The opening day of Santa Anita’s 83rd season will be postponed two days until Saturday, December 28th, ahead of next week’s declining weather forecast.
“Opening Day is traditionally one of our biggest days of the year, but our commitment to safety is first and foremost,” said Aidan Butler, Acting Executive Director of California for The Stronach Group. “It was very important to make this call as early as possible for our horsemen, fans and employees. There are many moving parts, especially in the training of these wonderful horses, and this decision is being made at this time out of respect to give all involved plenty of advance notice.”
“It is very difficult to predict weather forecasts in Southern California more than 48 hours in advance,” said Dennis Moore, who has returned to his responsibilities overseeing Santa Anita track surfaces. “Right now, they have rain Monday through Thursday morning. But the models are continuing to change and when they do that, they are usually building up moisture.”
It would be the first time since the 1973-74 winter season that Santa Anita has not opened on December 26th. Santa Anita last opened on December 28th in 1971. Last year’s opening day on-track attendance was 41,373, with an all-time opening day handle record of over $20-million.
“The stakes races set for Thursday will be brought back on Saturday,” said Steve Lym, Santa Anita’s VP & Director of Racing. “With the rain in the forecast, it was extremely likely that the races would be off the turf on Thursday. Postponing opening day will allow for the high quality turf racing synonymous with Santa Anita. We are planning on filling extra races throughout the opening week to give our horsemen the opportunity to run their horses.”
Among the horses set to run is Fox Hill Farm’s Omaha Beach, the likely heavy favorite in the Grade 1 Runhappy Malibu Stakes, now set for Saturday. “They are doing the right thing by moving the races,” said Richard Mandella, Omaha Beach’s Hall of Fame trainer. “I’m just very happy to be in the race with this horse.”
Entries for Opening Day will be drawn on Monday, December 23rd, which was scheduled to be the entry day for that Saturday.
Santa Anita’s revised Opening Week schedule has live racing Saturday, December 28th and Sunday, December 29th; New Year’s Day Wednesday, January 1st, and Friday, January 3rd through Sunday, January 5th.
Via Santa Anita Press release