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Original Issue


Santa Anita park occupies 400 acres on the edge of the foothills of the lofty Sierra Madre range at Arcadia in southern California. For all its recognition as a site of immense and moving scenic beauty and its reputation for efficiency and trackside luxury, Santa Anita is, nonetheless, first and foremost a race track. It has a cycle of daily life much the same as that of tracks as far removed from Santa Anita's $100,000 stakes as Santa Anita is from the $1,000 claiming race. The day, as it does at every track, begins early. The dawn's first light finds exercise boys taking their horses out for workouts against a backdrop of palm trees and forbidding mountains. It is now that the rhythm of Santa Anita begins, slowly at first, then faster.

The cafeteria in the stable area has gallons of coffee for all track hands. It also serves as the perfect informal conference room where the oldtime owner-trainer can, during a quick breakfast snack, discuss the morning workouts with his exercise boys.

There won't be a race till one p.m., but dedicated track fans like to be early. At first they come in small numbers, like the first two to take their pioneer steps across the grandstand's mosaic inlay tile shortly before noon. They are followed by literate ladies seeking quiet and a place to study the intricate mysteries of the Daily Racing Form. Here, too, are the first to occupy the reserved seats—also men and women of learning before the first test of judgment. By middle of the afternoon elbows are a close common denominator.

Illuminated tote board, for the seventh time during the day, records the wagers of the stands; by day's end nearly $2 million will pass through the betting windows. The grandstand area, cluttered with crowds all afternoon, lies littered with the wrack of a day's programs, papers and stubs in a scene reminiscent of the floor of the stock exchange on a hectic day. Before the crowd streams out to the motorized geometry of the parking lot, rosy sunset and rising smog offer a choice of aerial symbolisms reflecting alternative views of each man's betting day.