Horseback Frenzy at Santa Anita Park

In 1940, Seabiscuit, a thoroughbred racehorse, became a national sensation after he overcame an injury and won California’s most prestigious race, the Santa Anita Handicap, otherwise known as “The Hundred Grander” for its $121,000 payout. With his ineffable grace, Seabiscuit was a symbol of hope, providing respite for people suffering from the Great Depression. He became the proud horse of the West Coast, the Horatio Alger of the turf, and a forgotten presence at Pomona College.

If the “47 Things” every Sagehen should do before leaving Pomona exists, as President Oxtoby mentioned, “to better know our region better,” then the list is incomplete. Pomona can better experience Southern California to its fullest by making a slight revision.

Number 46: Visit the Santa Anita Park, enjoy the Food Truck Festival, watch live horse racing, and pay homage to Seabiscuit.

Last Saturday, thousands of people gathered around Santa Anita Park, located in Arcadia, approximately 25 minutes from campus. As visitors drove into the parking lot, they witnessed the oldest racetrack in Southern California, filled with spectators brimming with enthusiasm for good food and horse racing. With the backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains adding a spectacular scene, Santa Anita Park is easily one of the most beautiful racetracks in the country.

Praised by Sports Illustrated back in 1964, the Park is known for being a spectacular setting.

“If anything of grace and beauty is to survive man’s passion for functional perfection, it may well be the famed race courses or another day,” the article gushed.

Many do not realize the impact that the horse industry has on the everyday lives of Californians. Picture the image of Ronald Reagan riding a horse at his ranch. Imagine our friends at the Claremont Equestrian Team competing against other schools at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association. Horses have been a staple of Southern California, and the hard-fought lobby of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to bring the Breeders’ Cup to Santa Anita Park is a testament to its importance.

“This prestigious, international sporting phenomenon will boost our local economy and generate tens of millions of dollars in economic impact to the region,” Villaraigosa said.

Fortunately, Santa Anita Park has been named to host the 2012 Breeders’ Cup next November. This event needs to be marked on every Pomona student’s calendar. Attendees can breathe in the festive atmosphere at the park and appreciate the beauty of the horses. The park is not, as conventional wisdom holds, a place of debauchery and drunkenness. People do drink and gamble, but that’s not all there is.

Besides the live horsing race, the Santa Anita Food Truck Festival provides an exciting experience that everyone in Southern California should enjoy. Last weekend at Santa Anita Park, families with baby strollers waited in line to enjoy delicious dishes from one of the gourmet food trucks. Sixty-six food trucks, from the famous Grilled Cheese Truck to the Indian Naan Stop, gave people a taste of how diverse Southern California cuisine can be. As the Los Angeles Times reported in May 2011, “Food trucks have also placed L.A. at the center of a national movement.”

The most treasured part of visiting Santa Anita Park, however, is the Seabiscuit exhibit, home to the equine actor Fighting Furrari, who played Seabiscuit in the 2003 movie. This particular actor doesn’t mind all the attention. People can easily walk up, take pictures, and touch him on the face without any hassle. If Hollywood provides a vicarious experience of a movie set, Santa Anita Park gives people the full experience. There are also opportunities to ride horses for people of all ages.

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