By: Frank Angst

As handicappers look for every possible angle in considering a horse’s chances in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, Santa Anita Park security will be monitoring every Breeders’ Cup horse from a state-of-the-art surveillance system.

The most comprehensive surveillance system of any track in North America, Santa Anita cameras peer into all 1,900 stalls on the backstretch as well as key areas of the track and backstretch like the stablegate.

On Nov. 3 Stronach Group vice president of West Coast operations Joe Morris offered an inside view of the high definition system’s control center, which is capable of sweeping overviews of large areas and concentrated views that can easily identify a license plate entering the property, or a stable worker entering a barn.

Through employee efforts and cutting-edge technology, each person that enters a horse stall is documented with the system creating a photo from the video that is saved into a computer file specific to that stall. If there are any questions from track officials or investigators, or concerns by horsemen, the file can be called up to see who has entered the stall during a selected time period.

Breeders’ Cup officials didn’t go so far to say that having such systems in place could factor in deciding future World Championships sites, but they welcome the added oversight and said tracks may begin to add such systems to keep pace with Santa Anita.

“Santa Anita definitely has set an example,” said Breeders’ Cup president Craig Fravel at a safety and security press conference in which Breeders’ Cup, track, and regulatory officials outlined protocols in these areas. “In many senses, a lot of the security features we have reviewed here on behalf of the Breeders’ Cup are designed to set a great example for the industry to follow.

“I don’t think other tracks are going to need the Breeders’ Cup’s encouragement to add these types of systems. I think they’re going to figure out that these systems are good for the game and the kind of thing we should be doing.”

Breeders’ Cup senior vice president of racing, nominations, and on-site operations Dora Delgado added that at last year’s Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland, the track hard-wired its barns to allow a high-definition feed and Breeders’ Cup then purchased a camera system that it put in place there. Delgado said the system will likely be put in place at Del Marin advance of next year’s Breeders’ Cup.

“Every one of the cameras is live 24-7 and it looks like we can hold that video in the system for 35 to 40 days,” Morris said. “That’s where it’s at. … There is transparency now. We see what’s out there all the time.”

In other news out of the press conference:

• Officials said about 60% of the runners in this year’s Breeders’ Cup have had at least one out-of-competition test. Breeders’ Cup began these pre-race tests for this year in June with Challenge winners, then added other likely starters. The 60% figure is much higher than for a typical Southern California race. California Horse Racing Board equine medical director Rick Arthur said about 10% of Southern California runners typically have had out-of-competition testing and he said he doesn’t know of a jurisdiction with a higher percentage.

* Morris noted that the new turf course has received rave reviews from jockeys. Delgado said European connections also have said they’re pleased with the surface. Morris credited track superintendent Dennis Moore for the course condition. Morris said that the grass will be about four inches long for the weekend’s races and the roots system is about a foot deep.