SANTA ANITA’S WINTER MEET OPENING DAY MOVED TO SATURDAY, DEC. 28, AS WET FORECAST INTO THURSDAY KEYS TWO-DAY POSTPONEMENT
RUNHAPPY MALIBU STAKES HEADLINES 11 RACE PROGRAM FEATURING SEVEN STAKES RACES; FIRST POST TIME SET AT 11 A.M.
ARCADIA, Calif. (Dec. 23, 2019)–With significant rain expected to continue through Thursday, Santa Anita Park previously announced that it has shifted its 2019-20 Winter Meet opening day two days to Saturday, Dec. 28. Santa Anita was hit with heavy rains overnight and into Monday morning and additional rain is forecast into Thursday. Accordingly, with equine and rider safety of paramount concern, Santa Anita made the decision which will now result in a blockbuster 11-race card Saturday, with first post time at 11 a.m.
The traditional opening day feature race will be the Grade I, $300,000 Runhappy Malibu Stakes at seven furlongs. This marks the beginning of a partnership honoring the 2015 Malibu Stakes winner Runhappy, who raced medication-free throughout his career. That year’s champion sprinter, Runhappy now stands at stud at Claiborne Farm in Paris, KY. James “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, who campaigned champion Runhappy, was very supportive of the opening day shift to Saturday.
“With equine safety and the most progressive medication policies in America, Santa Anita is doing the right things in making this move to Saturday and for leading the way in reducing race-day medications,” said McIngvale. “The Malibu is an important race and Runhappy’s win is one we’ll forever cherish. This is the direction American racing must go in and we are very proud to be a part of it here at Santa Anita.”
Hall of Fame conditioner Richard Mandella, who will saddle one of Saturday’s marquee horses, Omaha Beach, in the Grade I, $300,000 Runhappy Malibu Stakes at seven furlongs, also was supportive of the opening day shift to Saturday.
“It should make for a big opening weekend, which we need,” said Mandella this morning. “Running the Runhappy Malibu two days later than expected won’t make much difference to Omaha Beach. He’s as good as he can be.”
The Runhappy Malibu will be complemented by the Grade I, $300,000 La Brea Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs, along with the Grade II, $200,000 Mathis Brothers Mile (turf), the Grade II, $200,000 San Antonio and the $75,000 Lady of Shamrock Stakes. In addition to all of the stakes that were originally scheduled for Thursday, two additional graded races, the Grade I, $300,000 American Oaks, for 3-year-old fillies at a mile and one quarter on turf and the Grade III Robert J. Frankel, for fillies and mares three and up at 1 1/8 miles on turf, will be included among a total of seven stakes on Saturday.
There have been substantial advancements since Santa Anita opened last year. Along with modernizing medication policies plus instituting new racing and training protocols, earlier this month, the Southern California Equine Foundation in the Santa Anita barn area took delivery of a standing PET Scan targeting detection of pre-existing conditions. A standing MRI machine is set to arrive in early January.
First post time for Saturday’s 11-race program is at 11 a.m., with admission gates opening at 9 a.m. All fans will receive Santa Anita’s traditional wall calendar free with paid admission. For additional information, please visit santaanita.com or call (626) 574-RACE.