The races returned to Santa Anita with the opening day Friday. Fourteen high-stakes races take place over three days.
California has significantly reduced the number of fatalities thanks to reforms initiated by the California Horse Racing Board and the Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita. The track has claimed 15 deaths in racing or training this year, including one in training Thursday.
It’s not as if the controversy has left the track as some intrigue for this weekend’s races goes through coach Bob Baffert. The Hall of Fame has come under attack after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a legal anti-inflammatory that is not allowed on race day. It was Baffert’s fifth drug exceedance in a year.
Medina Spirit is the centerpiece of Saturday’s $ 300,000 Awesome Again Stakes, as the 3-year-old takes on older horses for the first time. One win secures a place in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the sport’s most important race outside of the Triple Crown.
Medina Spirit was supposed to compete in the $ 1million Pennsylvania Derby last Saturday, but Baffert crossed it out after the draw, saying he didn’t like the post, but that wasn’t the only reason.