by Jeff Newton
At Del Mar, patrons usually find some of the best action between races in the paddock. The small outdoor oval is surrounded by a number of viewing areas where fans can grab a drink, a bite and a seat while the horses for the upcoming race make their way to the track. For bettors, it's a prime opportunity to see the physical makeup of each horse, to get a feel for how they behave when all the eyes are on them. Yet for casual observers, the paddock is a place to appreciate just how beautiful and strong these animals truly are.
Some thoroughbreds, like the legendary mare Zenyatta, have that "it" factor the moment they come into view. They seem to control the proceedings as the background noise dies down and fans stop to appreciate what they're watching. Not every horse can become a Breeders Cup champion like Zenyatta, but they can all leave a lasting impression with how they carry themselves.
If you don’t know, horses are born showmen, capable of winning over the crowd with their playfulness, power and natural beauty. The biggest characters embrace the attention and make it a point to acknowledge the smiles and applause from onlookers. They preen, kick up dirt, hold their heads high and even play around with their jockeys from time to time. When the starting gates open, these horses are all business. But when they're making their rounds in the paddock, there's always a chance to have some fun.
Amazobie, the six-year-old California gelding, was a star in the paddock and on the track last Sunday during the Grade I Bing Crosby Stakes. Ridden by jockey Mike Smith, Amazobie rallied late in the six furlong race and drew out to win by 1 1/4 lengths. His winning time of 1:08.65 was the fastest six furlong run on the Del Mar Polytrack this meet, and it marked his 12th win in 27 career starts. The six-year-old beat out The Factor, the 2011 Del Mar Sprinter of the Meet, who went off at even money.
This weekend should be fun for families, music fans and chili lovers alike. On Friday evening, the renowned reggae band Steel Pulse will play shortly after the last race. Saturday afternoon will feature the Western Regional Chili Cookoff, with free samples for fans, followed by a performance from the popular alt rock group Cake. Sunday will also be family day at the races. We hope to see you out in the paddock.