Power Cap

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19 March 2008

Breeders Cup Two Consecutive Years At Santa Anita

The Breeders Cup Ladies day has been the hot button issue and has stoked the fires of many fans on both sides of the argument. Another issue that is not getting as much discussion is Santa Anita hosting the Breeders Cup for two consecutive years. The main issues are the hot weather, the travel for European Shippers and the unknown surface. With all of these concerns and I felt that it was a mistake that Santa Anita was awarded an unprecedented two consecutive Breeders Cups. This is a track that is struggling with the surface and nobody can say for sure what type of surface the 2008 breeders cup will be run over.

While we can assume that the surface will be sorted out over the next seven months, it is an absolute risk to run a event like the Breeders Cup on the assumption that the ground under the horses hooves will be sound. Any injuries or ugly incidents and the finger of blame will be pointed to Santa Anita, and their incompetent management of their surface. This could be the first Breeders Cup run over a synthetic surface but who really knows what the surface will be at this point. There is such a diversity of synthetic surfaces, from the fast Hollywood cushion track to the waxy quicksand-like Del Mar polytrack. This uncertainly must make long term plans challenging as horses can not get a race over the surface. What ever Santa Anita installs will play a huge role in determining which horse excels in the 2008 breeders cup. Never has there been so much uncertainty leading up to the event. What if the unproven, freshly minted surface has drainage or safety issues? There will be very little time to make corrections and the pressure to run is tremendous.

The issue of weather is usually a problem wherever a Breeders Cup is run. Running at Santa Anita has issues unique to the desert climate. Last year at Monmouth the Breeders Cup was run under a constant deluge and the drops did not stop falling from Wednesday until Saturday. It seems like the move to run in the desert at Santa Anita for two consecutive years was a reaction to get as far away from the driving rain of the Jersey shore in Autumn. Another weather issue that of a Breeders Cup location is the biting cold of Belmont's North facing Grandstand, not the most pleasant place to be for many in late October. The weather issue with Santa Anita is the hellish heat. Santa Anita's inland location is far enough from the ocean that it does not get the cool Pacific breezes of Del Mar or Hollywood. Santa Anita is basically in the desert. The 2003 Breeders Cup was bone dry hot. As soon as the sun rose it was in the 90's and the earth was on fire with the Santa Ana winds stoking wildfires from San Diego to San Bernardino. The smoke filled, smoggy air compromised many horses. Not only did the Eastern and European horses have to acclimate to a hot dry climate they had to acclimate to running with smoke and ash in the air. Volponi shipped back to New York from the 2003 Breeders Cup with a lung full of ash, mucus and blood. The classic is run at at the height of the heat at 3pm to accommodate the eastern time zone TV slot. No wonder local boy Mandella won four races with three longshots, as his horses had the edge of acclimation.

The other issue with running at Santa Anita is the travel issues. California is 3000 miles from New York and it is a long ship to a place with a inhospitable climate for horses that have begun to grow their winter coats. For Europeans it is a very long plane journey and climate acclimation issues may prevent many shippers from contesting the Breeders Cup. Combine the hot dry weather with the currency conversion issues reducing the Breeders Cup purses and the ship from Stanstead / Shannon /Amsterdam to LAX is not very appealing. Running at Santa Anita for two consecutive years means that Europeans horseman and fans may just lose touch with the event.

Santa Anita is a undoubtedly a beautiful setting, the San Gabriel mountains beyond the backstretch make for one of the most appealing vistas in America. However running the Breeders Cup for two consecutive years at a track with a unsettled surface is a mistake. Breeders Cup is going to alienate the Europeans running under oppressively hot conditions for two consecutive years. When the Breeders Cup is done with Santa Anita in 2009 we may find an event that has lost much of its stature within the global industry. The Breeders Cup may have squandered much of its global appeal at a time when the Breeders Cup is attempting to expand. The Breeders Cup seems to be losing ground to other championship type racing events in Dubai, Hong Kong and Japan.


Anonymous said...

YOu make very truthful and valid points.
I've disliked the synthetic surfaces since their conception mainly because I find no rhyme or reason to the results.
I also, to be perectly honest, am not a big fan of change.
Most of the bigger tracks have gone poly and I just really hope and pray NYRA doesn't follow suit.
Why fix what isn't broken?? Surfacewise I mean.
Anyway Greg, nice job on this site. Hope you get a few more hits.
Take care,

G. C. said...

Hey Ben,
Not a big fan of wagering on the poly either. There was a time when I wase a big Keeneland player but I did not wager a dime there last fall. Hopefully NYRA keeps the dirt tracks alive. Thanks for the comments.