Breeders' Cup - At The Races

Track Guide: Santa Anita

    Read about the famous Californian racecourse, which will stage the Breeders' Cup for the ninth time in 2016. Includes expert opinion from Timeform and William Buick.

Santa Anita hosts the Breeders’ Cup World Championships for the ninth time, having already held the event in 1986, 1993, 2003, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013 and 2014. The 2009 meeting brought a record haul of six wins for the Europeans, four of them trained in Britain, one in Ireland and one in France. The non-turf races at that meeting were held on the Pro-Ride synthetic surface, but the track has now returned to the more traditional sand and clay (dirt) mixture but the Europeans enjoyed only a single victory in 2014 when Karakontie took the Mile for France-based trainer Jonathan Pease.

The oval dirt track is one mile round with a run-in of 330 yards; the inner turf course is about seven furlongs in length, though races over six and a half furlongs, a mile and a quarter and a mile and a half start on a chute which runs downhill and crosses the dirt track.

Description and map: Timeform

William says

William Buick's view: "Santa Anita is unique in a country where most tracks look and ride the same. The reason for this is the Californian course has sprint tracks that wouldn’t be out of place in Britain.

There’s a chute for five and six furlongs that is similar to the five at Warwick except that it’s downhill like Epsom and Brighton – only quicker! For that reason you need to be out fast but still have the stamina to get home. And just to make things interesting you also have to cross the dirt track. Believe me, there’s no hiding place and you need a horse that knows its job really well.

There is a bit more scope for tactics on the turf course over the dirt track because it is possible to be wide and still have a good chance. You can slingshot off the home turn and have time to get there so an inside draw, while handy, isn’t absolutely vital.

Also, although the surface is usually fast the turf is what’s known as Bermuda grass which is very springy and puts a bit of sponge into the ground which helps horses that need some ease.

The dirt track is like all courses in that category. An inside draw is a big plus, gate speed is important and you’ve got to get the fractions right so you can keep the position.

On this track, speed holds up and it’s very hard, although not impossible, to come from behind."