Santa Anita cancels Thursday card due to insufficient entries

Horse Racing

ARCADIA, Calif. — Santa Anita has canceled Thursday’s program because of a lack of entries, the second racing day lost at the current spring-summer meeting. There was no racing on April 27, a program that also failed to draw sufficient entries.

The draw for Thursday’s races was scheduled for Saturday and postponed to Sunday when a card could not be compiled. At lunchtime on Sunday, officials announced the cancellation of Thursday’s program and said races will be added to the Friday through Sunday programs next weekend.

Tentatively, there will be nine races on Friday, at least 11 on Saturday, and possible 10 on Sunday, officials said.

The Thursday program was well short of the needed runners for an eight-race program, according to Tim Ritvo, the chief operating officer of The Stronach Group, the track’s parent company.

“We don’t want to force a Thursday card with 48 entries,” Ritvo said on Sunday. “We’ll condense the four programs into three and we’ll add a race [through the weekend].”

Ritvo arrived at Santa Anita from his base in Florida in late May in an effort to improve business. He said at the time that short fields were a concern. Sunday, Ritvo reiterated that point and said low field sizes lead bettors to seek opportunities at other tracks.

“We’re losing market share and we can’t lose market share,” he said.

The latest cancellation has led to concern the track can complete the spring-summer meeting without further disruption. The meeting runs through July 4, with racing scheduled on a Thursday through Sunday basis until the final week when racing will be held for five days – from Friday, June 30 through Tuesday, July 4.

“I think we’re worried about it,” Ritvo said. “We want to produce a good card.”

The rest of the summer will be busy on the Southern California circuit. Los Alamitos has a two-week meeting covering eight racing days from July 6-16, starting just two days after the end of the Santa Anita meeting.

The Del Mar summer meeting will run 36 days from July 19 to Sept. 4. Del Mar will race primarily five days a week, with six racing days on the final week, ending on Labor Day.

Santa Anita has had one five-day week this spring — from Thursday, May 25 through Monday, May 29 — and ran a four-day week ending on Sunday. Last Thursday’s program was a makeup day for one of three days of racing lost during the winter-spring meeting because of wet weather.

Ritvo said discussions will take place with horsemen in an effort to improve entries and that the track will conduct a study on the races it offers.

“Are we doing the right thing ourselves?” he said. “We want to investigate what the horsemen are doing with their horses. We have to acknowledge we work with our partners.”

There are approximately 2,800 horses on the Southern California circuit at Santa Anita, Los Alamitos, and the San Luis Rey Downs training center, according to Ritvo.

Through Saturday, the spring-summer meeting has averaged 7.32 runners per race, compared with 7.26 runners per race for the 2016 spring-summer meeting. The 2016 spring-summer meeting did not have turf racing in the final three weeks while the course was replaced. By comparison, the 2015 spring-summer meeting averaged 7.84 runners per race.

Earlier this year, the winter-spring meeting averaged 7.59 runners per race during a season plagued by wet weather.

Until this year, cancellations because of a lack of entries were rare at Santa Anita. The track did not run the final three Wednesdays of is 2010-11 spring-summer meeting because of insufficient entries. During that season, Santa Anita ran four days per week in January and February before adding Wednesday for part of March.

Earlier this year, the track lost three days of racing because of wet conditions. In the summer of 2010, Hollywood Park canceled three days of racing because of insufficient entries.

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