Santa Anita will have a new look--$12 million worth--when the 29th Oak Tree meeting begins today at the Arcadia track.
The most expensive renovations in the history of Santa Anita have been completed and Cliff Goodrich, the track's president who serves as Oak Tree's general manager, says anyone who has been there before will notice the difference.
"They'll notice the asphalt and tile floors they're walking on and the fresh paint," he said Tuesday. "The entire length of the grandstand has been renovated in some way."
Helping fund the changes, some of which were badly needed and included $5 million worth of work in the stable area, was Meditrust, the Massachusetts health care and real estate investment trust. Santa Anita announced a proposed merger with Meditrust last spring and the merger will be voted on by track shareholders Nov. 5.
"We had some cash on hand and we got support from the Meditrust people to go on with this," Goodrich said. "We and Meditrust wanted to put to rest the rumors about Santa Anita's future and [the renovation] was a great way to take care of that.
"Meditrust wanted to let people know that they are committed to keep racing here for another 60 years."
On the track, the 27-day Oak Tree season will feature several stakes races that will serve as final preps for Breeders' Cup XIV on Nov. 8 at Hollywood Park.
Touch Gold, who finished last in a puzzling performance in the Pegasus last month at the Meadowlands, could run in the $250,000 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap on Oct. 11 before returning in the $4-million Breeders' Cup Classic.
Marlin, who is being aimed for the Breeders' Cup Turf, figures to compete in the $300,000 Oak Tree Turf Championship on Oct. 12.
A week later, Jewel Princess, who won the Eclipse Award last year as the nation's top older filly or mare, could meet Sharp Cat in the $175,000 Lady's Secret Handicap.
Then, there is the California Cup, which will be offered for the eighth time. That's a series of races restricted to California-breds and the main event Oct. 25 will be the $250,000 Classic at 1 1/8 miles.
Looking for her seventh victory in 16 starts, Advancing Star heads a field of 10 fillies and mares in today's $100,000 Autumn Days Handicap, the traditional opening-day feature.
Trained by Richard Mandella for owners John and Betty Mabee's Golden Eagle Farm, the 4-year-old Soviet Star filly is fresh off one of the best performances of her career.
In winning the June Darling Handicap on Sept. 3 at Del Mar, she rolled home by five lengths under Kent Desormeaux and completed the six furlongs in 1:08 2/5.
She will move over to the turf today, but she has a win and a second in two tries on Santa Anita's unique hillside course. Desormeaux, Del Mar's leading rider, will again be aboard.
Also in the field for the Autumn Days, which is run at about 6 1/2 furlongs, are Madame Pandit, second in the June Darling; Dixie Pearl, the defending champion; Ski Dancer and Blushing Heiress, both of whom have won three times over the course; Cara Rafaela, Evil's Pic, Lavender, Raw Gold and Highest Dream.
Horse Racing Notes
With his next stakes victory here, jockey Chris McCarron will pass Bill Shoemaker as the winningest Oak Tree stakes rider. Each has won 62 and McCarron will be aboard Blushing Heiress in the Autumn Days. . . .
There will be four stakes races this weekend, topped by the $125,000 Las Palmas Handicap on Sunday. The other added-money race Sunday is the $100,000 California Sires Stakes, and the features Saturday are the $100,000 California Sires Stakes for fillies and the $75,000 Henry P. Russell Handicap. . . .
Oak Tree's popular stein giveaway, which is normally on opening day, has been moved to Saturday.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Oak Tree at a Glance
* MEETING: Today-Nov. 3 (27 days).
* RACING: Wednesdays-Sundays, plus Monday, Oct. 13 and Monday, Nov. 3.
* POST TIME: 12:30 p.m. weekends and Mondays; 1 p.m. all other weekdays; noon on Oct. 25 (California Cup Day)
* BIG RACES: $250,000 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap on Oct. 11; Oak Tree Turf Championship on Oct. 12; $200,000 Oak Leaf Stakes on Oct. 18; $200,000 Norfolk Stakes on Oct. 19; $175,000 Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap on Oct. 19; $300,000 California Cup Classic on Oct. 25; $250,000 Oak Tree Derby on Nov. 2; $500,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes on Nov. 2.