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Racing On Santa Anita’s Iconic Hillside Turf Course To Resume On Friday

James Murphy
by in Horses on
  • Racing will resume on Santa Anita’s iconic hillside turf course on Friday with the running of the Grader 2 Eddie D Stakes.
  • It is one of four stakes races set for the opening day of Santa Anita’s 16 day autumn meet that will run through October 31.
  • The turf course has been idle since a two horse spill during the Grade 3 San Simeon Stakes in March 2019.

After a 30 month layoff, sprint races will once again be held on Santa Anita’s iconic Camino Real Hillside Turf Course starting with the Grade 2, $200,000 USD Eddie D Stakes on Friday. The Eddie D Stakes–named for jockey Eddie Delahoussaye–will be one of four stakes races set for the October 1 opening day card that will kick off Santa Anita’s 16 day autumn race meet that will run through October 31.

Santa Anita stopped using the hillside turf courses during the track’s tragic spate of equine fatalities during the 2019 season. The final race on the unique course was the Grade 3 San Simeon Stakes during which a two horse spill led to concerns that the track itself might be a safety issue. Since then, California racing has taken significant steps in hopes to improve the safety standards at tracks in the state. A panel of racing officials and veterinarians review racing and medical records of horses entered at California tracks in hopes of catching anything problematic. Along with stricter standards for the administration of medication, the hope is to dramatically reduce racing accidents.

Additional safety protocols have been introduced by Santa Anita officials for sprint races on the hillside turf course. For one thing, the track will be used sparingly–fewer than 10 races are expected to be contested on the hillside course during the current race meet. Fields will be limited to ten horses in allowance races and 12 in stakes races. Apprentice jockeys will not be allowed to ride on the hillside course. In addition, horses entered in races on the hillside track will be required to undergo a schooling session within five days of the race. The idea is to familiarize horse and jockey with the course, particularly the crossover from the hillside portion to the main oval.

Santa Anita racing secretary Chris Merz is confident that the new protocols will enhance safety:

“The main thing we’re looking for is to give the horses a chance to see it again. We believe in the protocols that we have in place.”

The hillside course at Santa Anita is unlike any in the sport and provides for some very dramatic racing. Horses break from a gate at the top of the hill before making a right hand bend as they descend. They next encounter a sweeping left hand turn that takes them across the main track before ending up on the turf oval at the top of the stretch. During opening weekend there are three races set for the hillside turf course–the Eddie D Stakes on Friday followed by the $75,000 Unzip Me Stakes and an allowance race on Saturday. Friday will also have three additional turf sprints run on the turf oval.

Handicappers might well note that three runners in the Eddie D Stakes have previous racing experience on the hillside course: Law Abidin Citizen, a hard trying seven year old gelding last competed in the Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar on July 31. He won the 2019 San Simeon Stakes, Law Abidin Citizen has won 4 of his 7 starts on the hillside turf course. His trainer, Mark Glatt, thinks the experience on the hillside course could be an advantage:

“It’d be nice to win the first race back. We know he likes the racing surface. Is it an advantage? I don’t know. I guess one could say that. He’s a good older horse and we have trouble finding the right spots for him. He tries so hard.”

The other two horses in the field with previous experience on the hillside course are Mesut, winner of 2 of his 7 starts here and Caribou Club, winner of 2 of 3 on the turf. Mesut finished third in the 2019 San Simeon Stakes while Caribou Club won the Grade 3 Joe Hernandez Stakes in January 2019. Additional runners in the Eddie D Stakes are Charmaine’s Mia, Gregorian Chant, Lieutenant Dan, Snapper Sinclair, Whisper Not and Chaos Theory. All of the aforementioned horses with the exception Chaos Theory have won stakes races during 2021. Lieutenant Dan is the 7-2 morning line favorite in the race and will break from the #7 post position. The Eddie D Stakes will be the seventh race on Friday’s Santa Anita card with a 7:00 PM Eastern/4 PM Pacific post time.

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