LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A big Kentucky Derby prep race won't take place this Saturday because Santa Anita Park in Southern California is closed indefinitely.
Twenty-one thoroughbred horses have died there over the past two months.
The road to the Kentucky Derby is carefully calculated and backtimed all the way out over several months. Each workout sets up the next workout; each race sets up the next race, all the way up to the first Saturday in May.
Just two months until Derby, and this weekend was supposed to be a big part of the planning.
You qualify for the Kentucky Derby with points. You earn points in the tightly scheduled prep race list. The San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita that was set for Saturday is one of four Derby preps scheduled for this weekend in different parts of the country.
Trainers like Bob Baffert, who had highly touted Game Winner and Improbable trained up to run in the San Felipe, now have a huge problem.
“I’m trying to get everything sorted out with my clients,” Baffert said in a text message to WAVE 3 News. “I’m moving a lot of my horses to Los Alamitos to train. Going to work my Derby horses Sunday. I’ll have a better idea of what I’m going to do then.”
“The thing that concerns me more than anything is we can’t get an answer out of Santa Anita on when they plan (to) resume training,” said Jack Wolf, part owner of Triple Crown winner Justify and now part owner of Improbable.
Wolf was asked if he thinks the uncertainty at Santa Anita will harm Improbable’s chances to win the Kentucky Derby.
“That’s a good question,” he said. “But good horses find ways to overcome the mistakes and stupid decisions that us humans make.”
TVG racing analyst Caton Bredar said every move has been planned a year out from the Kentucky Derby, and any disruption at this point can leave you out of the field.
“Let’s just say, for sake of argument, that if a race in California that’s now canceled was gonna be your second-to-last start before the Derby,” Bredar said. “You really need to find something the same weekend, be able to run because if the horse doesn’t do as well as you hoped, you might not have enough Derby points to get into the Derby and might need to run again without enough time to do so.”