Pair of Grade 1 races highlight Santa Anita’s opening day
By Art Wilson
ARCADIA — When the horses are loaded into the starting gate Tuesday around noon for the first race on Santa Anita’s opening-day card, Southern California racing fans will have gone eight days without thoroughbred racing.
It’s the longest break of the year with no ponies to watch or bet on. It’s reached the point where five-day breaks constitute a major respite from the sport.
Whereas there used to be a six- or seven-week break between the end of the old Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita and the traditional day-after-Christmas start to Santa Anita’s winter meet, that all ended when now-defunct Hollywood Park began its fall meet in 1981.
For instance, in 2003, Hollywood Park’s fall meet ended on Dec. 21, giving fans only four dark days to regroup before the start of Santa Anita.
Is there too much racing in the Southland?
“I don’t think there’s too much racing,” Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of Santa Anita’s parent company, The Stronach Group, said recently. “I mean, I think (the recent break) is a great thing. I think you’re going to have, knock on wood, great field size coming off (the break) and no grass racing (at Los Alamitos for three weeks). Our grass racing should be ready to explode, and all the dirt horses should be freshened up.
“But listen, I’m a guy who always thinks you can do things better. When you stop thinking you can do things better … I think a better prepared schedule (is needed). We would always like to run more because that’s what we’re here for, right? We have year-round employees who are working six months out of the year with racing, so we’d like to add days wherever we could, but at the same time we have to be conscious of the horse population and the inventory that […]