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A Day at the Races : Here's a Tip on How to 'Cap Off Your Day--Run for the Thoroughbreds at the Santa Anita Handicap

March 07, 1987|DAVID LARSEN | Times Staff Writer

Everybody knows about the bettor who wagered a horse at 10 to 1.

Right. It finished at half past 2.

And the horses that you follow, they also follow the horses.

Be that as it may, if you plan ahead for this Sunday , you may be in the money at one of the Southland's biggest horse happenings.

It is the day of the 50th running of the Santa Anita Handicap, the Big 'Cap, the day when--if you go to the races only once a year--this should be it.

Thanks for the Memories

Not just a million-dollar event, not just the first big run of the year for mature horses, but something of which memories are made. Oh, they've started the Breeders' Cup series, which takes place in the fall with more money at stake, but that is much too new to edge out the ghosts of Seabiscuit, John Henry, Round Table, Affirmed, Cougar II and other famous winners of the Big 'Cap.

Annually the Santa Anita Handicap (first staged in 1935) attracts the Arcadia track's largest crowd of its four-month season. In fact, just two years ago, a record 85,527 showed up.

The parking lots open at 8 a.m., the admission gates an hour later. The first of the nine races (the Big 'Cap is the eighth) is at 12:30 p.m.

This year's renewal is one of the more competitive in years. Keep your eye on the two hot 4-year-olds, Preakness winner Snow Chief and Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand. Snow Chief holds a 5-2 advantage over his rival in the seven times they have met.

The two, however, have never run outside their own age division.

Which brings a serious handicapper to the thought that perhaps an intruder into this rivalry, a fully mature class horse, such as the 5-year-old Bedside Promise, winner of four of his last five starts, will wind up in the winner's circle.

For a decent betting price on a live possibility, you might want to consider the steady Eastern invader Broad Brush, a 4-year-old piloted by the aggressive Angel Cordero Jr. The horse has already been flown in and has taken up temporary residence in the stable area.

For the top race, obviously the top jockeys. Bill Shoemaker on Ferdinand, Patrick Valenzuela on Snow Chief, Gary Stevens on Bedside Promise, and Cordero. A field of nine is expected.

Betting at the Windows

The race track, as has been observed, is the only place where windows clean people. Betting or not, peruse our guide to this complex complex of parkland, track, betting booths, food vendors, places to stand, places to sit and places (never enough) to park your car. It should help you with the getting out, getting in, and the action in between.

TRAFFIC--The best route to the horse race is via the San Bernardino Freeway (I-10). Exit at Rosemead Boulevard, Santa Anita Avenue or Baldwin Avenue, and head north. If you're arriving via the Foothill Freeway (I-210), exit at Rosemead Boulevard or Michillinda Avenue (and head south) or at Huntington Drive (and go west, young man).

If coming by private plane or helicopter, land at the El Monte Airport, about five miles from the track, and have somebody waiting for you in a car or call a cab.

BUSES--Extra buses will be added that day. RTD regular line 79 from Olive Street and Venice Boulevard in downtown Los Angeles will begin service at 6:40 a.m., continuing every 40 minutes. A limited-stop special, line 379, will begin from the same point at 8:50 a.m., continuing at first every 15 minutes, eventually every three to seven minutes, the last such bus leaving at 1:25 p.m.

Allow about 50 minutes travel time if you are catching the special at its starting point.

The specials will begin returning at about 3 p.m., leaving as they are loaded (the bus, not the passengers).

Greyhound will send buses to the track from a number of cities. Call your local terminals for the schedules.

PARKING--Paved parking for 22,000 vehicles (security-patrolled) is available at fees of $2 for general, $4 for preferred (closer to the entrance), and $7 for valet.

Once you have paid for general or preferred, you are on your own. On a less crowded weekday, you can strategically drive to a parking space near an exit--but forget about that on Sunday. Just be grateful if you wind up in the main lot.

Because of the overflow of vehicles, late arrivals are directed to the track interior itself, specifically to the dirt comprising what is known as the chute where the seven-furlong races begin. (If such a race is on that day's card, it is run early in the day to allow for this special parking after the race.)

Don't even think about street parking unless you are in the mood for walking a couple of miles both arriving and departing.

Phone Booths Padlocked

By the way, if you anticipate having to make any phone calls, do so before you arrive. Although there are pay telephones on the premises at Santa Anita, state law requires that at all tracks the booths be padlocked an hour before the first race, and remain so until the conclusion of the final race so no race information can be phoned out to, say, a bookie during the program.

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