Saturday, August 13, 2011

Santa Anita Park Expedition

On a recent trip to Southern California, I had the opportunity for a return visit to Santa Anita Park. Santa Anita is a thoroughbred racetrack in Arcadia, California. My previous visit there was as a guest of someone who had a box seat to watch the races, and who also knew statistics about the horses that were running that day. On my visit to the park last week, there were no races scheduled, but that in no way means that the park was closed down. It is a year-round operation for training and boarding horses, as well as a site for catering special events. There is also a food-service operation, called "Clockers", that is open to the public (lower right photo), and seemed to be doing a booming business, selling coffee and breakfast meals, on the day I was there. Considering the park's close proximity to the Hollywood film industry, it is not surprising that the facilities there have been used in the filming of many movies. For example, Santa Anita's vast parking lot and exterior served as the entrance facade for the fictional "Wally World" in National Lampoon's Vacation movie. That art deco-designed facade and grandstand (lower left photo of collage) has been designated as a historic landmark. That is because it was opened in 1934, and has---for the most part---been in operation ever since it opened, although not always for horse racing. For example, during the 1942-1944 period of World War II, Santa Anita was used as a Japanese American internment center, with up to 17,000 people living in the horse stables.

I was delighted to have the opportunity to tour the "behind the scenes" part of Santa Anita that contains the stables and other support buildings for maintaining horses. If one plans ahead, they too can take a peek at the stables area by signing up for the free, guided "Sea Biscuit Tour" that is offered at the park. The lower photo of this collage shows the tram that transports visitors on the Sea Biscuit Tour, on the multi-acre area that comprises the stables location. For those who may have forgotten, Seabiscuit is the name of a VERY FAMOUS thoroughbred race horse that is closely associated with Santa Anita Park(he raced there eleven times) and Santa Anita history. In fact, Santa Anita is known as the "Home of Seabiscuit", and there is a life-size statue of him in the paddock area of the park. Of course, the tour includes a visit to the statue, several filming locations for the movie, as well as to the "Champions" gift shop at the park, where one can find all types of merchandise related to horses, and Seabiscuit in particular. Sea Biscuit was stabled in "Barn 38" (middle and upper right photo), between the years of 1937 - 1940. Seabiscuit is most famous for winning the 1940 Santa Anita Handicap race. The horse became even more of a legend during the past decade because of the extremely popular movie made about it, simply entitled "Seabiscuit". In that movie, Tobey McGuire played the jockey who rode Seabiscuit to victory .

When you take the tour of the stables area, if you are like me, you may be surprised to see automatic washing machines sitting uncovered, outside many of the stables (lower photo). Apparently training horses can be a dirty business! I was also surprised to see how some of the stables area were "dressed up" with window boxes, decorative shutters, clever signage, and flowering plants. Notice the massive size of the trunk of the tree shown in the middle photo of this collage. I learned those are called Pepper trees, and these gorgeous, shade-producing trees line the roadways throughout the stables area.

Since Santa Anita is well-suited to handle large numbers of horses, trainers, athletes, and spectators, it is not surprising to learn that it was used as the site of the equestrian events of the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics. I had the good fortune to get to attend some of the equestrian events at the Summer Olympics held in Atlanta, Georgia, and those events included a lengthy bus ride to get to the somewhat rural, venue. In contrast, Santa Anita is just east of Pasadena, in a densely populated area.

When you tour the stables area, you will get to see the horse hospital (middle left photo), the "detention/holding barn", the exercise boys and girls out (lower left photo), workers washing the horses, and workers toting off straw (new straw is put down in the stables daily, and the old straw is hauled off to farms where mushrooms are grown). Every horse I saw the day of my tour, had a bit and bridle on its head. Those terms reminded me of the First Place 4 Health memory verses I have learned that try to get me to see the power of the tongue, and the difficulty that us human beings have, in trying to control it! Although our tongue is tiny in comparison to the rest of our body, what the tongue says can influence the direction that our bodies take. That is what the Bible verse in James 3:3 is trying to show us: "When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal." If you would like to learn more about Santa Anita Park, just log onto and trot on out to So Cal for a visit you will never forget!! Miles of smiles! Tricia

Posted by Picasa