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.