The eight-race Sunshine Millions, with four of the races at Santa Anita and four at Gulfstream Park in Florida, will be held Saturday. The event is the branchild of Frank Stronach, founder and chairman of Magna Entertainment Corp., Santa Anita’s parent company, and has turned into one of the track’s four major days, including opening day, Big ‘Cap day and Santa Anita Derby day. This will be the seventh Sunshine Millions, which pits Cal-breds against their Florida counterparts, for purses totaling $3.6 million.
It’s doubtful Santa Anita will match or surpass its Sunshine Millions record on-track crowd of 36,355 set in 2007, what with the ailing economy and the possibility of less than ideal weather. There is an 80 percent chance of rain Thursday, according to weather.com, and a 30 percent chance both Friday and Saturday.
In 2006, there was an on-track turnout of 32,116 at Santa Anita for the Millions, and 28,414 showed up last year. The inaugural event drew 17,537 in 2003 and its popularity has grown since.
It will be interesting to see what type of crowd shows up Saturday, considering Santa Anita’s all-sources handle is down and management is mulling purse cuts for the second time this meet.
Artiste Royal put on an amazing show in the eighth race today at Santa Anita, taking the Grade II San Marcos Handicap with an amazing turn of foot under jockey Garrett Gomez. The 8-year-old son of Danehill was not even in the picture at the eighth pole, but he came charging home like shot out of a cannon.
As impressive as Artiste Royal’s closing kick was, it doesn’t compare to this one turned in by Donnaguska at Hawthorne Race Course last year. Take a look at this race and tell me how many times you would have torn up your ticket before the horse puts on a display that would have made Silky Sullivan proud.
MONDAY, JANUARY 19
1st — $20 to win on Wharf Cat at 3-1 or higher
3rd — $20 to win on Just Go Gusto at 10-1 or higher
4th — $20 to win on Whizer at 20-1 or higher
6th — $20 to win on Men Only at 20-1 or higher
9th — $20 to win on Suspect at 20-1 or higher
SUNDAY — Minus $100 OVERALL — Minus $1,228 BANKROLL (started with $2,000) — $772
Despite my slump during the first 19 days of this Santa Anita meet, I’ve got a huge urge to play the pick six today, what with there being a $141,431 carryover. I mean, like the rest of you, I can sure use some extra cash these days. What the heck, I’m going to go for it.
4th — Whizer and Six Pack Man
5th — Hype
6th — Men Only and Held Up
7th — Flashmans Papers
8th — Artiste Royal and Spring House
9th — Suspect, Rise Above and Hurley’s Way
That’s a $48 ticket. What the heck, I can blow that much just as quickly buying food for a Super Bowl party in two weeks.
Steve Asmusssen, a virtual cinch to be named Eclipse Award winner as top trainer for 2008 when the awards are handed out Monday night, Jan. 26, won six of the 10 races at the Fair Grounds on Saturday. The rich get richer, and Asmussen is the “now” trainer. He won a North American record 622 races in 2008 and also led all trainers in money earned.
Another horse had to be vanned off at Santa Anita on Saturday. This time it was the John Shirreffs-trained Madeo, who was running in the Grade II San Fernando Stakes and appeared to have injured his right foreleg, according to track stewards. No immediate word on the colt’s condition.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 18
1st — $20 to win on Lightning Hit at 20-1 or higher
2nd — $20 to win on Jack Flash at 20-1 or higher
5th — $20 to win on Matuco at 3-1 or higher
6th — $20 to win on Blushing Bear Cat at 5-1 or higher
7th — $20 to win on Candy Pull at 20-1 or higher
9th — $20 to win on Warren’s Walk and Informa
SATURDAY — Plus $68 OVERALL — Minus $1,128 BANKROLL (started with $2,000) — $872
Taking advantage of a Pro-Ride surface that was favoring speed Saturday, the Julio Canani-trained The Pamplemousse went gate-to-wire to upset 3-5 favorite Square Eddie in the San Rafael Stakes at Santa Anita — the Southland’s first major 3-year-old stakes of the year leading to the Kentucky Derby.
Ridden by Alex Solis, the son of Kafwain was in front by three lengths after a swift :45.97 half-mile and was never seriously threatened the rest of the way. Square Eddie, runner-up to Midshipman in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last October, made a move on the turn for home but never got closer than a length of the winner, who went postward at 5-2 and returned $7.20. He ran the one-mile distance in a nice 1:35.31.
So what do you think? Is The Pamplemousse a legit Kentucky Derby contender? Think he can carry his speed a mile and quarter? Who do you like right now to win the Derby? Is Pioneerof the Nile, whose recent workouts have some clockers raving about the Bob Baffert colt, the real deal? Give us your thoughts.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 17
1st — $20 to win on L.A. Boy, Fortunate Victory and Monomonac Playboy at 20-1 or higher; a $1 early pick four with L.A. Boy, Fortunate Victory and Monomonac Player in the first, Guns On the Table and Peace Chant in the second, Infernal, Thorondor and Meteore in the third and Colonel Courtney and Spot the Diplomat in the fourth ($36)
3rd — $20 to win on Thorondor at 20-1 or higher
4th — $20 to win on Colonel Courtney
5th — $20 to win on Burg Berg at 5-1 or higher
9th — $20 to win on Cayambe
FRIDAY — Minus $60 OVERALL — Minus $1,196 BANKROLL (started with $2,000) — $804
Santa Anita officials had to be smiling when 6,026 turned out on track Friday, most likely lured in part by the big pick-six carryover. It was the third Free Fridays promotion of the meeting and all three have drawn bigger crowds than a normal Wednesday and Thursday.
But imagine for a second how many more fans might have shown up if there had been bigger fields.
The first race — six horses
Second race — five horses
Third race — seven horses
Sixth race — six horses
Seventh race — six horses
The beat goes on with these short fields. I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing I dislike worse than trying to find value in a six-horse field. I’m waiting for these synthetic tracks to produce those full fields we were promised a while back.
Santa Anita, which already cut overnight purses about 10 percent before the start of its 84-day winter-spring meet, is considering a second cut, according to a source familiar with the situation.
The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not have authorization to speak on the subject, said track officials are in the process of deciding if they will cut purses or use part of the surplus in the purse fund to help combat what so far is about a 14-percent decline in all-sources handle through the first 14 days of the meet.
Del Mar cut purses once during its summer meet and Hollywood Park was forced to cut overnight purses three times during its autumn meet that concluded on Dec. 21.