I kicked off my Friday at Santa Anita by going to one of my favorite places in the world: Clocker’s Corner. Clocker’s is located at the very top of the homestretch, and every morning it turns into a total scene where trainers, jockeys, agents, fans and owners mingle, drink coffee, swap stories and watch horses train. It’s a slice of heaven on Earth, and if you come to Santa Anita it’s an experience that I urge you not to miss.
Clocker’s is a great place to catch up with old friends as well as make new ones. In addition to seeing some of my buddies from the racing circuit, I made the acquaintance of this guy. He was the happiest, friendliest dog, and I was delighted to meet him.
But my favorite thing about spending a morning at Clocker’s Corner is that you get to see the equine stars, and this time was no exception. I spotted Joyful Victory, who’s running in Saturday’s Zenyatta Stakes, going for a gallop with her trainer Larry Jones aboard. She’s truly a breathtakingly beautiful mare and will be one to watch in the Zenyatta.
She’s also a feisty lady and at one point gave Larry a bit of a challenge by kicking up her heels at him; fortunately, Larry used to ride bucking bulls before he began training racehorses, so Joyful Victory’s little shenanigans were easy for him to handle.
After spending some quality time at Clocker’s Corner, it was time for me to boogie back to my hotel so I could get ready for Opening Day of Santa Anita’s fall meet. I was extra-excited today because the track had undergone more than $15 million in renovations since I’d been here last, and I couldn’t wait to see the changes.
When I arrived at Santa Anita for the afternoon, I saw how right I was to be excited: the track had transformed certain areas to make them modern, inviting and efficient, but Santa Anita did it in a way that didn’t interfere with its Art Deco architecture.
My favorite renovation was to the 3rd floor mezzanine in the Clubhouse: with all-new floors, center islands with charging stations for mobile devices, and marble-topped bars, the place looks amazing.
Naturally, what caught my eye was the wide berth of food options the track had installed in the area. In addition to traditional track fare like hot dogs and soft pretzels, Santa Anita has added some gourmet options, including a noodle bar, smoothie shop, salad bar and carved sandwich station. All of which looked awesome.
After checking out the mezzanine, I headed over to the brand-new Eddie Logan Suite. From what I understand, this area is essentially going to be a high rollers’ suite, and I may have to start betting more because this place is unbelievable. It’s perfectly appointed, and they’ve done a tremendous job of making it comfortable and luxurious.
Also: chocolate tarts. Dear Lord, did I want to eat one of those, but alas I am a two-dollar bettor and therefore did not feel worthy of munching on the desserts of big spenders.
After nosing my way around the facility, it was time for me to settle down and get some work done. I moseyed up to the press box and settled in. I have to say, the Santa Anita press box has one of the finest views in the world; I can’t imagine too many things more breathtaking than this:
We were so very lucky to have a picture-perfect afternoon for Santa Anita’s Opening Day. The crowd was boisterous, the horses were fast and the sky was cloudless - the recipe for a fantastic day at the track.
One other capital improvement I have to commend Santa Anita for is the bridge they built for photographers over the “Trampoline of Doom” that sits between the rails separating the turf course and main dirt track. The Trampoline of Doom is wonderful in that it was put in place to soften the landing of any jockey who may be thrown over the rail. However, if you’re trying to walk over it while balancing cameras (and if you’re horrifically clumsy like me) it turns into a scary balancing – and potentially very expensive, should one drop their camera - act. So, hooray for the new bridge! Thanks, Santa Anita!
The featured race of the day on Opening Day was the Eddie D Stakes: it’s named after Eddie Delahoussaye, one of the greatest jockeys of all time and a legend on the California racing circuit. Delahoussaye won five riding titles in California throughout his career, and was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1993 and retired with nearly $200 million in purse money earned. That’s a heck of a career.
The race named for him was a great one: 12 horses lined up to battle going 6 ½ furlongs on the grass (a furlong is an eighth of a mile, so this race is just a little over three-quarters of a mile long.) It was a fantastic race, with the decision coming down to a photo finish.
In the end, it was Chips All In who took home the bulk of the $100,000 purse, and jockey Julien Leparoux was clearly tickled to have won a race named for one of horse racing’s legendary riders.
With that, Opening Day festivities were behind me and it was time to get a good night’s sleep in preparation for Super Saturday’s races and all of the exciting events surrounding it. Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll be back with lots more tomorrow!