Santa Anita Park postpones opening day until Saturday due to rain

(FOX 11)

With rain in the forecast for much of next week, Santa Anita Park postponed Thursday's scheduled opening of its winter-spring meet by two days.

Opening day will now be Dec. 28

"Opening Day is traditionally one of our biggest days of the year, but our commitment to safety is first and foremost,'' said Aidan Butler, acting executive director of California for The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita.

"It was very important to make this call as early as possible for our horsemen, fans and employees. There are many moving parts, especially in the training of these wonderful horses, and this decision is being made at this time out of respect to give all involved plenty of advance notice.''

Related: L.A. prosecutors find no criminal liability in horse deaths at Santa Anita

"The stakes races set for Thursday will be brought back on Saturday,'' said Steve Lym, Santa Anita's director of racing. "With the rain
in the forecast, it was extremely likely that the races would be off the turf on Thursday. Postponing opening day will allow for the high quality turf racing synonymous with Santa Anita. We are planning on filling extra races throughout the opening week to give our horsemen the opportunity to run their horses.''

It would be the first time since the 1976-77 winter season that Santa Anita has not opened on Dec. 26. Last year's opening day attendance was 41,373, according to Santa Anita officials.

Santa Anita's revised opening week schedule has live racing Dec. 28-29, Jan. 1, and Jan. 3-5.

The track -- and the sport in general -- has been under the microscope since 37 horses died at the Arcadia track last season.

Last week, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office made a series of recommendations aimed at improving safety at California race tracks, but concluded there was no criminal wrongdoing connected to the deaths at Santa Anita.