Before the racing action at Santa Anita Park picks up with eight stakes races this weekend, including the $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes (G1) Sept. 30, the track's 19-day autumn meet kicks into gear Sept. 29 with the $100,000 Chillingworth Stakes (G3) leading the opening-day program.
Santa Anita last ran in June, after which afternoon Thoroughbred racing in Southern California shifted to a short meet at Los Alamitos Race Course, one at Del Mar, and yet another at Los Alamitos. Seventy horses and four also-eligibles were entered in nine races Friday at Santa Anita.
A 6 1/2-furlong main-track sprint, the Chillingworth serves as a local prep for the Nov. 4 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) at seven furlongs, though without a "Win and You're In" designation. Two years ago, when the Breeders' Cup was last in California, Bo Hirsch's Ce Ce took both races for trainer Michael McCarthy.
Friday's seven-horse race drew five older females, among them the likely favorite, last-out Rancho Bernardo Stakes (G3) winner Eda, unbeaten in her last seven starts dating to October 2021, and two 3-year-old fillies, led by the top-level stakes-placed Clearly Unhinged.
The latter, a daughter of Into Mischief owned by Rock Brother Racing and trained by McCarthy, won two of her first three starts—both sprints—before traveling to Saratoga Race Course and finishing second, beaten a head by Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Pretty Mischievous, in the Aug. 5 Test Stakes (G1). That race was marred by the fatal breakdown of midstretch leader Maple Leaf Mel.
Clearly Unhinged clipped heels and bobbled slightly leaving the backstretch, according to the Equibase chart.
"I thought it was a gallant effort in the Test," McCarthy said. "She did kind of bobble a bit and didn't have the cleanest of trips."
Clearly Unhinged returned to Southern California after the Test and has been breezing regularly, first at Del Mar and most recently at Santa Anita.
As a 3-year-old facing older fillies and mares and not yet a stakes winner, the rail-drawn filly gets a weight break to carry 118 pounds with Umberto Rispoli in the saddle.
By comparison, Baoma Corp.'s 4-year-old Munnings filly Eda tacks a co-high 126 pounds with jockey Juan Hernandez. She is one of two fillies in the field trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, the other being Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman's longshot Home Cooking.
"This is a tough race," Baffert said. "McCarthy's horse is fast. That's a serious filly."
- Little Red Feather's Monrovia Stakes (G3) winner Elm Drive, trained by Phil D'Amato, shortens to a sprint after setting the pace and fading to third in the 1 1/16-mile Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1) at Del Mar.
- Kirstenbosch, who won the La Canada Stakes (G3) for trainer John Sadler and owner Keith Abrahams early this year, finished second, beaten a length and a half by Eda, in rallying in the Rancho Bernardo.
Admission and parking are free on opening day, as they are for most Fridays during the meet.
Opening day also marks the first day of the track's new $3 Santa Anita Pick 3 wager, comprised of the final three turf races on each day's card. Also back as part of the wagering lineup is a conventional Pick Six.
Following Friday and Saturday's four-stakes card, another quartet of stakes are on deck Oct. 1, with the $200,000 John Henry Turf Championship (G2T) and Zenyatta Stakes (G2) being the two richest. Four of the track's nine stakes this week will be on grass.
"I think it's going to be a good meet, capped by our 11th time hosting the Breeders' Cup," said Jason Egan, Santa Anita's director of racing and racing secretary. "We're obviously going to lean into the turf like we have the last couple of years. The front half of the meet especially will be heavy on the grass. We'll be a bit limited on turf the second half with the Breeders' Cup being here, due to rail settings and things like that. But we're still going to run what we can to accommodate our horsemen."
Next week, much of the stakes action is geared toward 2-year-olds, including the American Pharoah Stakes (G1) and Chandelier Stakes (G2), official qualifiers for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), respectively. They join the Awesome Again and Oct. 7 Rodeo Drive Stakes (G2T) as designated races within the Breeders' Cup Challenge Series: Win and You're In.
Already, Breeders' Cup Classic hopeful White Abarrio is on the grounds from the East Coast to train up to the race for trainer Rick Dutrow. A group of Steve Asmussen trainees are expected Sept. 26—among them Echo Zulu, Clairiere, Gunite , and Society—followed the next day by Arcangelo , the Travers Stakes (G1) winner for trainer Jena Antonucci.
Santa Anita Park, Friday, September 29, 2023, Race 8
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Clearly Unhinged (KY) Umberto Rispoli 118 Michael W. McCarthy 4/1 2 2Home Cooking (KY) Edwin A. Maldonado 118 Bob Baffert 12/1 3 3Kirstenbosch (KY) Hector Isaac Berrios 126 John W. Sadler 8/1 4 4Elm Drive (KY) Ricardo Gonzalez 126 Philip D'Amato 3/1 5 5Eda (KY) Juan J. Hernandez 126 Bob Baffert 4/5 6 6Violent Runner (KY) Mario Gutierrez 122 Steve R. Knapp 30/1 7 7Lady T (KY) Mike E. Smith 126 John A. Shirreffs 12/1
Santa Anita Park, Friday, September 29, 2023, Race 8