I have confidence that Magna racing surface consultant Ted Malloy and Santa Anita track superintendent Richard Tedesco will tinker with the new $3 million dirt track and slow it down a bit, but it was still sad to see a record that the great Spectacular Bid had held for the past 30 years get broken during Sunday’s opening day of the 76-day winter/spring meet.
Spectacular Bid’s track record-winning time of 1:20 for the seven-furlong Malibu Stakes in 1980 was broken by Twirling Candy in this year’s Malibu, as the 3-year-old Candy Ride colt ran the distance in 1:19.70 with Joel Rosario aboard.
Four races earlier, a 2-year-old — yes, that’s right, a 2-YEAR-OLD!! — broke the track record for six furlongs by running a 1:06.98. Now don’t get me wrong, The Factor very well could win the 2011 Kentucky Derby because he appears to be a very talented colt, but running a 1:06.98 in his second race ever?
Also on Sunday, $30,000 maiden claimers were running six furlongs in 1:09 and change. On Monday, an $8,000 claimer, Lost Prophet, won the sixth race by running six furlongs in 1:09.55.
After Twirling Candy won the Malibu, assistant trainer Larry Benavidez, subbing for John Sadler, who was home nursing an injured knee, said he felt the times probably deserved to have a small asterisk by them.
“The track is fast today, and that 2-year-old running 1:06 (and change), that’s a little bit absurd,” he said. “I hate to take anything away from Spectacular Bid (too), because that’s a record that would never be broken.
“Growing up, you came to see the Bid and the (Flying) Paster. Spectacular Bid was probably the best horse that ever lived, in my opinion. To break his record, that’s amazing.”
It’s a safe track, and the jockeys all come back saying they can’t believe their horses ran that swiftly, but they did. The horses are just gliding over the $3 million surface, and that’s a good thing. But they need to slow it down. Can you imagine what the Bid or Secretariat might have done over this new track?
There’s no doubt that the more than 14 inches of rain that Santa Anita absorbed between Dec. 17 and the time the starting gate opened for the first race on Sunday played a major part in the swift clockings. The track was sealed before the first storm hit and it was still holding a lot of moisture the first two days. Tedesco is confident the track will slow down once it dries out.
Syndicated handicapper Bob Ike said Sunday he thought the track was playing about eight ticks fast, meaning that on a more honest surface, The Factor probably would have gone a more realistic 1:08 and change, although it’s still hard to fathom a 2-year-old colt going that fast ever, let alone his his second career start.
Another inch of rain is forecast for today, so it’s difficult to gage how the track is going to play and what it will do to the times. But it will be interesting to watch the final clockings once the rain abates, the track dries out and Malloy and Tedesco are able to make the needed adjustments.
It’s good to see dirt back, but it will be an even better racing surface when the times return to normal.