Reflections of Opening Weekend at Santa Anita Park

October 02, 2014 04:01pm
Mike Smith Beholder 615 X 400 Melanie
Photo: Melanie Martines


In the world of Thoroughbred Horse Racing there is never a shortage of thrills, disappointment, and drama. Spanning from the East to the West Coast the weekend left racing fans with much to talk about. The West Coast definitely had its share of excitement as it was opening weekend at beautiful Santa Anita Park. With five "Win and You're In" races on the card for the weekend, it was surely going to be action packed.

Santa Anita begins its 25-day Autumn Meet ending Sunday, November 2nd after the Breeders Cup weekend. With the beautiful San Gabriel Mountains in the background, it's a perfect backdrop to a beautiful day at the races. Santa Anita is my favorite race track, and no matter how many times I visit, I'm still blown away by its beauty and the wonderful people that work there. The first thing I did notice when I got to the track was the new dirt surface. It's a sandy sunset-colored surface known as El Segundo sand which is a naturally occurring, indigenous soil that will help ensure balanced drainage during periods of wet weather and a uniform, safe cushion year-round. It was installed over the summer and was brought in from the excavation construction project going on at Los Angeles International Airport. So far, the early reviews for Santa Anita's new surface are positive. Notice how much darker the track looks. 




















I was excited to find out that I was finally going to see 3-year old colt Indianapolis run!  I had followed him on the Kentucky Derby trail, but unfortunately after his San Pedro win he had a setback and had gotten sick. Trainer Bob Baffert backed off on his training and was not going to rush him. I had been following his workouts and so it was nice to see him start off slow in an Allowance Optional Claimer race. He did well in his return back to the track. He inched clear in the stretch, and held on gamely for the win with Martin Garcia aboard. He is a very good-looking colt and I hope to see great things from him in the near future.



I’m a huge California Chrome fan, so I was thrilled to meet Trainer Art Sherman and Trainer Danny Velazquez and had to take a photo with them. I hope to one day meet him again, and visit Chrome at the barn! 



Named in honor of retired Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Delahoussaye, the ninth and final race of the day was the Grade 3 Eddie D StakesDownhill on the turf, it was an interesting field of 11. Home Run Kitten made some noise when he rallied from way back, and closed like a freight train to get up on the wire and edge Ambitious Brew by a nose. A very thrilling victory for the Ramseys and their 3-year old colt Home Run Kitten paying $40 to win!


Jockey Joe Talamo and Home Run Kitten. 



On Saturday long shots were taking over the winner’s circle. In the first race 2-year old colt, Ain’t Misbehavin rallied under urging to gain the lead in deep stretch and proved to be the best. Paying a whopping $145.60 to win!  In the second race, #4 Sudden Rumor gained a slim advantage at the eighth pole and continued willingly, but was out-gamed by gritty #2 Papa’s Paisley who fought his way through the race to win by a nose paying a nice price of $40 to win! 



New jockey in town Alex Canchari guided Papa’s Paisley to victory. He’s been riding for just 3 years, but each year has topped over 2 million in purses. Second leading rider at Canterbury Park, he is new to Southern California so if you see him out at the track, make sure to welcome him to Santa Anita Park! Congratulations Alex on your first win at the "Great Race Place"!  Look out for this guy, he’s going to be a super-star at Santa Anita Park!




Special appearance by coach of the LA Kings, Darryl Sutter as well the Stanley Cup. The third and fourth race was dedicated to the LA Kings Stanley Cup as well as Congratulations Coach Sutter & LA Kings.



What was interesting to see was that Santa Anita Park, which is well known for its speed-favoring track proved otherwise as front-runners were not dominating the races. In race 4, a Maiden Special Weight, promising 2-year old colt Punctuate dropped back to the outside in the back of the field. He split rivals with a forward move into the turn, and came out into the stretch under urging to gain the lead in deep stretch nabbing 17-1 Bronze Start for the win. Punctuate guided by Rosie Napravnik paid $20 to win, and the $1 exacta paid $172.20!  



Beautiful Clydesdale horse 



In race 5, the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes, Mike Smith guided Beholder to the lead alongside Tiz Midnight into the stretch. She kicked clear and was victorious in her first race back since injury. Part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge series, Beholder earns a spot into the Breeders' Cup Distaff with a "Win and You're In". 



Beholder, beautiful as ever.  




I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about 2-year old American Pharoah, by Pioneerof the Nile out of Littleprincessemma. This is a handsome Zayat Stables colt, and could possibly be one of the best up-and-coming 2-year olds in the country. Bob Baffert has already commented that American Pharoah reminds him of Indian Charlie. 


