After Winter Storm, California Horse Racing Returns To Santa Anita Park

Written By Dave Bontempo on March 2, 2023
California horse racing returns to Santa Anita Park

Santa Anita Park can’t wait to welcome back its bettors.

Blizzard conditions canceled racing in Arcadia last weekend. But “The Great Race Place” returns with a full weekend card, including the richest two events in the industry on Saturday.

California horse racing bettors embrace a package of the circuit’s best races. Three of the races total $1.4 million in purses. Additionally, there is a mandatory payout of the 20-cent Rainbow Pick 6.

This is one of the signature weekends of the Santa Anita schedule as Golden State bettors look to cash some golden tickets.

This weekend’s schedule


The weekend slate opens with an eight-race card at 12:50 pm.


Twelve races with a noon start. This is an all-star cast, highlighted by:

  • $500,000 Santa Anita Handicap,  1 1-4 miles
  • $500,000 Frank Kilroe Mile
  • $400, 000 San Felipe Stakes, 1 1-16 miles
  • $200,000 Buena Vista Stakes, 1 mile


The highlights all feature $100,000 purses.

  • San Simeon Stakes 6 1-2 furlongs
  • Santa Ysabel Stakes, 1 1-6 miles
  • Baffle Stakes 6 1-2 furlongs

Backdrop for Saturday’s Headlined Races

Bettors will watch 11 Kentucky Derby hopefuls vie in the $400,000 San Felipe Stakes. Along with the prize money, the winner is guaranteed a berth in the May 6 Run for the Roses.

Some of racing’s biggest names will be in the 8.5-furlong race. Among those include National Treasure and Hejazi.

National Treasure finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last November. On the other hand, Hejazi recorded a 99 Beyer speed figure at Santa Anita on Jan. 15. The number was the best in the entire racing industry until recently.

Those two thoroughbreds will be in the sixth race of the day. It starts at approximately 2:30 p.m.

Nine horses are entered in the Frank Kilroe Mile on turf with a 5 p.m. post.  Du Jour, Air Force Red and Irideo stage a rematch of their tight finish in the Thunder Road Stakes. Little separates these three horses. At least one should be a price.

Lastly, a field of 11 in the program-finale makes up the Santa Anita Handicap at 5:30 p.m.

An all-star collection of 4-year-olds comprises that race. They include California-based Defunded and Stilleto Boy. In January, these two horses finished second and third in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla.

The final two races total $1 million in purses inside 45 minutes.

Unpacking the Big Races

San Felipe Stakes Overview of Top Contenders

Hejazi has connections to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. As a result, you can expect bettors to hammer Hejazi and go off as one of the favorites. Especially since Baffert believes his horse can stretch to a career-long distance for the race.

Hejazi’s 99 Beyer in early January started a trend. The top four totals all occurred at speed-favoring Santa Anita. Hard to Figure and Newgate each registered 100 Beyer speed figures, while Hejazi recorded a 99 and Worcester posted a 98 at the Southern California track.

National Treasure figures to be formidable opposition. He shipped from California to Keeneland, notching a third in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile behind Forte and Cave Rock.

Baffert has been touting this horse as one of the top bloomers in this stable. His theory will be tested this weekend. National Treasure’s 94 Beyer speed rating makes him one of the top choices in the field.

Practical Move enjoys a sensible progression. He triumphed at maiden special weights and the $300,000 Los Alamitos Futurity at this exact distance.

Geaux Rocket Ride comes in off a sizzling debut victory at Santa Anita. Now he looks to parlay that success in a bigger field, where he must stretch to 8.5 furlongs.

With an impressive opening Beyer speed figure of 92, he will be an exceptional horse soon. However, the question is whether he becomes one on Saturday.

Santa Anita Handicap

Let’s take a look at the 11-horse field from the rail out.

There Goes Harvard

He was buried in his last two outings, including the San Diego Handicap. But he does have a victory at 1 1-4 mile in the 2022 Hollywood Gold Cup before the last two efforts.


The Kentucky-based horse ran a thriller, being a just-nudged third to victorious Newgrange in the $200,000 San Pascual at 1 1-8 miles. He is a forwardly placed stalker.


