By Margaret Ransom
Live racing in Southern California moves to Los Alamitos Race Course in Orange County on Friday (Dec. 4) with an eight-race thoroughbred card, which gets underway at 1 p.m. PT.
The Los Angeles County Fair winter thoroughbred meet will race three days this week but will operate on a Thursday-through-Sunday schedule for the next two weeks through closing day on Dec. 20.
The all-thoroughbred daytime meet is a complement to the track’s usual night racing, which consists of quarter horse and mixed quarter horse/thoroughbred races. And once again, live action will take place without spectators due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Licensed owners with horses running will be permitted, however, with up to two adult guests. Concessions and pari-mutuel windows will also be open for those in attendance.
In addition to the standard win, place, show, exacta, trifecta, superfecta and daily doubles, the wagering menu includes a $2 Pick Six, two $1 Pick 4s on races two through five and the last four, as well as the popular Players’ Pick 5, a 50 cents minimum wager on the first five races that offers a low takeout rate of 14%. Also, the Pick Six will have the standard 70/30 split with 70% of the pool going to those tickets with six winners and the remaining 30% going to tickets with five of six winners.
This Saturday’s main event is the $300,000 Starlet Stakes (G1), a 2-year-old fillies race contested at 1 1/16 miles. The race, formerly known as the Hollywood Starlet, boasts some impressive previous winners, including Outstandingly, Goodbye Halo, Sardula, Serena’s Song, Cara Rafaela, Surfside, Blind Luck, Take Charge Brandi, Abel Tasman and Bast a year ago.
Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas has saddled a record eight winners, but Bob Baffert is hot on his heels with six, including the last three, and this year sends out Zedan Racing Stable Inc.’s Del Mar Debutante (G1) winner Princess Noor. The daughter of Not This Time is coming off of an even fifth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), which was her first career defeat in her fourth start. She also won the Chandelier Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita in late September. Regular jockey Victor Espinoza will be back aboard.
Baffert will also be represented by Rockingham Ranch and David Bernsen’s Anokia Stakes winner Kalypso, who will be ridden by Abel Cedillo in her first start around two turns; and Baoma Corp.’s Varda, who will carry Drayden Van Dyke again and who hasn’t raced since finishing second to the favorite in the Chandelier Stakes.
The other two runners to complete the five-horse Starlet field include recent Desi Arnaz Stakes winner Astute, trained by Richard Mandella and ridden by Mike Smith; and the Michael McCarthy-conditioned Nasreddine coming off a maiden win at Del Mar a month ago. Tiago Pereira will ride again.
Four other stakes, two graded, will be offered during the brief meeting – the $100,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) on Sunday (Dec. 6); $100,000 Soviet Problem Stakes for Cal-bred juvenile fillies on Dec. 12; the $200,000 Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) for 2-year-old males on Dec. 19; and the $100,000 King Glorious Stakes for Cal-bred juvenile colts and geldings on Dec. 20.
Both the Startlet and Futurity are Road to the Kentucky Derby and Road to the Kentucky Oaks qualifiers toward next year’s Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Kentucky Derby (G1), presented by Woodford Reserve, at Churchill Downs.
The Los Angeles County Fair winter meet comes on the heels of two exceptionally safe seasons for horses at both Santa Anita and Del Mar in which there were no racing or training fatalities at either track.
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com, where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters: Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.
After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager.
She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several racehorse retirement organizations, including CARMA.
In 2016, Margaret was the recipient of the prestigious Stanley Bergstein Writing Award, sponsored by Team Valor, and was an Eclipse Award honorable mention for her story, “The Shocking Untold Story of Maria Borell,” which appeared on USRacing.com. The article and subsequent stories helped save 43 abandoned and neglected Thoroughbreds in Kentucky and also helped create a new animal welfare law known as the “Borell Law.”
Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull and Arrogate as her favorite horses of all time. She lives in Pasadena with her longtime beau, Tony, two Australian Shepherds and one Golden Retriever.