Oh, Santa Anita Park. Is there any place finer? The weather is perfect, the backdrop is stunning and the racing action is top notch. I arrived here late on Wednesday night, and when I woke up on Thursday morning I headed straight to the racetrack to take in the scene during training hours.
The place to see and be seen at Santa Anita in the morning is Clocker’s Corner. Located at the turn into the homestretch, Clocker’s Corner is where trainers, owners, jockeys and fans hang out, eat breakfast and watch the horses take in their morning exercise. It’s spectacularly beautiful, and the food is pretty darn good, too!
So as the morning progressed, this was my office. Not bad, right?
As I worked away, I had the joy of watching some truly beautiful horses take their morning exercise. Seriously, I don’t understand why the entire population of the greater Los Angeles area isn’t at Clocker’s Corner every morning – there’s something about it that’s very good for the soul.
The other great thing about Clocker’s Corner is that it’s totally normal to run into racing’s celebrities there – for example, I ran into Hall of Fame jockeys Gary Stevens and Mike Smith hanging out over coffee.
I also saw Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert there talking to some of the crew from NBC Sports Network – cool, right?
But I have to say, one of my favorite moments of the morning was seeing Santa Anita Handicap hero Game On Dude going for a gallop. He’s just a plain brown (also called a bay) horse, but there’s something about him that’s so eye-catching. I mean, this Dude abides.
Everyone at Clocker’s Corner was so thrilled to see him; as he headed back to the stable area, he got a round of applause from all of the fans there.
It was an absolutely perfect way to spend my first morning in L.A., and my afternoon at the track wasn’t exactly a letdown, either!
After heading back to my hotel to get some work done, I arrived back at Santa Anita in time for the first race. The starting gate was right in front of the grandstand for the afternoon’s opener, and I can’t describe how thrilling it is to stand right there as the horses break out of the gate as the track announcer cries, “And away they go!”
I took some time to take in the sights of the racetrack. Here’s the track bugler, the man that plays the call to post to summon the horses to the track, warming up before the races:
It was also great just to see so many people out enjoying a beautiful afternoon at the races. That’s really what an afternoon at the track is all about: having fun with friends and family while spending time outside taking in thrilling races and maybe even making a little money, too.
They jockeys at the races are so cool to see, too – here’s Joe Talamo laughing with some owners in the minutes before a race. I would probably not be that relaxed if I had to guide a 900-pound horse over the course of a race travelling at 40 miles per hour. Just saying.
And here’s Rafael Bejarano limbering up prerace. The men and women of the jockey colony really are such tremendous athletes, and I have the utmost respect for them. That having been said, this is a pretty goofy picture. It looks like Rafa is leading a marching band or something.
And I also spotted this guy in the paddock – I think he may have owned one of the horses, but he was kind of the main event in that race as far as I’m concerned. I mean, check this out – it was probably a solid 85° outside and this dude is rocking a top hat and a frock coat complete with a pocket watch. Nice work, sir.
But then again, that’s also one of my favorite aspects of the racetrack – the personalities there. Life at the races is never boring, and I hope to see everyone at the races so you can experience what a wonderful day it really is.
Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll have more tomorrow!