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Arcadia

Santa Anita Park ~ Arcadia

9:10 AM PST on November 13, 2007

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    Santa Anita Park ~ 285 W. Huntington Drive ~ Arcadia

    Santa Anita occupies 320 acres. It has a 1,100-foot-long grandstand, which is a historic landmark that seats 26,000 guests. The grandstand is done in an Art Deco style and is the original facade from the 1930s. The track infield area, which resembles a park with picnic tables and large trees, can accommodate 50,000 or more guests. The Park also contains 61 barns, which house more than 2,000 horses, and an equine hospital. - Wikipedia.

    Santa Anita Park first opened on Dec. 25, 1934. When it was built, it was the most attractive horse racing track in the world. The landscaping and grandstand were beyond anything that had ever been built to race horses. Back then, most race tracks accommodated guests with wooden benches, or "the stands". In Europe, the "grandstand" was precisely that- a place to stand and watch the race. One reason for the persistence of this practice was the abundance of local racing venues across Europe. As soon as the races had been run, the horses moved on to the next track and the stands were dismantled. Furthermore, in places such as Ireland, typically, horses were not stabled at the track, but taken back to "the yard". After the races were run, you might walk your horse friend straight down main street and home to your backyard and modest stable. Locals shared tracts of open land for running and training their horses during the off-season. In the U.S, Santa Anita Park set the new standard along with a hand-full of other magnificent tracks like Hialeah Park Race Track in Florida.

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    The late, great Willie Shoemaker.

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    This pair keep the race-horses in line as they parade around the paddock and prepare to enter the track. Who knows when this man began working at Santa Anita. Older men who worked most their lives at Santa Anita as grooms have had their dying wishes honored by being cremated, their ashes scattered into the dirt track.

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    Eddie Logan, pictured above, has been shining shoes here since 1934. In evidence is his sense of humor. It is highly recommended to pay him a $6.50 visit. A lot can be learned from this 90+ year old gentleman. You may leave feeling admiration, gratitude, and bewilderment. Don't forget to wear leather shoes!

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    Lone horse.

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    The paddock, where horses are paraded and saddled before post time. There is peace in the valley, and on the grounds of Santa Anita. This is a bum's paradise - "while away the hours, conferrin' with flowers".

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    Charlie Whittingham and Toby.

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    Three famous horses are buried on this spot.

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    "Call To Post"- that's the name of the tune you may recognize from "charge!" chants at sports games. This is bugler Jay Cohen.

    "I love my job," Jay says, gleefully, "I've taken it off the track and turned it into [one] of an entertainer. I go through the crowd and play birthday songs for the kids, give out ice cream coupons, tell jokes, do anniversaries," and of course, play for the beginning of each race.

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    A statue of Seabiscuit, one of the all-time great race horses, stands in the paddock. Below is a statue of George Woolf. He is remembered as an especially honorable jockey, in a job that is notorious for cheap tricks and other "funny business".

    Two of Woolf's most exciting rides came on Seabiscuit. In the 1938 Hollywood Gold Cup, he brought Seabiscuit from 14 lengths back to win the race. In a match with War Admiral later in the year, he used the opposite strategy by outrunning War Admiral from the start.

    George Woolf was the nation's leading stakes-winning jockey 1942-44. In 1946 he was killed in a spill at Santa Anita. In his honor the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award is given to the rider who demonstrates high standards of personal and professional conduct."- Seabiscuit-An American Legend.

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    Notice something different in the bottom center portion of this particular panel of lattice work. The figure fallen under the horses is a tribute to George Woolf. Thank you to Santa Anita's friendly fire-marshal for pointing this detail out to us.

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    Legalized off track betting has taken a large bite of profit out of the big race tracks. What can you do- where there's money to be made, there's a crooked politician to pay. Go to a track; keep it real.

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    A sweeping vista of the San Gabriel mountains. The natural splendor of Los Angeles in full view. The infield is closed today, one of the last days of the Oak Tree.

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    "The stands", or the stairs to nowhere!

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    It's fun to dress up for the races. Formal attire is required if you plan to enter the Clubhouse, Turf Club, or Director's Room.

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    Santa Anita was the first race track to implement the "photo finish".

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    Sirona's is one of many dining venues at the track. It has 50 televisions- all of them tuned to horse racing! Chef Harry Kurland ran the catering operation at Santa Anita, back in the day. He was famous for his juicy corned beef sandwiches which sold for a dollar.

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    Sirona does a Bloody Mary right. This salt rimmed plastic cup leaves you free to roam the grounds.

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    Silks.

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    Opening day at Santa Anita is Wednesday, December 26th. See you there!

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