Going off as the heavy favorite in race 6, American Pharoah stole the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes by over 3 lengths. Another "Win and You're In" race, American Pharoah has earned a spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Jockey Victor Espinoza crossing the wire with American Pharoah takes a long behind him to see who may have been on his tail. 



There was a special appearance from Game on Dude who recently retired from racing. He paraded by race fans between races 6 & 7. It was a very emotional moment for his fans and those connected to him. As eyes teared up on the track he did a final run by as a video of his accomplishments was played on the big screen.



He ran by the rails as fans clapped and cheered for the champion as he walked by.





Race 7 was the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive Stakes with Rose Napravnik and 4-year old filly Emollient going off as the favorite. Filly came out 3 deep into the stretch and gamely prevailed winning by half a length to Parranda. 




#3 Moulin de Mougin unseated Jockey Mike Smith in the run nearing the stretch. Luckily horse and jockey were not injured. Filly continued to run the race after falling, and was wrangled successfully running to the finish line. 



A "Win and You're In" race, Emollient has earned a spot in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.






Getting ready for the post parade for the Awesome Again Stakes.






Finally the field in the Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes.






A crowd of 17,073 lined the rails in hopes to see top 3-year old Shared Belief prove he is the best 3-year old in the country.






The field going by the first time. This is the second time I've noticed #7 Mystery Train and his very interesting hairdo.






Shared Belief rallied gamely with Fed Biz going nose to nose down the stretch under a strong urge by Mike Smith.  




Nose-to-nose battle



The duo did not let up, and eventually won by a neck grabbing the $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes and sending a buzz cross-country on this talented gelding’s performance. Another "Win and You're In" race, this latest victory gave Shared Belief an automatic berth in the $5 million Classic.



After the race Jockey Mike Smith is expresses his emotion.



Shared Belief getting cooled off. 



Mike Smith still thanking his lucky stars.  



Race 9, The Unzip Me Stakes, downhill turf. Jockey Victor Espinoza and 3-year old filly Alexis Tangier prevails and wins by a neck and paid $14.20 to win.



With back-to-back graded stakes action, race 10, the Grade 1 Chandelier Stakes was a ”Win and You're In" event for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. With Rafael Bejarano riding for the Todd Pletcher shipped filly Angela Renee. Filly came out along the stretch, made her move along the pace-setter Sunday Sonnet and pulled away for the win over 2-1 favorite Conquest Eclipse.  



A huge field of 12 fillies Angela Renee proved to be the best. 



There were a few long shots on Sunday's card to include the graded stakes action for that day, the Grade 2 John Henry Turf Championship Stakes. Majestic statue of the great champ, John Henry near the Kingsbury Fountain. 



7-1 Bright Thought who kicked clear in the stretch and held gamely over Finnegans Wake snatched the win. Favorite Big John B completed the trifecta.



Jockey Tyler Baze and Bright Thought wins the G-2 John Henry Turf Championship.


#10 Finnegans Wake and Jockey Joe Talamo. 



Bright Thought getting cooled down. 



From graded stakes action in horse racing to the Oktoberfest with beer and bratwurst in the infield, opening weekend at Santa Anita was filled with non-stop action. Catering to the horse players, beer connoisseurs, or just anyone looking to have a great time, Santa Anita Park was the place to be.

As the days count down and the excitement continues to slowly brew, we now have only 29 days and counting until the 2014 Breeders’ Cup World Championship races. Where will you be the weekend of October 31st? 


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Meet Melanie Martines

Melanie is an avid horse racing fan. She first fell in love with the sport in 2009 when she was first introduced to an article about the Pamplemousse. Her first Derby love was I Want Revenge after his spectacular win in the Wood Memorial, and would tell you that her favorite Thoroughbreds are Zenyatta, Mine That Bird and she's been following Mucho Macho Man since he was 2 years old.  

Her passion has led her to become quite knowledgeable of the sport, and has read many books on pedigree/conformation/dosage, handicapping and about great horses in racing history. She learned how to handicap a race from old-timers in the sport, and has a few favorite angles when picking a winner. 

Having a creative side to her, she is also a professional Photographer. She discovered that she was able to combine her passion for photography and horse racing and loves traveling to the California race tracks as much as she can. After returning from the Breeders' Cup races at Keeneland Race Track and experiencing the sports' first "grand-slam", the next planned adventure on her list will be Dubai for the World Cup on the last Saturday in March of 2016.
Her dream job would be behind the camera at a race track photographing everything that goes on throughout the day.
Originally from Hawaii, Melanie lives in Henderson, NV with her daughter Kaela who currently attends college. She is a graduate of UNLV and when she is not at the race track she is the Executive Assistant to the CEO of a Digital Marketing company in Las Vegas.

Visit her Sports Photography Portfolio At: 

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