When I woke up on Super Saturday, it was a typically beautiful Southern California morning: there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and I couldn’t wait to get to Santa Anita to check out all of the festivities surrounding this great day of racing.
When I arrived at the track, I ran into my friend Christine Moore; she’s a milliner, and her hats are the official chapeaux of the Breeders’ Cup. She’s also just super nice and awesome, and she was kind enough to lend me this beautiful fascinator to wear around the races on Super Saturday. So cool! I need more fancy hats in my life. We all probably do.
After upping my fabulous quotient by about 1000%, it was time to head off to the infield to inspect the food truck rally the track was hosting. There were so many amazing options there, and for someone like me who’s obsessed with cheap, yummy lunches, it was basically heaven.
You can also check out the video below for a closer look at the food truck festivities at Santa Anita. I’m telling you, it’s worth it to come out to the track just for the tastiness factor alone!
The great thing about hanging out in the infield at Santa Anita is that, in addition to the awesome amenities and events, it also offers a great view of the racing action from a cool perspective. It’s something different that even long-established fans may not have a chance to experience very often, so if you’re heading out to the Great Race Place any time soon I highly recommend it!
Of course, there’s not really a bad view to be found at Santa Anita; as I remarked to a friend of mine on Saturday, I remember the first time I came here and thinking to myself that someone had to be playing a trick on me and that I must have stumbled onto a movie set. It’s just that stunningly beautiful.
Of course, I can’t make it through a single day without making a new animal friend (what can I say? Dr. Doolittle was one of my favorite movies growing up) and I found two new buddies at the track. The first friend I made was this handsome gray gelding: his job is to pull the racing officials from one end of the track to the other, and when I was rummaging around in my bag to grab a breath mint he zeroed in on the noise of the paper rustling and shot me the cutest begging look you’ve ever seen. I was powerless to resist and promptly surrendered all of the peppermints I had on my person.
The other critter I encountered was Lexi: while I didn’t actually get to pet her, I just had to bring her to your attention. Lexi’s job is to sit in the carriages and look awesome. She’s really, really good at her job.
I mean, seriously: Lexi is a boss. I’m a little obsessed.
After my pre-stakes race wanderings, it was time to focus on the afternoon’s major events. Super Saturday earned its name for a reason: Santa Anita had five Grade I races (the toughest competition there is in this game) and some of America’s finest horses and jockeys were on hand to duke it out one last time before November’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
The first big event of the afternoon was the Chandelier Stakes: this is a 1 1/16 mile long competition for 2-year-old fillies, and the winner of the race would earn herself a free trip to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Needless to say, everyone’s excitement was at a boiling point as the gates sprung open and eight fillies leapt forth to battle for the winner’s share of the $250,000 purse.
After a mile and a sixteenth, three fillies had emerged from the rest of the pack and the race was on between Secret Compass, She’s A Tiger and Fascinating. As the horses passed the finish line, jockey Rosie Napravnik managed to get Secret Compass’s head in front of the competition to secure her position in the Breeders’ Cup starting gate.
Rosie also earned herself a fist-bump from trainer Bob Baffert on her way into the winner’s circle for her awesome ride. It was a great start to the afternoon’s stakes races!
Next up was the Rodeo Drive Stakes. This one is a 1 ¼ test for female horses (AKA fillies and mares) on the grass course, and there was some serious talent on the track. This race is a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, so once again the stakes were high as the starting gate opened.
Her huge effort earned Tiz Flirtatious post-race pats from her groom and from jockey Julien Leparoux – she really put in a huge effort, and earned all of the praise she got from her human connections.
The next race is one of my favorites at Santa Anita: the FrontRunner Stakes. This is a 1 1/16 miles competition for 2-year-olds, and it acts as a preview for next year’s Kentucky Derby. These are the top young horses in the nation, and they’re the ones that will go on to this year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and on to the 2014 Triple Crown races. I love seeing the stars of tomorrow, and this year’s edition of the FrontRunner had garnered ten scrappy youngsters hungry to prove themselves.
Bond Holder stole the show in the FrontRunner, running down the center of the racetrack to win by 2 ¼ lengths. You may recognize the silks of his jockey from the 2012 Triple Crown: Bond Holder is owned, trained and ridden by the same connections who campaigned 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another.
I love the photo below of jockey Mario Gutierrez’s smile; he’s one of the nicest, hardest-working people in racing, so it’s wonderful to see him on another horse that has the potential to take him to Breeders’ Cup and Triple Crown glory.
The next major event was the Zenyatta Stakes; this race feeds into the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (which is the a division open to female horses aged three years old and up) and with the Breeders’ Cup just a month away, the competition was fierce. As the fillies and mares paraded to the starting gate, each horse looked more athletic and beautiful than the last and it was nearly impossible for me to pick a favorite amongst them.
After a mile and a sixteenth, it was 3-year-old sensation Beholder that bested her rivals to earn her spot in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. I love seeing these younger horses successfully taking on their older counterparts, and I’m now even more excited for the World Championships!
Beholder was beautiful in her victory, and jockey Gary Stevens was clearly pleased by their win judging by the smile on his face.
I’m sure owner B. Wayne Hughes of Spendthrift Farm was just as thrilled: Saturday was his 80th birthday, and the lion’s share of a $250,000 purse and a trip to the Breeders’ Cup is one heck of a present!
After the Zenyatta, it was time for the biggest race of Super Saturday: the Awesome Again Stakes. The race’s winner automatically gains entry into the Breeders’ Cup Classic, a race with a $5 million purse that nearly always determines who the Horse of the Year will be.
This year’s edition of the Awesome Again had attracted some of the finest horses in the country, including the likes of Paynter (a horse who overcame an potentially fatal illness to return to the races), Mucho Macho Man (who barely lost last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic) and Golden Ticket (winner of last year’s Travers Stakes) – like I said, this was a seriously talented field of horses!
As the competitors headed to the starting gate, in the beautiful late afternoon sunlight, the sense of anticipation in the air swelled as the crowd surged to get the best possible spot to watch the race unfold.
Finally, finally it was race time! There really is nothing like the roar of the crowd as the gates open for a big race and horses surge out onto the track; it gives me goosebumps every time.
After a mile and an eighth battle, the day belonged to Mucho Macho Man. I have a soft spot for this horse: he just tries so hard every time he runs, and he’s just such a big dude that I can’t help but love him – he’s the gentle giant type.
When the pair of Mucho Macho Man and jockey Gary Stevens returned to the winner’s circle, the smile on Gary’s face told the whole story: Mucho Macho Man was poised for revenge in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Gary was going along with him to give him every chance to get the win.
It was also great to see the rest of Mucho Macho Man’s human connections celebrating the win: trainer Kathy Ritvo and owner Dean Reeves shared a big hug on the track as their horse returned from his Awesome Again victory.
That wasn’t the only win Mucho Macho Man scored on Saturday, by the way: he also trended globally on Twitter (meaning he was one of the top ten most talked-about subjects in the world on the social networking site) – not bad for a horse!
That’s it for my Super Saturday adventures. Thanks as always for stopping by, and I’ll be back next Saturday with all of the action out of Fall Stars weekend at Keeneland!