He came a long way since being sixth at 4-5 in the 2022 Rebel Stakes. Bob Baffert has stayed with him and Newgrange delivered the San Pascual triumph at 4-1.

Bettors will favor the Baffert-trained horse because of the speed. Consequently, he is a contender. But might be overplayed.

Stilleto Boy

He recorded a surprise third-place finish at the $3 million Pegasus World Cup in Florida. At 45-1, he led at the final turn before giving way. Stilleto Boy figures to be forwardly placed and a major pace factor. He finished third in this race last year, so he has gone this distance before.


He ran down Stilleto Boy in the Pegasus and had a nice run shipping East for Baffert. But he came up short in Florida, finishing second to Art Collector. However, he will gain major play because of Baffert connection, early-speed profile and overall consistency.


The five-year-old horse finished a hard-knocking second in the Santa Anita Handicap last year at this distance. He was near the lead early, took the lead around the turn and gave heavily-favored Express Train all he wanted before losing an exhilarating stretch duel at 4-1.

Warrant finished second in the Brooklyn Handicap and then won at allowance optional claiming.

He will be in contention every time and gives the bettors a good run for their money. Can he get that little bit more and get over the top?

Heywoods Beach

The Kentucky-born thoroughbred finished a distant third in the San Antonio behind Country Grammer and Stilleto Boy. It was back in December, but the layoff isn’t real bad. He had everything he could have wanted with a speed duel up front. But he wasn’t good enough to take advantage.


In the San Pasqual, he was right there with Newgrange and Parnelli. He finished a head bob in front of Parnelli to gain second in the splendid three-horse duel down the home stretch.

Absolutely nothing separates Hopper, Parnelli and Newgrange regarding credentials. It’s just a matter of who improves or recedes a little,

Scarlet Fusion

This horse has an impressive track record. He’s a throwback to an age when horses ran more frequently because the purses were smaller. He already has an astounding 20 races under his belt, by far the tops in the field.

Graduating from allowance company took a long time, but he has hit the board in five straight efforts and won the $200,000 John Connally Turf Cup in his last. That was 1 1-2 miles.

He’s back on dirt, but this recent record is interesting.


Nice horse, lightly raced. Won a starter handicap and then an allowance race at Santa Anita.

Probably asking too much, but the fact he’s won two straight is another reminder there are no weak horses in this field.


He ran a game fifth in the Pegasus World Cup but faces Stilleto Boy and Defunded at Santa Anita. Both of which finished ahead of him in Florida. It looks like a lot to overcome.

Betting Overview

There are excellent opportunities with Parnelli, Newgrange, Defunded, Stilleto Boy, Warrant and Hopper because all possess similar skills. If the board reveals a good price, taking any of these is one way to go.  Demand good value because none is head and shoulders above the field.

Keying one of the first and second in trifectas or superfectas with the others also looks viable but possibly expensive.

Mandatory Pick 6 Payout Announced

Santa Anita will blend the betting from Saturday’s big card into a mandatory payout of its 20-cent Rainbow Pick 6 Jackpot. It will enter Friday with a carryover of $214,355.59.

The total was hampered by the cancellation of three cards that would have added to the total last weekend.

Nonetheless, it’s a fan-friendly jackpot in which bettors can have a lot of fun for a little investment.

More Good News for California horse racing

Southern California will host the biggest day of horse racing on the calendar. In November, the multi-million dollar Breeders’ Cup Championship will be at Santa Anita.

And the Breeders’ Cup will stay in the California family as Del Mar has been named to host the 2024 summit of racing’s top participants.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo is a writer for PlayCA, and has covered the horse racing and boxing industry extensively since the 1980s. He was an award-winning writer at the Press of Atlantic City. As a broadcaster, he has won the Sam Taub Award for Excellence in Boxing Broadcasting, issued by the Boxing Writers Association of America. He has called major fights for HBO, ESPN, Showtime, and other networks since the 1980s. He is in the New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame. Dave shifted gears to cover the emerging legalized sports-betting industry in 2018. He now serves as the go-to authority on horse race betting across multiple websites, including PlayCA and California Casinos.

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