It’s been a while since we checked in with the Answer Man, so let’s clean out the mailbag and address some of your questions:
Q: What’s up with Del Mar limiting attendance on opening day? I can remember when they had 40,000 in past years and it was a marvelous experience. I’m of the opinion that the more merrier.
A: Del Mar began capping its attendance on opening day last year when we were coming out of COVID-19 restrictions. They’ve done the same this year and track officials say attendance on opening day, July 22, will be approximately 21,750 after they announced Thursday that the 10-race card is a sellout. “While this is a little different from how we’ve approached it in the past, the feedback we received from our fans after opening day last year was overwhelmingly positive,” Del Mar CEO Joe Harper said in a statement. “A sellout crowd where everyone has easier access to concessions and betting windows is the right way to get our 83rd racing season off to a strong start.”
Q: What’s the latest on trainer Richard Baltas? I have n’t seen any of his horses run since late during the Santa Anita meet.
A: Baltas recently had a request for an immediate stay in the Los Angeles Superior Court turned down that would have ended the denial of his entries in Southern California. On May 8, Santa Anita owner 1/ST Racing banned Baltas from working or running horses at any of its tracks. The California Horse Racing Board subsequently issued a complaint against the 61-year-old trainer, alleging that a surveillance camera caught his employees administering higenamine and paeonol to 23 of his horses on race day, prohibited by CHRB rules. The former drug is a stimulant banned in horse racing, and paeonol is an anti-inflammatory that is not approved for use in horses. Baltas tried to enter horses at Los Alamitos during its recent LA County Fair meet, but the stewards denied the entries. The latest court ruling means Baltas could miss the entire Del Mar meet since the next step in his case, a trial-setting conference, is not scheduled until Sept. 29 – 18 days after the summer meet ends.
Q: I noticed you and the rest of the voting panel for the Breeders’ Cup Classic Top 10 contenders have a high regard for Life Is Good, ranking him third in the recent poll. Why the love for a horse that faded to fourth in the Dubai World Cup, his only try of him at the Classic’s distance of a mile and a quarter?
A: Life Is Good is one of the most talented horses in the nation. He deserves another shot. You don’t give up on a horse with as much talent as Life Is Good after one race. I seem to recall a horse named Authentic, who a lot of “experts” dismissed in the 2020 Kentucky Derby because he almost blew a huge lead in the stretch of the Haskell Stakes that year. They argued since the Haskell was a mile and an eighth, no way he could successfully navigate the Derby’s mile-and-a-quarter distance. Well, Authentic won the Derby by 1 1/4 lengths. So much for the skeptics who wrote off Authentic after one race.
Q: Who’s your Horse of the Year midway through 2022?
A: Talent-wise, it’s Flightline, but there’s a long way to go before any horse sews up this year’s battle for the most prestigious of the Eclipse Awards. You can’t dismiss Life Is Good. Preakness winner Early Voting and Belmont champ Mo Donegal are two 3-year-olds who could stamp their candidacy with strong second halves of the year. There’s a lot of big races between now and the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 5. Is Olympiad for real? Will Hot Rod Charlie put it all together and start winning races? Let’s see how Flightline fares in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Sept. 3.
Q: Why all of these short two- and three-week meetings at Los Alamitos? There is no turf racing, which I love, and most of the horses are of cheaper quality. I’d just as soon see Santa Anita and Del Mar lengthen their meets and let Los Alamitos have the quarter horses.
A: The Southern California racing community owes a great deal of gratitude to Los Alamitos owner Dr. Ed Allred for coming to its rescue when Hollywood Park closed in December 2013. Where would many thoroughbreds have been housed if not for Allred and Los Alamitos? Plus, the three Los Alamitos meets each year afford the smaller horsemen their chance at success. If anything, you could argue that Los Alamitos deserves another week or two each year for stepping up and doing more than its share.
Follow Art Wilson on Twitter @Sham73