Santa Anita to race less this winter in bad weather

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DEL MAR, Calif. — Santa Anita will race less, if at all, in inclement weather during its winter-spring meet that begins on Dec. 26, although what factors will decide whether racing occurs in such conditions haven’t been announced.

Led by new chairman Gregory Ferraro, the California Horse Racing Board approved Santa Anita’s racing license by a 5-0 vote Thursday, contingent on several restrictions.

More details will be presented at the board’s next meeting on Dec. 12.

Also postponed until next month was further discussion on the use of the riding crop.

“We don’t really know what the right answer is,” Ferraro said. “We need to find the right answer before we just jump into something.”

Several members of the public wanting to address the board on the riding crop issue grew angry when Ferraro wouldn’t allow it before taking a vote to table the item until next month. Wendy Mitchell, a new member of the board appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, voted against postponing the issue.

“This is definitely an issue we need to hear out. The optics on it are bad,” she said. “I don’t want to kick this can too far down the road.”

Santa Anita’s winter-spring meet is scheduled for 104 racing days through June 21 but will be reduced by 12 undetermined days as part of an agreement reached earlier this year.

“The whole idea is to protect safety and horses during inclement weather situations,” Ferraro said during the meeting held at Del Mar north of San Diego. “We won’t race or train or race on tracks deemed unsafe.”

Days lost to inclement weather could count toward the total, along with days canceled because of a lack of available horses to run, according to Aidan Butler, acting executive director of California racing operations for the track’s owner, The Stronach Group.

Last March, Santa Anita canceled racing for 13 days after a series of horse deaths during racing or training following nearly a foot of rain through the winter. During the break in racing, the main track underwent renovation and inspection.

Butler said the main track will be renovated starting Monday.

Butler told the board that Santa Anita is exploring the installation of a synthetic surface on the main track or the infield training track. However, he said no decisions have been made while track officials continue to study how the artificial surface would perform in Southern California’s extreme temperatures.

Santa Anita, as well as other major tracks in California, had a synthetic track in the past, but drainage problems arose during winter rains.

Other restrictions that are part of Santa Anita’s winter-spring meet license include not running claiming races worth less than $10,000, limiting short-term activity for horses injected with corticosteroids in fetlock joints, and not allowing 2-year-olds in 2020 to be treated with the anti-bleeding medication Lasix, which was announced earlier this year.

Earlier this year, The Stronach Group imposed tougher medication rules at Santa Anita to try to reduce fatalities. Ferraro warned that further medication policies are on the horizon.

Ferraro was elected board chairman and Oscar Gonzales was named vice chairman on Thursday.

Arabian Knight off Kentucky Derby trail; will return later

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Arabian Knight is off the Kentucky Derby trail.

Wagering has been suspended on the 3-year-old colt for the Derby’s future wager after owner Amr Zedan announced the decision. Arabian Knight was the second choice on the morning line behind favorite Forte for the May 6 race.

“Trainer Tim Yakteen wasn’t happy with his last work & we feel it’s in Arabian Knight’s best interest not to rush & allow him more time to develop,” Zedan tweeted. “We know he’s a superior talent & our plan is to point him toward a summer and fall campaign.”

Purchased for $2.3 million as a 2-year-old, Arabian Knight won his debut by 7 1/4 lengths at Keeneland last November. He made his 3-year-old debut in the Southwest at Oaklawn in January and won by 5 1/2 lengths.

Arabian Knight had his third workout at Santa Anita.

Tapit Trice wins Tampa Bay Derby, earns Kentucky Derby points

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TAMPA, Fla. — Tapit Trice rallied from last to win the $360,000 Tampa Bay Derby by two lengths and earn qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby.

Ridden by Luis Saez, Tapit Trice ran 1 1/16 miles 1:43.37. The 1-2 favorite in the field of 12 paid $3 to win. The 3-year-old colt earned 50 qualifying points, which places him in the 20-horse field for the Kentucky Derby on May 6.

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher extended his record for most wins in the Grade 3 race to six. He already has the early Kentucky Derby favorite in Forte, who won the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream last weekend.

Classic Car Wash was second and Classic Legacy was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third.

Tapit Trice was making his stakes debut after winning two of three starts.

“Once he got clear down the lane, he really extended himself,” Pletcher said. ”I loved the way he finished up. He relished the two turns, and the longer he goes, the better he’ll get.”