The season's first round of turf workouts took place Wednesday morning at Santa Anita Park when 34 horses breezed at distances from four furlongs to one mile. Santa Anita's opening day is Dec. 26 and all workers were relegated to the outside portion of the course, 48 feet from the inner rail.
Opening day wil be the first opportunity for turf racing in Southern California since the Oak Tree meeting at Santa Anita concluded in early November. Hollywood Park's newly planted turf course did not root properly and couldn't be used during the six-week fall meeting that ended Dec. 19.
"I think the workouts went great," said Michael J. Harlow, Santa Anita's director of racing. "I've spoken with several trainers who worked over the course and everybody seemed very pleased."
Harlow noted that Santa Anita's inventory of grass horses leading into the upcoming winter/spring meeting is solid. "We are anticipating 15 to 20 horses for the Sir Beaufort (gr. IIIT) on opening day and if we get that many, we'll consider splitting the race into two divisions.
"We are very encouraged about our turf inventory. It seems like we've got a lot of horses ready to run at all (class) levels. We've got a larger inventory than we've had in the past and we have stables that appear to be loaded and ready to run."
Prominent among those horses who worked this morning was Chinese Dragon, expected to run in the Sir Beaufort. A perfect three for three on the Santa Anita turf, Chinese Dragon breezed five furlongs in 1:02 2/5. "He went real easy," said trainer Bob Hess Jr. "He's ready to roll and the turf course seemed great."
Three Degrees, a multiple graded stakes winning filly, worked six furlongs in 1:16 4/5 for trainer Paddy Gallagher. "We're pointing for either the La Brea (gr. I) on dirt or the Monrovia (gr. IIIT) on turf here on Dec. 31. I worked four horses on the grass this morning and my riders said the course felt as good as it looks ... We worked quite a ways off the rail and that's why maybe the times were a bit slower."
Conditioner Richard Mandella worked veteran turf star The Tin Man one mile in 1:42 4/5. "He worked great," Mandella said. "He was on the outside of the course. You could see him (run) in the first condition book. The course looks great. I don't think it's real fast right now, but it's lush and it looks good. I would think Santa Anita's going to be the beneficiary of fresh horses and fresh fans and maybe that's what we all need."
Santa Anita's European style El Camino Real Turf Course debuted on Dec. 26, l953. It features a unique sweeping downhill option with a right hand turn, which is used at distances from 6 ½ furlongs to 1 ¾ miles.