Photo Courtesy of Horsephotos.com
I am discovering the world of horse racing is as diverse as the cultures of the United States. Each racetrack unfolds a plethora of sights and sounds — unique and distinct to be embraced and appreciated.
I left my lush eastern Keeneland Kentucky “home” and journeyed west to experience the grand historical Southern Californian Santa Anita Park in its full Breeders’ Cup bloom. My maiden trip to this glorious venue nestled at the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains has not disappointed. Arriving at the works in the dark of the morning focused my attention to the true reason for visiting this track: the horses.
The dawning light began to reveal the soul of this racetrack. First the peaks and ridges of the rugged mountain range welcomed the new day. Then the track became lighter with each passing moment. I stood at “Clockers’ Corner,” located at the top of the stretch. I watched one horse after another gallop around the turn. As they straightened, my head turned to follow the runner, culminating with the blazing sun blinding all who gazed down the homestretch. The bizarre sight of witnessing the horses disappear into this intense light was somewhat like a science fiction movie. Now I totally understand why Bob Baffert always wears sunglasses!
Game On Dude ranks as the most impressive of the horses I watched breeze on the track Sunday morning. I dubbed him my “Jekyll-Hyde” of the Breeders’ Cup contenders. He entered the track walking along the rail in a very calm, plain demeanor. However, when in flight, Game On Dude’s stride displayed supreme efficiency with a rapid turn of foot as he moved over the main dirt track with incredible ease.
Game On Dude
Animal Kingdom made an appearance on the beautiful Santa Anita track Sunday morning for a light gallop. I cast him as one of my favorites of this morning’s stars. His great physicality instantly impressed me as a horse completely prepared to take on the task at hand. In addition, he noticeably exuded a quiet, level personality.
Bob Baffert brought before a crowd of clockers his entire Breeders’ Cup contingent, including top juvenile Power Broker and sprinters Coil and Fast Bullet. While Coil appeared somewhat heavy, Fast Bullet emulates the build of a sprint horse. True to his name, Fast Bullet blew by the seemingly endless Santa Anita grandstand with power and the turn of foot displayed at under-tack sales.
A few other contenders made a strong first impression: Cogito (Breeders’ Cup Turf), Handsome Mike (Breeders’ Cup Classic), Juniper Pass (Breeders’ Cup Marathon), Know More (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile), and Quail Hill (Breeders’ Cup Marathon). Love and Pride and My Miss Aurelia headlined the female runners from Sunday morning. One of the first on the main oval was Love and Pride, who worked up a bit of a sweat and actually dumped her rider in front of Clockers’ Corner. Although I didn’t see her breeze, My Miss Aurelia struck me as the best-looking of the females. I admired her lean build leaving me with the impression she would get over the ground easier than a heavier counterpart.