,514 carryover. And since they haven't raced since, that carryover will be up for grabs when racing (hopefully) resumes this Saturday.
The sequence features the San Antonio Handicap and Las Virgenes with one-digit fields, and four races of 11 and more.
"It's a challenge, but the folks here at "Binocs" thrive on challenges, so let's take a look.
Remember the days when a horse's record over the track meant something. In this case Quickandquietqueen's (#5) only win in 10 starts came at Santa Anita. But that win came on real dirt!
What to do with Zada Belle (#8)?
The Indian Charlie filly won her only start by nine lengths, with a 98 Beyer yet. But that was 17 months ago! Her work tab suggests she will come back running, and new trainer Harty is a winner.
You have to use her. But as a single?
On paper, Rate of Exchange (#4) and Decorator (#12) are hard to separate. They debuted in same race at single-digits, and finished heads apart in a three-horse blanket finish. Rate of Exchange had a slightly tougher trip; Decorator may lose some ground, but she is a Storm Cat.
Interior Design (#8) showed major improvement second start, but loses Gomez, who's at Fair Grounds Saturday.
Ginger Pop (#3) is a firster from a winning barn. If she runs to her works, she'll blow 'em all out of the water. Race Seven
I find it interesting that trainer Baffert sent Indian Blessing all the way to New Orleans rather than run her for the same money here in the Grade 1 Las Virgines.
Is Bullet Bob afraid of Lovely Isle (#3) or Golden Doc A (#4) or both?
Lovely Isle is the first horse in history to have four different trainers for four races. This time it's Frankel. She's stretching out off three sprints -- two great, one awful -- and no doubt will be the one to catch under hot jock Flores.
Golden Doc A would have beaten Indian Blessing in one more jump in the seven-furlong Santa Ynez while 12-1 in a five-filly field. She sheds five pounds off that race, and will be short price under Rafael.
Grace Anatomy (#7), co-owned by ex-Met LoDuca, ran huge for third in a Grade 3 over the track...but she loses Gomez, and takes worst of draw.
No singles here. The Grade 2 San Antonio is wide-open.
Zappa (#3), Well Armed (#9) and Heatseeker (#5) finished heads apart when 1-2-3 in the shorter San Pasqual. If you use one, you pretty much have to use all three.
Sweetnorthernsaint (#6) hasn't done that much since he flopped as the favorite in the '06 Derby, but trainer Trombetta isn't shipping for the Oscars.
Awesome Gem (#4) and jockey Flores have proven to be a winning combination. As has Student Council (#8) and Migliore. Awful tough spot off the layoffs.
Masterly (#10) will explode to the lead from his outside post.
Incriminate (#8) had horror trip from the 13 in the Grade 1 Malibu.
Hard to split Asperity (#3) and Mast Track (#6). They drop in class and distance for Drysdale and Frankel.
New Zealand shipper Towzee (#1) will be coming widest and fastest at the end.
If you're alive, I hope you are using Quityerbellyaching (#9), one of the great names in sports.
Cavanaugh (#14) finished half behind the 9, but has long way to come from here.
Of the five firsters, the most lethal looks to be Parisian Art (#6). Then again, if he's any good, why is O'Neill giving him away?
And while you're waiting for Santa Anita to heat up, check out the action at Fair Grounds. Four big stakes in a row, capped by the Risen Star for 3-year-olds.
One word of warning: there are some vulnerable favorites in the mix.
Speaking of 3-year-olds, they will be running the Southwest Stakes next weekend at my home port of Oaklawn Park, and the field is loaded.