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BEST BET

January 03, 1991|JESSE KATZ

For most horse racing fans, thrills come from a distance--a shimmering thoroughbred and a jockey's brightly colored silks spotted through binoculars as they turn onto the homestretch.

But to truly appreciate what it means to be a 100-pound rider atop a 1,000-pound animal, there's nothing like an up-close visit to the backside of Santa Anita Park.

On Saturdays and Sundays throughout the winter meeting, which began Dec. 26 and runs through April 22, the Arcadia track offers free, guided tours of the stable and the 2,000 horses housed there.

The only exceptions will be March 9 and April 6, when the track opens early for two of its biggest attractions, the Santa Anita Handicap and Santa Anita Derby Days.

Beginning at 8 a.m. and departing every 15 to 20 minutes until 9:30 a.m., a modern 46-passenger tram takes visitors past the barns, where some of the nation's top jockeys and trainers prepare to race some of the world's most finely tuned animals.

For the true aficionado, the track is also open free from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. daily throughout the season for visitors to watch early morning workouts. On racing days, usually Wednesdays through Sundays, a public-address announcer is on hand to identify the horses and racing personalities. Breakfast is available on outdoor tables overlooking the track.

For more information, call the track at (818) 574-RACE.

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