The opening day of Santa Anita’s 83rd season will be postponed two days until Saturday, December 28th, ahead of next week’s declining weather forecast.

“Opening Day is traditionally one of our biggest days of the year, but our commitment to safety is first and foremost,” said Aidan Butler, Acting Executive Director of California for The Stronach Group. “It was very important to make this call as early as possible for our horsemen, fans and employees. There are many moving parts, especially in the training of these wonderful horses, and this decision is being made at this time out of respect to give all involved plenty of advance notice.”

“It is very difficult to predict weather forecasts in Southern California more than 48 hours in advance,” said Dennis Moore, who has returned to his responsibilities overseeing Santa Anita track surfaces. “Right now, they have rain Monday through Thursday morning. But the models are continuing to change and when they do that, they are usually building up moisture.”

It would be the first time since the 1976-77 winter season that Santa Anita has not opened on December 26th. Santa Anita last opened on December 28th in 1976. Last year’s opening day on-track attendance was 41,373, with an all-time opening day handle record of over $20-million
from VSiN

One thing I have learned in interviewing, ... er, ... conversing with Mandella is that he does not waste time embellishing answers with unnecessary small talk. But he also has a dry, playful sense of humor. Sometimes his short answers are a test to see if he is the only one in on a clever joke.

But he can also be expansive when he has something to say. Like when I pressed him about Omaha Beach’s runner-up finish as the even-money favorite last month at Santa Anita in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

“Maybe I was worried about having him dropping back to a sprint to sharpen him up,” Mandella said, referring to the previous month’s victory in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship after a six-month layoff to deal with a throat problem and a virus. “Maybe I got a little too easy on him, thinking about calming him down to those two turns. I might have taken a little of the starch out of him, because he was a little flat that day. I blame myself before I blame him.”

If morning workouts this month are any indication, Omaha Beach (4-5 morning line) has found his starch again preparing for this weekend’s cutback to seven furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track. The two-time Grade 1 winner sired by War Front fired three bullets on that same course, including Sunday’s 34.0-second work over three furlongs. Yes. 34.0.

“We didn’t intend to go so fast,” Mandella said. “But it was a very busy track after the break, and horses broke off working by themselves. He was behind them, and he just had to catch them.”

Starting with jockey Mike Smith from the outside post, Omaha Beach may have to do that again in Saturday’s 6 p.m. EST feature. Even though there are only four other 3-year-olds in the race, trainer Bob Baffert’s pace-setting allowance winner Much Better (12-1) figures to bolt from his rail post with blinkers added. And with Javier Castellano getting the ride, trainer Chad Brown ships in last year’s Grade 1 Champagne Stakes winner Complexity (5-2) to chase the pace in only his third start since a 10th-place finish in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.


TYVM Morgan William!!!
Dec. 26: Very cold , rainy and windy to start the day but after that it was nice

Dec. 27: It has been cool but sunny all day (and as I post this)