…and away they go.
SANTA YNEZ, CA – You read that right… not Santa Anita, which is where I certainly would’ve been if not for a previous engagement three hours up the coast. What could get your humble West Coast reporter to miss the World Series/Super Bowl/World Cup of horse racing that is the Breeders Cup Championships.? The Solvang Prelude, a metric century bike ride (that’s 62.5 miles, a prelude to March’s actual 100-mile American Century) through gorgeous wine country…rolling hills lined with green and orange rows of grape trees, pastoral horse farms, and the occasional blight of Romney/Ryan signs (it’s Reagan Country up here).
There are few things better than a lovely ride followed by wine tastings in villages like Los Olivos, which are so unbelievably picturesque and quaint they look like they could be lifted off the landscape and plopped down as “Wineland” in Disney World – which would indeed make it the happiest place on Earth. This is the land of Sideways; we pedaled right by The Hitching Post! – and fortunately we didn’t ride our bikes into any trees.
It’s a good way to spend a Saturday morning (though perhaps not as cool as illegally riding a bike through Manhattan during a hurricane), but let me ride in spirit down to the deco-tacular Santa Anita Park to report on the big weekend (hey, if Mitch Albom can write about NCAA tourney games he didn’t attend, why can’t I pretend to be at the track?). Besides, I’ve spend enough time there to know all the good vantage spots, the out-of-the-way betting windows, and all carving stations for roast beef sandwiches with (ahem) horseradish.
The Classic: It’s rare in both bike and horse races that the rabbit who jumps out to the early lead holds on, but that’s just what 9-1 long shot Fort Larned did, breaking clean and holding off Latino Village People cover band Mucho Macho Man down the stretch to give jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. a happy 27th birthday (and a quarter million prize).
The Mile: Keep your Triple Crown races, those are for children, the Breeders Cup is where the pros race. Jockey John Valasquez eschewed the chance to ride Animal Kingdom, whom he steered to victory in the 2011 Kentucky Derby, to stick with Wise Dan…a wise move for the Hall of Famer, and a great case made for a possible Horse of the Year.
The Turf: I love the turf course at Santa Anita, because it starts up a hill and comes down a long chute, crossing the dirt and then circling around the grass (like most of my stoner friends at one of my deck-time bbqs) for a mile and a half. Little Mike was more like Magic Mike on this day, paying a nice 17-1 prize.
Sprint: 13-1 long shot (sensing a trend here?)Trinniberg ran as fast as Mike Wallace taking a simple crossing pattern, turning the corner and outrunning every Giants’ defensive back on his way to a game changing touchdown. (Sorry Giants fans!)
Ladies Classic: Royal Delta won this for the second year in a row, almost putting her in the same company as MTM Classy Ladies Cookie and Lorrie Levine.
Those are the highlights,as near as I can figure them, except for maybe Tony Bennett singing The Best is Yet to Come before the Classic. Speaking of the best being yet to come, Angry Ward will be racing down the stretch, tomorrow.