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Nothing Like Opening Day

Posted by on 12/30/2015 3:48:22 AM

Home openers in baseball, basketball, football and at racetracks around the country carry a special joy and the throng that showed up at Santa Anita for the seasonal opener last Saturday were treated to quality on top of quality.

They say horseracing is on a down curve but the 44,873 faithful that were witnesses in Arcadia Saturday didn’t get the memo.

The crowd, on track and off track, pushed nearly $11 million through windows.

The meeting could not have started better for Santiago Gonzalez. The rider has been gaining momentum during the last several months and he has solidified his position in this Southern Californian jockey colony.

Gonzalez won the first race and took the daily double on Saturday. And two of his mounts ran 2nd at 6 and 9-1.

Being in a stalking position on dirt was the place to attack. On grass, the course played fair. In the first turf race of the meet the Phil D’Amato runner Toowindytohaulrox came from third to last at 21-1 to win down the tricky hillside turf course. He was followed home by a 52-1 and a 41-1 shot to key a near $11,000 $1 trifecta.

Mike Smith showed his versatility as a Hall of Fame rider getting Dancing Candy to graduate in wire-to-wire fashion on dirt and then Smith wont he Grade 1 La Brea coming from dead last on the 10-1 shot Birdatthewire.

In the showcased race Runhappy proved his win in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint was no fluke when he went :44 and big change in the 7-furlong Grade 1 Malibu and just kept going to win by over 3 and a half lengths as the prohibitive chalk.

In the final opening day What a View was put on the lead by Kent Desormeaux and the runner extended from there to pass his N2X condition. He is trained Kenny Black, a former rider that had his demons but was a very, very good rider.

Gary Stevens was aloft Runhappy and he was nearly giddy after the race, Stevens: “He blows me away. It was on the second time I’ve sat on him (first in a race) and to feel that power coming into the stretch was awesome. It was harder to pull him up today, than to ride him in the race. There was some oil on the reins and they were slipping. My hand slipped off of his mane coming away from the gate. He usually breaks a step slow but he broke like a quarter horse today.”

Mike Smith had his doubts about Birdatthewire in the La Brea because of the runners style but that melted away quickly, Smith: “Before the race I thought that we might have a tough time getting there in time but during the running of the race, we were already in contention at the quarter pole. Trainer Dale Romans told me she likes to run out when she is making a run ‘so just let her’. We were way past the middle of the track but she kept running.”

Both of these quality sprinters will put in sensational performances all meeting.


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