BAFFERT, O'NEILL DEADHEAT FOR TOP TRAINER, ELLIOTT
WINS FIRST SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA RIDING TITLE
AS FALL MEET COMES TO A CLOSE
Hall of Famer Bob Baffert and Doug O’Neill shared training honors and jockey Stewart Elliott won his first Southern California riding title at the Los Angeles County Fair meet at Los Alamitos which concluded Sunday.
The 12-day season was highlighted by the Grade II, $201,035 Los Alamitos Derby, which was won in dramatic fashion by 9-10 favorite Accelerate.
Remaining undefeated in three starts around two turns, the 3-year-old Lookin At Lucky colt prevailed despite a wide trip, edging Semper Fortis by a head. Accelerate, who was ridden by Tyler Baze, is owned by the Hronis Racing LLC of Kosta and Pete Hronis and trained by John Sadler.
The win was the second stakes success of the meet for the Hronis Racing-Sadler-Baze combination as they had captured the Barretts Debutante a week earlier with recent claim Bitzka.
Baffert and O’Neill finished the season with five victories apiece. It was the fifth meet since thoroughbred racing returned to Los Alamitos in July, 2014 at which O’Neill has either been the sole or co-leader while Baffert has led or shared the crown three times.
Elliott, 51, finished with 12 wins, two more than runner-up Santiago Gonzalez.
The Canadian-born Elliott was a three-time leading rider (2001-2003) at the former Philadelphia Park - now known as Parx – and also topped the standings at the Meadowlands in New Jersey in 2004.
“Coming into the meet, my agent (Mark North) told me things looked real good,’’ said Elliott. “It helped to get off to a fast start, winning three opening day (Sept. 8) and then two the next day.
“The Spring meet was the first time I rode on this track, which has a little different shape, and it is just a matter of getting used to it. I think this definitely gives us momentum going into Santa Anita.’’ The Arcadia track begins its Autumn meet Sept. 30.
The Los Angeles County Fair meet ended with a decline in average daily mutuel handle.
Through Sunday, the average all sources handle was an estimated $3,918,306 compared to $4,110,983 in 2015. Last year’s LACF season was 10 days, two fewer than 2016 as Santa Anita raced on the corresponding weekend 12 months ago.
Complete business figures for the meet will be available later in the week.
Although the numbers increased in the final week of the season, the average field size declined over the previous year, dropping from 7.64 starters per race to 7.03 in 2016.
“It’s all about the product you put out on the race track and for this meet, it was hard,’’ said Brad McKinzie, vice president and general manager of the Los Alamitos Racing Association. “This was the toughest Fall meet we’ve had in terms of entries.
“We had a very good day (Sept. 24) because we put a good product out on the track.
“This meet almost mirrored our Spring (April 14-May 1) meet. We started off slow, got better and our third and final week was the best.
“Even with the short fields, the racing was good. I don’t know if it was just me, but we had more close finishes than I could remember and the Los Alamitos Derby was a good race.’’
Thoroughbred racing will return to Los Alamitos in December. The eight-day season will begin Thursday, Dec. 8 and continue through Sunday, Dec. 18. Racing will be conducted on a Thursday-Sunday basis.
McKinzie said the Saturday, Dec. 10 program will offer a pair of Grade I races for 2-year-olds – the Los Alamitos Futurity and the Starlet for fillies.
Both the Futurity and the Starlet are holdovers from the previous two Winter meets at Los Alamitos after being run previously (1981-2013) at the now-closed Hollywood Park.
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