Our trip to the Breeders’ Cup: record crowd sees upset of “Chrome”

Zenyatta statue at Santa Anita Park
Zenyatta statue at Santa Anita Park

We packed our bags for 72 hours and drove to Pasadena to visit our longtime family friend Anita and go to the Breeders’ Cup horse races at Santa Anita Park in neighboring Arcadia. We grabbed lunch at Harris Ranch and zipped down I-5 ahead of the rush hour traffic. It was smooth sailing.

The weather in Los Angeles has been terrific. We splurged for three box seats at the 1/16 pole, which the three of us shared with a couple from Ohio and a woman from Orinda, all dressed up for the occasion.

The Breeders’ Cup, the “World Series of thoroughbred horse racing,” attracts an international audience. The races drew a crowd of 72,881 on Saturday, the largest single-day attendance in Breeders’ Cup history.

My wife and I previously have been to the Breeders’ Cup races at Churchill Downs in Kentucky and Belmont Park in New York. We also like the horse races at Del Mar in the summer. It’s a tradition when we have the time. I also enjoy the history of the Loma Rica Ranch in Grass Valley; it’s covered in Gage McKinney’s new book release, MacBoyle’s Gold. Horses from the Loma Rich Ranch raced at Santa Anita, including champion Noor.

Winning ticket for 30-1 long shot
Winning ticket for 30-1 long shot

This weekend’s championship races were spectacular. In the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic race, Arrogate upset champion California Chrome, catching him at the wire right in front of us. Arrogate is trained in California by Bob Baffert and owned by Juddmonte Farms. It is an award-winning horse breeding farm, owned by Prince Khalid bin Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

My wife ran into the Northern California owners of California Chrome standing in a “guest services” line as we were leaving the racetrack. They are unpretentious and exchanged good wishes. We’ve enjoyed meeting celebrities at the Breeders Cup before, including Tony Bennett, and we got his autograph. What a hoot!

Start of a Breeders’ Cup race

Santa Anita is a beautiful racetrack. It was originally part of Ranch Santa Anita. It opened in the ’30s as California’s first racetrack. It has an art deco facade and beautiful grounds, which include statues of Zenyatta and other famous race horses. In its heyday, the track’s races attracted stars such as Lana Turner and Cary Grant. Bing Crosby and Al Jolson were stockholders.

I grew up in the Pasadena area, and we enjoyed attending the horse races at Santa Anita with parents and friends. In junior high school, my friend and I would occasionally ride our bikes all the way to Santa Anita for the ninth race, which was free. We loved to handicap the races (applying some math skills to an unpredictable process), even though we were too young to bet.

At the Breeders’ Cup this weekend, we finished in the black. We’re not big gamblers, but we cleared more than $100 dollars  (on $5 or $2 bets), enough to cover the Uber rides to the track, with a little left over to contribute to dinner. One of the horses was a 30-1 longshot, chosen by our friend’s daughter Kerry.

We’re also enjoying the shirt-sleeve weather, a visit to the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, and some favorite restaurants such as The Raymond in Pasadena. Then we’ll zip back home on I-5 to the fall colors of Nevada City. California is a great state.

A video from the paddock:

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for years, was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News, and was Editor of The Union, a 145-year-old newspaper in Grass Valley. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing and trout fishing.

2 thoughts on “Our trip to the Breeders’ Cup: record crowd sees upset of “Chrome””

  1. I just received a great email from Dave Schmall, a former publisher of The Union. As it turns out, he also was at the Breeders’ Cup on Saturday. He’s been to previous ones too. Dave is a good guy. He’s a financial adviser now in Grass Valley and Dallas, and I wish him and his wife Jenn the best.

  2. i must say that my eyes misted over when you talked about Pasadena and the Santa Anita Race Track and the Raymond Restaurant and the Huntington Library. I lived there from 1974 to 1994 and find Pasadena to be a great California city. My favorite Huntington garden is the newest – the Chinese. I understand they spent millions and millions to get it just right….and they sure did that.

    I never miss going to Pasadena City Hall when I’m in town. It’s one of the world’s most beautiful and don’t forget the Norton Simon Art Museum. A jewel!

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