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No Winners Betting on Santa Anita's Misfortunes

Even seasoned bettors could not have picked Santa Anita to hit such a losing streak in the last several years.

Who would have bet on to run into such a stretch of bad luck?

Just a couple years ago things were looking pretty great For the Great Race Place. The city had unanimously approved a giant retail center called Shops at Santa Anita on the vast vacant parking lot of the track, which which promised to enormously enhance the track economically and visually, especially from Huntington Drive.

The Breeders’ Cup also came back to town and was so successful that Cup officials made an unprecedented decision to return the very next year. Officials were even on the verge of declaring Santa Anita the permanent home for Breeders’ Cup.

Even the venerable track surface itself got a much-ballyhooed major makeover with a synthetic material that would make it much safer for horses than regular old dirt.

Well, a lot can happen in a few years. First, filed a lawsuit within days of the City Council’s approval of Caruso’s Shops that put the brakes on that project indefinitely.

The new surface on the track didn’t drain properly, causing a record number of rainouts and sparking tens of millions more dollars to be spent on a new synthetic track and finally a return to good old dirt.

Just as the track was suffering unprecedented rainouts, the economy was washing out attendance and betting. That led to track owners declaring bankruptcy. Then track owners chose to void the retail project deal with Caruso and booted out longstanding and much beloved Oak Tree Racing.

All of that led to the Breeders’ Cup people giving up on Santa Anita for the time being. To top it off, industry dynamics are changing, which is leading to more enticing incentives for horse owners to take their thoroughbreds to other states, leaving Santa Anita with dwindling numbers of horses to race.  Meanwhile, heavy rains continue to wreak havoc on race days.

So, at the moment, there is no Shops at Santa Anita project coming for now, though ; there is no more Oak Tree Racing, though Santa Anita will stage its own fall meet this year; there is nothing locked in for any future Breeders’ Cup, though discussions have reignited; and there is no synthetic track. Concerns have resurrected about horse injuries and deaths, and attendance and betting handles continue worrisome declines.

, attendance was down to fewer than 2,200 last Wednesday, causing track officials to scrub the added racing day after only one week, citing a lack of horses as the primary factor.

It’s gotten so bad lately that on Tokyo City Cup Day at Santa Anita Saturday, someone even tried to steal a bucket of donations being collected for aid to victims of Japan’s disaster trifecta of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear radiation leaks.

But, hey, just as no one could have foreseen this rough stretch of luck for Santa Anita, perhaps we will all be just as surprised by how quickly the fortunes of Santa Anita turn another 180 degrees to the track’s favor in the coming months. All that’s needed is a little luck, or should I say, .

Read more by Scott Hettrick at ArcadiasBest.com.

SheldonG March 30, 2011 at 01:50 PM
The reason for this mess can be summed up in two words. Dennis Mills. How he keeps his job in any capacity with Frank Stronach is just impossible to believe. He used over $600,000 in public money to buy "office supplies". Dennis Mills in any capacity is an anchor for the organization.
Vicki Vinson March 30, 2011 at 04:10 PM
I call the Great Race Place, my home away from home. I live in the high desert so I don't get to the track as often as I would like, but try to go once or twice a month during live racing. The other tracks in Southern California and heck most of them across the country do not hold a candle to Santa Anita. It makes me sad to see things go up and down with the track. As far as the race surface goes, horses have been running on dirt (and grass) forever, and no matter what the surface is there will always be some kind of problem and some people who don't like it, that is horse racing. The past history of Santa Anita puts it in the spotlight, even though tracks across the United States face these kind of problems every day. I love Santa Anita!
Larry Stewart April 01, 2011 at 03:52 PM
What an excellent capsule look at what ails Santa Anita. There are no quick or easy solutions in fixing all that is troubling within the sport of horse racing, but all the in-fighting doesn't help. It seems all the different organizations have their own agenda and keep bashing each other. It's worse than the sport of boxing, which is saying a lot.

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