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Horseracing Update: Santa Anita Racetrack Set for Upgrades; Trainer Chip Woolley Suspended for 6 Months

Posted by: Hilbert Mayer
Horseracing Update Santa Anita Racetrack Set for Upgrades; Trainer Chip Woolley Suspended for 6 Months

The Santa Anita Racetrack will undergo changes to help address field size. Racecourse officials said they will introduce measures to change the condition book. Beginning on March 6, the authorities will conclude Book 4 and remove maiden races. This will be for straight three-year-olds as all races for non-winners will be for three-year-old horses and up. According to Santa Anita racing director Chris Merz, the condition book will revert back to two-week intervals. This will happen once every three weeks schedule for horses. Currently, the average field size is down to 6.9 starters from 8.0 in 2021.

The decline also took a hit in terms of Handle. This is from US$224,733,378 in the first 24 days of the 2021 winter-spring meet to US$203,022,626 (down 9.0%) this year. The downtrend led to Santa Anita’s share of the wagering market. This is going down to 20.5% in 2022 from 21% last season. Merz said that the three-week book will allow horsemen and owners more options, giving them an opportunity to cherry-pick their spot. The amendments will help horseracing betting enthusiasts know which horse to pick. These races could be known up to five weeks in advance.

More Turf Races aside from Santa Anita

The racing director also noted that they will run as many turf races as its course will allow. He said that they are currently running about 50% of races on grass. Santa Anita officials expressed hope that the change in the surface would balance the competition. The introduction of additional turf races will expect more owners to buy horses that are familiar with the grass surface. Merz also tackled the horse inventory in Southern California and noted that while it is not a major factor in the shrinking field sizes, the lack of results at the entry box this season is disappointing. He said that the horse inventory in the region is about 2,100 horses that spread across Santa Anita, Los Alamitos, and San Luis Rey Downs. The racetrack officials are hoping that the changes will bring positive results in the coming months.

Mine That Bird Trainer Suspended for 6 Months

Turf Paradise stewards have given the trainer of 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird a US$2,500 fine and a 100-day suspension for “possession of an illegal needle and syringe.” Reports said that Bennie “Chip” Woolley was penalized after a veterinarian found the needle and syringe during a pre-race inspection on February 8. He has been under summary suspension at Turf Paradise, pending a hearing. Woolley was also ordered to pay a five-percent surcharge aside from his suspension and fine. The proceeds of the surcharge will go to the Race Horse Adoption Fund.

The trainer became famous for guiding Mine That Bird to a 50-1 upset in the 2009 Kentucky Derby. Last year, Woolley had his best season as a trainer as he won 20 races out of 200 starts to earn US$617,950. Before the suspension, he had three winners in 30 starts and banked US$85,276. The suspension of Woolley means that stewards nowadays are aware of how trainers inject illegal substances into horses to boost performance. The decision is expected to ensure fairness in the sport that betting for horseracing fans will appreciate in the future.