Santa Anita opening day, just over a year after closing due to pandemic

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.

Jockey Tyler Blaze, in a reflection, climbs onto the track for the third race on the opening day of Santa Anita Park.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The second race is announced on the opening day at Santa Anita Park.

The second race is announced on the opening day at Santa Anita Park.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

An outdoor runner takes to the track as visitors attend the Santa Anita Park opening day in Arcadia on October 1, 2021.

A rider takes to the track as visitors attend the opening day in Santa Anita.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Visitors, in reflection, watch the fourth race on the big screen on the opening day of Santa Anita Park in Arcadia.

Visitors, in a reflection, watch the fourth race on the big screen.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Runners take to the track on the opening day of Santa Anita Park in Arcadia on October 1, 2021.

Runners take to the track on the opening day of Santa Anita Park.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Jockey Emily Ellingwood, No.6 in a reflection, smiles after leading Bright Leaf to victory.

Jockey Emily Ellingwood, No.6 in a reflection, smiles after leading Bright Leaf to victory.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

A man gauges the horses before making his bet on the opening day of Santa Anita Park in Arcadia on October 1, 2021.

A man gauges the horses before making his bet.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Visitors walk past a sculpture of a horse that features the artwork of Michael Massenburg.

Visitors walk past a sculpture of a horse that features the work of Michael Massenburg on the opening day of Santa Anita Park in Arcadia on October 1, 2021.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

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