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Santa Anita Park’s culture must change to stop slide; Hire racing sec, go after every top claimer in land

By Warren Eves

Santa Anita’s plunge from greatness can be fixed.

I was among many who wrote Tim Ritvo in regard to this issue weeks ago.

This week I felt compelled to follow it up.

Here’s what I sent Ritvo.

Longtime California linemaker Terry Turrell sparked this follow-up communique. Terry asked me if you had responded. My answer was no! I said most likely you had received too much mail to respond.

The more I am told Santa Anita’s fall from grace cannot be fixed, the more I am convinced otherwise.

The fact that I’m the senior turf writer in the land means zip. The other fact is I care deeply about the once great circuit I cut my racetrack teeth on. And…..I remain fixed with an opine there is a remedy.

I’ve been out of SoCal’s immediate circle for many years. That’s why I feel my perspective may have even more objectivity.

Perceptions of Santa Anita Park have been etched in stone for eons.

In my first transmission I said you had to look no further than your racing office for a fix.

The culture at Santa Anita has to change! You cannot continue doing business as usual.

For the past two years I have been working for one of the biggest gamblers in the world, I have a sound idea where the gambling whales of our world go and bet.

During those years I was turf editor for the Pasadena Independent Star News I had to deal with stepping on toes in my columns. Hurting one’s feelings? Those are issues I no longer have to deal with.

Fact! Gamblers do not, and as a majority, will not wager on your five and six-horse fields. You don’t need me to tell you that. I’m merely setting the table. Yes, those bridge jumpers will take their shots, but true gamblers will not.

For most of my adult years Santa Anita Park rightfully claimed they were above all rival horse racing venues. The director of racing set the standards. Santa Anita’s F.E. “Jimmy” Kilroe set them. He didn’t adopt them. That picture has changed.

Here’s the answer:

1. Drop your lower claiming level to $4,000. For eons Santa Anita rightfully was entitled to the pompous opinion their racing was above all competition. They scoffed when anyone suggested dropping their bottom claiming level a notch or two.

2. Put a full out advertising campaign in motion. Let the racing world know things have changed in Arcadia, California. More importantly, dispatch young aggressive foot soldiers to all nooks and crannys of the horse racing world. Let it be known beyond a doubt Santa Anita Park is ready to treat small outfits with the same reverance they have given their elite to fault for many years.

3. Throw caution to the wind. Go after every competitive lower-level claiming horse in far away places like Pocatello, Colorado, New Mexico, Ohio, Canada and beyond. If a small outfit has a competitive plater, no matter what his local ties may be, offer that trainer and his owners additional stalls. Make it attractive for factions to re-locate to the big apple. Make dreams come true with realistic promises.

4. Set aside far more than one of two barns for the influx of lower level equine claiming stock. Instruct your new racing secretary to write a condition book with a healthy percentage of races for $3,500, $4,000, $5,000 and $6,000 claiming horses. Allot a good portion of the purse budget for this change. Put this new culture in place.

5. Announce a cash bonus award system is being put in place for the trainer and/or owner who runs in these lower level claiming races. Every time a horse starts–pay that stable a bonus.

6. Fire the current racing secretary. Hire a young, aggressive person to put a road-team together to cultivate this new culture.

Here’s what I know. For five decades my travels have taken me to a myriad of horse racing venues coast to coast. Fact! Most jockeys would love to ride at Santa Anita Park. Proof of this? Look at the current roster of new faces riding in SoCal despite fierce competition for a limited equine population.

Bet on it. Most trainers, if they are given an opportunity to race at famed Santa Anita Park for healthy lower level claiming purses, will jump at the chance. The reputation of the famed racing operation has tempered the value of the claiming horse for too long.

This is why a change in horse racing culture will put Santa Anita back on a positive trend.

The day and age of these $100,000K so-called graded races with four and five horse fields has run the game into the ground.

Change the culture.

Notes scribbled on my program--Boy could famed Yonkers use a veteran announcer like Roger Houston at The Meadows. The old timer is awesome. He lets you know what’s going on, unlike what you get at Yonkers, and his calls which are legendary are incredibly good. Boy do I like the work of Mr. Houston and may have have many more years at the microphone…………….I was wrong. I thought they would retire Arrogate after his horrible effort in the San Diego Handicap. He had not trained well since returning from Dubai and this is one time “Baffy” let his ego get in the way. Arrogate did not look like his self the opening yards of the Pacific Classic. Nor did he appear comfortable moving into the first turn. You knew he was in trouble midway on the second turn. Once in the straight he was up for second behind his stablemate. Opinion. The announcement of Arrogate’s retirement will be forthcoming……………For the life of me I can’t explain why the publicity department at Emerald Downs did not come up with some sort of a tribute to the late Jim Penney. When I looked up the history of the Longacres Mile I knew Penney had done well in the event that used to be run in Renton, Washington, but not five times. Edneator(2000), Sabertooth(2002) and Flamethrowintexan(2006) were three of Penny’s winners in the Longacres Mile…………..Speaking of announcers we like, Jim Beviglia is really good at what he does on the microphone at Pocono Downs. “And around the turn they go,” is his signature call as the horses score into the turn before they reach the back where the races start……………Did you know Charley Whittingham won the Longacres Mile in 1987 when he sent Judge Angelucci up the road and Gary Baze was named to ride the Olin Gentry runner………….Word came down Sunday night August 19 after the Pacific Classic that some sharp horse players had singled the other “Baffy” runner in the pick six other than odds-on hoice Arrogate. How many writers questioned the “Baffy” decision to run Arrogate despite his last race?

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About The Author

Warren Eves
Warren Eves is a senior turf writer from the state of California who calls Pearl River, Louisiana his home. The one time editor of the Pasadena Independent Star News moved on to handle publicity for racetracks coast to coast. Eves gained his first exposure to the racetrack through a school buddy the late Art Lerille, Jr., who eventually became a trainer in California. Warren worked as farm manager for crack two-year-old trainer Ray Priddy, before holding on track jobs at the racetrack. He worked for Hall of Fame trainer M.E. "Buster" Millerick, Allen Drumheller, Jr., and Dick Moon. Eves has a well rounded background in all breeds. He developed Quarter Horse Report in 1979 with Ed Burgart, track announcer, at Los Alamitos Race Course. It was an innovative publication which revolutionized the industry with actual descriptions of the workouts. While handling publicity at Saratoga Raceway in upstate New York Eves was named employee of the year in 1970. He also handled publicity for Sunland Park, Centennial Park, Ascot Park, Thistledown, and two harness meetings in California. Eves then went into the 900-line business with his best plays and has compiled his own Kentucky Derby ratings for many years. In 1997 he began going back and forth to Las Vegas teaming up with Ralph Siraco to create the long runining radio show Raceday Las Vegas. Eves has produced and directed many horse racing shows on both radio and television. In 2010 he got a call from Mark Geiger. That's when he began writing www.pricehorsecentral.com. Eves, with a reputation of a trip handicapper, is known for his video tape scrutiny. He currently monitors horse racing in for a major horseplayer. While writing for Ridder Publication at the Pasadena Star News his investigative reporting was highly regarded by his peers. Often on the cutting edge, Eves has been given the green light to write about what issues he sees fit to cover. Have a question. His book "Hold All Tickets" is soon to be made available for those who come to this site. It's a factual account of actual events and happenings that took place in the 70s, 80s and 90s. If Warren doesn't know the answer to a question you may have, he'll tell you up front. Eves won't drop it there, however, he'll find someone who knows the answer and get back to you.

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