Reflections on opening day (Saturday, Dec. 26) of the Santa Anita winter meet …
Despite gorgeous weather for the first Saturday opening in 11 years, and a good 10-race card with two Grade 1 races, attendance at Santa Anita was somewhat disappointing. The opening-day crowd was 35,292.
The attendance figure was the biggest opener since 1999 (a Sunday), but with Santa Anita pulling out all stops in terms of racing and promotions (calendar giveaway, Zenyatta parade), it seemed 40,000 would have been within reach.
Most main-track winners opening day swung wide into the lane. But many also saved ground before swinging wide. If there was a bias, it was a closers-friendly bias, and it was only mild.
Which female got the warmest reception from the opening-day crowd? Was it Zenyatta? Or was it jockey Chantal Sutherland when she returned to the winner’s circle after winning race 4? California fans do love Sutherland, who gave The Town Lady a perfect ride to and won by three lengths.
The appreciative crowd gave Sutherland a huge round of applause as she galloped back on The Town Lady. Bettors who missed the $10 payoff on the Unusual Heat filly won’t have to wait long to bet her back. Trainer Barry Abrams said she will wheel back Friday in a starter allowance.
Caracortado earned a Beyer Figure of only 80 winning the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes, race 6. The number seems light. La Nez, the filly favored at 8-5, ran well under compromising circumstances.
The Usual Q.T. won the Grade 3 Sir Beaufort with ease. Next stop, a restricted race for Florida and California-breds. The Usual Q.T. winner of the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby, has now won six in a row.
Thank goodness for The Usual Q.T. ($2.80). His win prevented an opening-day blank for the Daily Racing Form handicapper in Southern California. Really swell.
Watch out for Sir Beaufort runner-up Gallant Son. First start since April, wide throughout, his second-place comeback sets him up for a big winter.
Evita Argentina earned a 92 Beyer for her win in the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes.
M One Rifle earned a 102 Beyer winning the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes. Big win by a good sprinter. Runner-up Misremembered ran well, but seven furlongs is just too short.
Bob Baffert has another good 2-year-old. Concord Point, a first-time starter by Tapit, earned a 94 Beyer winning race 10.
On to Sunday …