Santa Anita Park’s postponed opening created a bettor’s bonanza this weekend. The Southern California track will open with 12 stakes races – 11 of those graded stakes events.

Improbable-Santa Anita Openers
Improbable turned aside Mr. Buff to win the Whitney at Saratoga. He’ll find winning his third consecutive Grade 1 a bit tougher in the Awesome Again Stakes Saturday at Santa Anita. (Image: NYRA/Dom Napolitano)

Officials pushed opening weekend at the iconic track back a week due to air-quality concerns from the nearby Bobcat Fire. One of the biggest fires in the western US continues raging out of control through, and beyond, the northern foothills near Santa Anita.

The opening delay created a three-day, stakes-laden card featuring seven Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” events. Five of those run Saturday afternoon, during a seven-stakes day headlined by the Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes. While that race offers a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, it doubles as a credible Breeders’ preview with Pacific Classic champion Maximum Security and Whitney Stakes winner Improbable as the headliners.

The two Bob Baffert stars tune up for the Nov. 7 Classic leading a field of older horses going 1 1/8 miles on the main track. Familiar competitors Midcourt, Higher Power, and Sharp Samurai will come along for the ride.

Three Grade 1 Stakes Races to Run Saturday

Santa Anita’s other Saturday stakes races offer a horseplayer’s smorgasbord of ages, distances, and wagering opportunities. There’s the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive for fillies and mares going 1 ¼ miles on the turf. Expect to see Lady Prancelot and Del Mar Oaks winner Red Lark. A spot in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf awaits the winner.

The third Grade 1 Saturday is the American Pharoah for 2-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles on the dirt. This promises a glimpse at potential 2021 Kentucky Derby hopefuls. You’ll see Baffert’s Spielberg attempt to break his maiden against Doug O’Neill’s Team Merchants and Simon Callahan’s rapidly improving North Pole. They’re all vying for a “Win and You’re In” spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Santa Anita Fall Meet Opening Schedule

Friday Race Grade Distance Surface
Eddie D Stakes 2 5 1/2 furlongs Turf
Chillingworth Stakes 3 6 furlongs Dirt
Saturday Race Grade Distance Surface
Awesome Again Stakes 1 1 1/8 miles Dirt
Rodeo Drive 1 1 1/4 miles Turf
American Pharoah 1 1 1/16 miles Dirt
Chandelier 2 1 1/16 miles Dirt
Speakeasy Stakes 5 1/2 furlongs Turf
John Henry Turf Championship 2 1 1/4 miles Turf
Unzip Me Stakes 5 1/2 furlongs Turf
Sunday Race Grade Distance Surface
Zenyatta Stakes 2 1 1/6 miles Dirt
Santa Anita Sprint Championship 2 6 furlongs Dirt
Tokyo City Cup 3 1 1/2 miles Turf

Also running Saturday is the Grade 2 Chandelier for 2-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles. Baffert’s precocious Princess Noor is your favorite to capture a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Saturday’s final Breeders’ Cup Challenge event is the Speakeasy Stakes, offering a spot in the Juvenile Turf Sprint to the winner of its 5 ½ furlong sprint.

United Stands as the John Henry Turf Favorite

Along with those Breeders’ Cup events, there’s the Grade 2 John Henry Turf Championship taking 3-year-olds and up 1 ¼ miles on the turf, and the Unzip Me Stakes for 3-year-old fillies going 5 ½ furlongs on the turf. Standout turf gelding United is your favorite in the John Henry, named for one of the most decorated geldings in racing history.

Sunday’s featured race is the Grade 2 Zenyatta Stakes, where Venetian Harbor seeks her early-year form against her filly and mare counterparts in the 1 1/16 mile race. Awaiting her in what was a Grade 1 race before last year are Stellar Sound, Hard Not to Love, and Ollie’s Candy. They’re all chasing a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

The other Breeders’ Cup Challenge event Sunday is the Grade 2 Santa Anita Sprint Championship. That race, also downgraded from Grade 1 to Grade 2, offers its winner a spot in the Sprint. It also offers a field containing the likes of Bing Crosby Stakes winner Collusion Illusion, Pat O’Brien Stakes winner CZ Rocket, and Giant Expectations.

Tokyo City Cup Provides a Long Trip to Claim

The Grade 3 Tokyo City Cup, one of the track’s longest races at 1 ½ miles on the turf, rounds out Sunday’s stakes slate. Tizamagician and Santa Anita Handicap winner Combatant headline that field.

Santa Anita stakes races begin Friday with the Grade 2 Eddie D Stakes taking 3-year-olds and up 5 ½ furlongs on turf. Chaos Theory goes for his third consecutive victory. The other stakes race is the Grade 3 Chillingworth Stakes, sending fillies and mares 3-and-up six furlongs on the main track.

The track remains closed to fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.