Rare Winter Storm Cancels February’s Final Horse Races At Santa Anita Park

Written By Dave Bontempo on February 24, 2023
Winter Storm forces Santa Anita Park to cancel races

This is what Rich Strike would look like as a weather forecast.

California horse racing bettors know all about the 80-1 longshot who stole the Kentucky Derby out of nowhere last May.

This weekend’s Southern California weather forecast is just as much of a longshot. Blizzard conditions expected throughout the Golden State canceled this weekend’s cards at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia.

However, fans still have plenty to be excited about, with a blockbuster March just a week away.

It opens with the $500,000 Santa Anita Handicap and the $500,000 Frank Kilroe Mile next Saturday, March 4. Weather permitting, the $400,000 San Felipe Stakes and $200,000 Buena Vista Stakes round out a dynamite card.

Right now, “weather permitting” also guides the public’s well-being. California bettors will have done well to stay safe amid conditions that are quite rare for the Golden State this weekend.

Excerpts of the press release from “The Great Race Place”

Santa Anita Park officials announced the cancelation Wednesday afternoon. Despite the cancelation, the forecast is historic by California weather standards.

“Blizzard warnings have been issued for the San Gabriel Mountains behind the historic track, with snowfall expected at the 1,000-foot level. It is the first blizzard warning ever issued in Los Angeles County. The storm, which is expected to begin late morning on Thursday, is forecast to drop six inches of rain through Saturday.”

California horse racing cited safety concerns as the reason for their decision.

“The decision to cancel both days out of an abundance of caution was made in consultation with industry stakeholders, including the Thoroughbred Owners of California, the California Thoroughbred Trainers Association, and the California Horse Racing Board.”

Even though there won’t be any racing at Santa Anita this weekend, the track could be open for training, depending on conditions.

“The main track and training track training schedule will be announced on a daily basis and will be open for training as the weather permits.”

California officials have drawn respect in racing circles for their forward-thinking approach to thoroughbred horse-racing safety. They already postponed two cards before this one.

California Connection to Weekend’s Biggest Race

The $1 million Rebel Stakes in Arkansas brings together several elements of key California players. With action canceled at Santa Anita, Californians can use the TVG Racing app to bet on the Rebel Stakes.

Golden State bettors remember Bob Baffert-trained Cave Rock finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last November to Forte.

Cave Rock drilled four furlongs in 49.7 Monday during his second work of the year. Baffert will find a good spot to race Cave Rock soon. The Hall of Fame trainer has a reputation for putting his horses in the best place to win.

On the other hand, Forte vaulted to second place in the Road to Kentucky Derby standings. He will likely obtain a post in the May 6 Run for the Roses.

Baffert’s other horses expected to perform well at the Rebel Stakes

Verifying, who finished sixth in the BC Juvenile, has been installed as the 2-1 morning-line favorite to win the Rebel.

Also guided by Baffert, Reincarnate is a 3-1 choice in the Rebel and could be the controlling speed. He won the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita last month and has the highest Beyer Speed figure of 95 in this race. The Beyer speed figure is an index of how fast the track surface is on a given day, along with the horse’s performance.

To ensure Reincarnate qualifies for the Kentucky Derby if he wins, Baffert switched him to the barn of former assistant Tim Yakteen.

Baffert’s two-year suspension from Churchill Downs will end after the Derby. He has until Feb. 28 to move horses to another trainer for his horses to run in the Derby.

Baffert was suspended when the late Medina Spirit failed a drug test after winning the 2021 Derby. Runner-up Mandaloun was later awarded the victory.

Another Santa Anita stalwart, Flavien Prat, will ride 30-1 longshot Talladega in the Rebel.

Here’s Who Is Hot at Santa Anita

Four jockeys have earned purses over $1 million

  • Juan Hernandez: $3,164,896
  • Flavien Prat: $1,405,320
  • Frankie Dettori: $1,205,820
  • Ramon Vazquez: $1,066,782

Top Jockeys by Wins

  • Juan Hernandez: 39
  • Frankie Dettori: 18
  • Edwin Maldonado:  14

Top Trainers by Earnings

  • Bob Baffert: $2,079,080
  • Phillip D’Amato: $1,630,140
  • Doug O’Neill: $1,010, 140

Top Trainers by Wins

  • Bob Baffert: 19
  • Doug O’Neill: 18
  • Phillip D’Amato: 15

A Look Back at Last Weekend

Friday’s opening race proved to be a barn-burner and illustrated the value of the key-entry bet.

Last week, we said that lovers of big fields would not want to miss this. Some who wagered hit big.

Point and Shoot rallied from deep off the pace to prevail at 2-1. Stay in Line, the early speed, held second at 16-1. That completed a sizable $2 exacta payout of $104. Smooth as Silk surged for third at 9-2, rounding out a $1 trifecta that paid $302.

Yvette’s Surprise, the 60-1 longshot, rallied for fourth and just missed a photo for third. The $2 superfecta paid $4,626. In other words, the $1 version was $2,303 and the 10-center was $231.

Gamblers who liked the 2-1 favorite could have keyed him on top with the long shots underneath. For $6, you can put a horse first in the trifecta, with three others in the second and third spots. For $6 more, you can put that same horse second with the others filling out the first and third spots.

This was a lower-level race with a big field. Thus, a short-priced favorite paid bettors handsomely with longshots below.

More longshots prevailed on Saturday

A similar plot unfolded in the first on Saturday. Upward Mobility prevailed at 8-1, with 2-1 favorite Old Pal storming up for second. Both at Fault, a 15-1 underdog, completed a sizzling $1 trifecta of $568. Keying Old Pal first and second and getting the right longshot paid for those who used this strategy.

Otherwise, the day belonged to Italian superstar Frankie Dettori. Dettori is making a mark in the Santa Anita meet. He rode four winners, including Freedom Flyer in the featured Wishing Well. Dettori has been the hottest jockey in Santa Anita lately, even when compared to leading rider Juan Hernandez.

Monday fashioned a pleasant-surprise superfecta whopper in a nine-horse field.

With money spread amongst a couple of favorites, Dancing Rinca prevailed in the fifth under Hernandez at 7-2. Quality Wins drifted up from a morning-line of to get second at 22-1. The $2 exacta paid $170.

Classically, 6-1 on the morning line, finished third. Nashoba’s Joy, listed with 8-1 odds, was fourth.

The $1 trifecta paid $735 and the $2 superfecta was $14,418. That’s $720 for the 10-center.

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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