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Santa Anita Set for Day-After-Christmas Meet Opener

Santa Anita Park kicks off its 89th anniversary year of operation Dec. 26 with a traditional day-after-Christmas opening-day program that gets underway early with first post time at 11 a.m. PT.

Santa Anita’s Classic Meet includes 49 days of live Thoroughbred racing ending April 8. Following a 12-day break, Santa Anita will reopen for its 29-day Hollywood Meet April 19. The Hollywood Meet concludes June 16.

Santa Anita is set to hit the ground running Tuesday. Among the opening-day attractions are six graded stakes. This includes six grade 1 races: the $300,000 Malibu Stakes (G1) for 3-year-olds going seven furlongs on the main track; $300,0000 La Brea Stakes (G1) for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs on the main track; and $300,000 American Oaks (G1T) for 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/4 miles on turf.

The remaining opening-day stakes are all grade 2s worth $200,0000 in prize money. They are the Mathis Mile Stakes (G2T) for 3-year-olds on turf, the San Antonio Stakes (G2) going 1 1/16 miles on dirt, and San Gabriel Stakes (G2T) at 1 1/8 miles on turf. Both the San Antonio and San Gabriel are for 3-year-olds and up. 

“I think we’re all excited to get running again,” said Jason Egan, Santa Anita Park director of racing and racing secretary. “Opening day is always a special day for Santa Anita.”

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Egan added this year’s racing program will be similar to those found in recent years.

“There aren’t any big deviations, but we are trying a few modifications to some (race) conditions that hopefully fit our program better,” he noted. “Nothing significant, just a few tweaks to hopefully make things flow a little better.”

As far as the current horse population, Egan said it was “on par” with recent years. With that said, there will be a handful of new trainers with a full-time presence at Santa Anita this season. 

Eastern-based trainers Richard Dutrow and Jonathan Thomas will each have strings here this winter. Dutrow has been allocated 10 stalls. His Santa Anita operation includes White Abarrio , who won the rich Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) Nov. 4.

Thomas has already sent six horses to Santa Anita with up to six more likely to arrive in coming weeks

At least two trainers from Northern California will also have strings at Santa Anita this winter. Both Ed Moger Jr. and Brendan Galvin will have up to 25 horses stabled here by mid-January, according to Egan. Fellow Northern California trainer Jack Steiner is also slated to send a string to Santa Anita later this winter. 

“It can always be better, but I’m not concerned with where we are at,” Egan said of the horse population.

Three Grade 1s Set for Opening Day 

Entries for Tuesday’s opening-day program, which features six graded stakes including three grade 1s, will be taken Dec. 22. Nominations for all six stakes closed Dec. 12. 

The Malibu attracted 13 nominees. They include a quintet for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert: Speed Boat Beach , Fort Bragg , Hejazi , Elwood Blues , and National Treasure . National Treasure, most recently beaten just a nose here in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) Nov. 4, is also nominated to the San Antonio at 1 1/16 miles on the main track. 

The Malibu is also expected to include at least two eastern invaders, Raise Cain  and Damon’s Mound . Raise Cain most recently won the seven-furlong Perryville Stakes Oct. 21 at Keeneland for trainer Ben Colebrook. Damon’s Mound won the Gallant Bob Stakes (G2) going six furlongs at Parx Racing Sept. 23 and most recently was second in the Steel Valley Sprint Stakes at Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course Nov. 20 for trainer Michelle Lovell. 

The La Brea could also include a handful of eastern invaders. Among those nominated are Vahva  and Alva Starr , most recently the one-two finishers in the Raven Run Stakes (G2) at Keeneland Oct. 21 going seven furlongs on dirt, and recent Churchill Downs allowance winner Royal Spa  trained by Rodolphe Brisset. Vahva is trained by Cherie DeVaux while Alva Starr hails from the Brett Brinkman barn.  

Among the leading local contenders for the La Brea are Clearly Unhinged  for trainer Michael McCarthy, who exits a sixth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) Nov. 4; and three fillies trained by Hall of Famer Richard Mandella: grade 3 winner Ice Dancing ; Coffee in Bed ; and Llorona , an impressive debut winner going six furlongs at Del Mar Dec. 1. 

The American Oaks has nine fillies nominated including grade 1 winner Anisette  for trainer Leonard Powell and grade 3 winner Ruby Nell  for Mandella.

This press release has been edited for content and style by BloodHorse Staff.

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