Edited Press Release — Santa Anita’s all-new turf chute, which parallels the track’s seven furlong main track chute, was put to the test as a pair of horses broke from the starting gate at a 6 ½ furlong setting and transitioned across the main track and back to the turf course “proper” with aplomb.
Trainer Vladimir Cerin’s Lady Noguez, ridden by Umberto Rispoli and Neil Drysdale’s Cosmo, with Flavien Prat up, were allowed to run up the backstretch prior to being pulled up as they headed to the far turn.
“What a beautiful addition,” said Prat. “This new chute is fantastic and it’s in a great place. Both of the horses handled the dirt crossing with no problem at all and I can’t wait to start riding races over this in the afternoons.”
Rispoli was likewise ecstatic regarding the promise of Santa Anita’s newest addition.
“It’s perfect, there’s a slight bend to the right coming out of the gate and then you’ve got a nice run to the dirt crossing,” he said. “This gives us a lot of options with the kinds of races we can run and I think everybody is going to want to get their horses on it. They’ve done a great job getting this ready for opening day and I really think it’s going to provide some great racing.”
Designed by track consultant Dennis Moore and “green lighted” by Santa Anita’s Chief Operating Officer, Aidan Butler, the turf chute project was undertaken on Aug. 17 and involved removal of blacktop and extensive excavation in order to get the running surface elevated and compacted to the level of the main track, which it intersects at approximately the three quarter pole.
“This is a great step forward,” said Moore. “I wanted everything to go just like it did this morning. Those two horses crossed the dirt here with no problem.”
“It’s really, really cool to see all of this hard work come together,” said Butler, who will be jetting to Gulfstream Park tomorrow morning to oversee racing operations there. “It looks terrific and this new chute really solidifies our turf offerings here at Santa Anita. It was designed to stand the test of time and here’s hoping it’s here for many years to come.”
Retired Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who is now involved in racehorse ownership and is one of America’s most highly respected racing analysts on Fox Sports 1, was also on-hand for this morning’s demonstration.
“This provides a totally new component to our turf arsenal,” said Stevens. “I actually got a little choked up watching those horses cross the dirt because it reminds me of the downhill crossing and all the races I rode here. I think it’s gonna be a big hit. I know I’d sure like to ride it.”
Two other jockeys of note, Hall of Famer Mike Smith and budding star Drayden Van Dyke, joined Stevens on the inside rail.
“It looks really good,” said Smith. “Same as with the downhill, I think Jay (Slender) will load ’em from the outside in, with that little bend to the right.”
“I think everybody was interested in how those horses would handle crossing the dirt, and they did it with no problem,” said Van Dyke. “This is great news for everybody.”
The turf chute, which is 80 feet wide and approximately 800 feet long, will accommodate sprint races at distances of six and 6 ½ furlongs, while Santa Anita’s traditional Camino Real Hillside Course will continue to be available to horses running distances of a mile and a quarter and up.