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Live Racing Returns to Santa Anita Park

Friday is the the first day of a new 24-day fall meet at historic racetrack.

Live racing this time of year returns to on Friday Spet. 30, after a one-year absence.  From 1969 through 2009 there was a fall meet at Santa Anita run by the Oak Tree Racing Association. But last year the Oak Tree meet was held at Hollywood Park.

Oak Tree, which consisted of a 15-member board headed by Sherwood “Chilly” Chillingsworth, used to rent Santa Anita to the tune of $4 million dollars a year.

But Santa Anita officials and owner Frank Stronach decided they wanted to run their own meet. Essentially, the landlord kicked out the tenant by making the Oak Tree board an offer it had to refuse.

So this meet is now simply called the Santa Anita Autumn meet. It still is live horse racing at Santa Anita in the fall, just under a different banner and different management. There will be 24 racing days over a little more than five weeks. The meet ends Nov. 6.

During the meet, there will be live racing Thursday through Sunday, with one exception – that being live racing on Columbus Day, Monday, Oct. 10.

Arcadia Mayor Gary Kovacic said, “The economic impact of having live racing here is tremendous, from the business generated by those attending the races to the jobs they help create.”

Something that may appeal to first-timers is a new 50-cent wager involving the first five races. Called the Players’ Pick Five, all you have to do to win big money is pick all five winners.

Actually, it’s not that easy, so you might want to add a few horses for a comparatively small investment. There will be no consolation payout for those picking four winners. The takeout of 14% is considerably lower than the takeout for other multi-horse and multi-race bets.

There will be plenty of top-notch racing throughout the meet, which offers 13 graded stakes and six Grade I races. Four of those Grade 1 stakes will be run Saturday, with three of the races being televised by ESPN.

Friday’s card will be highlighted by the $100,000 Grade III Senator Ken Maddy Stakes for fillies and mares 3 years old and up. The favorite figures to be Unzip Me, who is part-owned by John Harris of Harris Ranch fame.

On Sunday, the feature is the $250,000 Grade I Oak Leaf Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. The favorite here figures to be Weemissfrankie, part-owned by MTV host Rob Dyrdek.

All five of the Grade I stakes this weekend have Breeders’ Cup implications. This year’s Breeders’ Cup, the Super Bowl of horse racing, will be held Nov. 4-5 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

Next year, the will be held during this meet at Santa Anita.

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