Photo: Melanie Martines
With the Los Alamitos Summer
Meet behind us, and a break between racing at Santa Anita Park and the start of Del Mar's meet; it’s a great time to reflect on the track’s very first Thoroughbred
As an avid horse racing fan from Las Vegas, I’ve always made it a point to attend every important event involving the sport of horse racing in California. I’ve made it to Zenyatta’s "first retirement" celebration at ole’ Hollywood Park, seen Zenyatta become the first female to win the Breeders Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park, went to the closing of Hollywood Park, and to support California Horse Racing ... We decided to attend Los Alamitos very first Summer Thoroughbred Festival! A weekend road trip sprinkled with a pinch of passion led us on a journey to Southern California over 4th of July weekend. Greeted by the Los Alamitos Race Course sign, it proudly stated, “Home of Superstar California Chrome”. We finally made it to our destination!
Armed with my camera; we were ready to spend a weekend at the track to attend the very first Los Alamitos Derby which was formerly called the Swaps Stakes, and previously held at Hollywood Park.
Since the closing of Hollywood Park; Los Alamitos is making every attempt to help fill a void in Southern California. It's a small facility, but it's a place that really wants racing and trying to make a difference in supporting the Thoroughbreds in California. The facility has a mix of old and new with some areas outdated, but with that said~ it seemed to add character to the track. You could obviously tell what areas of the track were new, and it was actually very appealing. With tall palm trees, flowers, man-made lakes and the thought of being in Southern California-- you could not help, but smile. Neatly tucked away within the city of Cypress the race track is only miles away from Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm! The staff at the track was extremely friendly, and whenever there's a combination of good weather and horse racing how could you not have a good time?
Despite the positive changes that have already taken place; Los Alamitos Executives would admit that work is far from complete, and there are still challenges up ahead for this track's promising future in Thoroughbred Racing.
The first thing I wanted to see was the long home stretch! You could see where the old track used to be, and was currently gated off. The main track is
brand new, and although there are local jockeys who have experience riding at Los Alamitos; the
track now sports a home stretch measuring 1,380 ft. I took a glimpse at the view
from the finish line, and that was a stretch to eternity!
Covering the longest stretch in the country the configuration of the race track is a 1-mile oval with very tight turns. The stretch run is more than a quarter mile long, and as a result of the tight turns nobody seems to do any running on the far turns. Everyone just maintains position, and when they get to the head of the lane; whoever is in the front has the advantage. There has only been a few stretch-running good closing winners. So far, races has been won by a horse on, or near the front-end at the head of the lane. You would think with a quarter mile stretch you might see horses making up a lot of ground through the lane, but apparently it's not happening yet.
This seems to be a speed favoring and speed conducive type of race track, and if your horse is not 1-2-3 at the head of the lane, forget about it- because its just not going to happen. You can't help but wonder to some extent how much do you think the riders themselves need a period of adjustment with where to be on the race track and just getting a feel themselves with the new configuration in an entirely new environment with Thoroughbreds. I'm sure as more races are run at Los Alamitos the jockeys will feel more comfortable with the surface, and maybe we'll start seeing them be a little more aggressive in making their move around the far turn and open up. I'm sure the running style and strategy has a lot to do with the fact that the pace in most of this meet's races have been relatively modest and when the horses are hitting the top of the lane; the horses up front still has a lot left in their tank which obviously does not help the running style of a horse needing that honest pace.
Another concern has been the small fields dominated by maidens, which hopefully in time the quality of races will be improved. Most of the races had logical/legitimate contenders who pulled away from the field winning by large lengths. The less quality horses of course does not have the ability to sustain with the class in the field. Since this is the tracks very first meet, hopefully the racing office is working on creating interesting races that fans would want to wager on.
View of the Winner's Circle:
Pony horse with a very cute head-piece:
Colorado Strong, a very rambunctious colt sired by Lucky Pulpit who produced 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome easily won his debut race on Friday, July 4th:
The American Flag Stakes with Victor Espinoza and the #6 Sky Kingdom taking the lead:
Sky Kingdom and Victor Espinoza with an upset win in the American Flag Stakes:
On Saturday was the Los Alamitos Derby. Horses coming in from the barn area before the race:
Horses getting ready before the race:
Getting ready for "Riders Up!" for the Derby:
Coming around the far turn:
Mike Smith and Shared Belief running down horses in an impressive fashion:
Shared Belief Stretching out and taking over the field:
A humble moment for Mike Smith:
With the Summer Meet behind us, the track will race the L.A County Fair dates for three weeks in September, and a three-week Winter Meet in December. There is a lot to be excited about, and it will be interesting to see how strategy employed by some of the jockeys will effect the out come of future races.
One last thought, do you think that once the jockeys feel more comfortable with the configuration of the track; we will be able to see a difference in the outcome of the races? As it stands, if you are not 1-2-3 at the head of the lane, you just won't stand a chance.