By Ed McNamara
Many questions were asked about the 32 fatal breakdowns during races at Santa Anita in the past 10 months, including two since Sept. 28, during Wednesday’s Breeders’ Cup conference call.
Hall of Fame trainers Bill Mott, Bob Baffert, Richard Mandella and future Hall of Famer Chad Brown said they were not worried about the safety of the horses they will be running at Santa Anita Park on Nov. 1-2.
“I don’t think any of my owners had any reservations about going. I think the main problems came when they had torrential rain for two or three weeks back in the winter. I think that maybe that track doesn’t handle water well … I’m sure Santa Anita and the crew there have done everything they can to have a safe track.” – Mott, who has two horses pre-entered in the BC Classic, Elate, and Yoshida.
“I’d say the track ought to be the least concern of everybody. It’s been very safe for the past six months. [According to the Los Angeles Times, there were no racing fatalities in Southern California from June 10 until Sept. 28.] It’s a dangerous game.” – Mandella, who has Omaha Beach pre-entered in the BC Dirt Mile.
“It’s been concerning watching the situation there from afar, but ultimately I didn’t avoid sending my horses to the Breeders’ Cup due to this issue. I had a lot of questions from clients throughout the summer about it, but I feel confident in the people at Santa Anita.” – Brown, who has multiple horses in the Breeders’ Cup, including Bricks and Mortar in the BC Turf and Sistercharlie in the BC Filly & Mare Turf.
“Not really concerned. I really think it hasn’t crossed my clients’ minds. I think it was a wake-up call for racing, and I think we’ve changed some things for the better. I think now we’re more conscientious, and I don’t have any issues with [the track].” – Baffert, who pre-entered four horses, including McKinzie in the BC Classic.
Ed McNamara is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about thoroughbred racing for 35 years. He has handicapped races for ESPN.com, Newsday and The Record of New Jersey. He is the author of “Cajun Racing: From the Bush Tracks to the Triple Crown” and co-author of “The Most Glorious Crown,” a chronicle of the first 12 Triple Crown champions.