And they’re off . . . drinking a Racetrack Bloody Mary and watching the horses run at Santa Anita Park. That’s what my friends and I did and it was a ball.
I haven’t been to the horse races since I was a kid when I used to go with my Dad and Grandfather. Santa Anita Park has always been one of my favorite tracks.
The FrontRunner Restaurant
The restaurant has floor to ceiling open windows looking out to the track with a panoramic view of the San Gabriel Mountains.
It also has the 2nd longest bar in the world.
When the races aren’t running the FrontRunner is used for conferences, private parties, and other events. It’s a cool place to view the races, especially when it’s 100 degrees outside.
Yummy Macho Mary
We ordered Macho Mary’s – FrontRunner’s version of Bloody Mary’s, one of their specialty drinks. The mix includes citrus and part of the reason it’s so good is that they let it marinate for at least 24 hours. I don’t know their actual secret recipe but created one (below) that was inspired by a recipe made at the track during a private vodka tasting.
History of Santa Anita Park
Santa Anita Park opened in 1934 after pari-mutual gambling was made legal in 1933. Hal Roach, who owned a movie studio and Dr. Charles H. Strub, a San Francisco Dentist, had it built in Arcadia, about 45 minutes (depending on traffic) from Los Angeles. It was preceded by an earlier racetrack erected by Elias J.”Lucky” Baldwin, in 1907 located nearby. He owned most of Pasadena, Sierra Madre, and Arcadia at the time.
The Old Turf Club
When I was a kid, we watched the races from the old Turf Club.” It still has it’s 1930’s charm.
You can also eat at the recently renovated and upscale “Chandelier Room.”
Viewing the Horses
One of my favorite things to do at the track, (because I’m clueless about gambling) is to go down to the paddock to look at the horses getting ready to race. You can watch them being fitted in an open stable at the front of the Park. A few minutes before post time, the jockeys parade them quickly around the grass paddock and head off to the gate. In the center of the grass is a statue of Sea Biscuit who raced at Santa Anita Park before going on to win the Triple Crown.
Gotta Love Those Jockeys
When I was a kid I watched Bill Shoemaker and Liffit Pincay Jr. race at Santa Anita Park. The jockeys hang out near the stable in the jockey room until their horses are ready to ride.
I like to take a look at the horses first to figure out who will win. Bill, a guy who was sitting with us, told us about the time his mother got fed up with his dad because he teased her for going with her intuition rather than analyzing the stats. One horse had just taken a big dump on the paddock right before a race was about to start. She told her husband that it would win because it felt so much better now. The horse won and Bill’s dad never teased his mother again.
Thoroughbreds are stunningly majestic and magical to watch as they saunter in front of you. I know some people are opposed to horse racing, but as one of my friends mentioned, you can tell they love to race. Some have attitudes like “I’m the big enchilada. Watch me annihilate those other weenies.”
Because the FrontRunner Restaurant is at the top of the elevator, we only went down to the paddock once. It was more of an effort to go down than I remember as a kid and besides it was hot outside. Instead, we had more Bloody Mary’s, champagne, and juicy grass-fed burgers. What a lovely way to spend a Sunday.
The horse community comes through during a disaster
There was a huge brush fire in the San Gabriel Mountains near the track the week before and communities of people were evacuated with not much time to do it. There were 200 horses that also had to be rescued. Two rival horse transport companies and workers from Santa Anita Park drove up into the treacherous hills to remove the animals from the fire zone. They were taken to vacant stables at the racetrack and to the Fairplex in Pomona. A feed company donated food and supplies. The entire horse community jumped in to help.
You may also enjoy reading about: The Fiesta of the Spanish Horse at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center
If you order a cocktail – try a Bloody Mary
As far as cocktails are concerned the Bloody Mary is about as healthy as you can get. I like to use Trader Joe’s Garden Patch vegetable juice. In addition to it having a tomato base, it also contains a garden of vegetables mixed in. Pour the mix into a nice frosty glass and garnish it with whatever you like. I used a lemon wedge, olives and a stalk of pickled asparagus. I’ve seen some hysterical Bloody Mary’s including one that had a hamburger slider stuck on a spear.
I hope you enjoy my Race Track Bloody Mary recipe inspired by Santa Anita Park’s Macho Mary.
- 32 oz tomato juice
- 1 oz fresh lemon juice
- 1 oz fresh lime juice
- 2 tsp hot sauce (more if you like the heat)
- 2 heaping Tbsp prepared horseradish
- 2 heaping Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 heaping tsp celery salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- Other garnishes can include celery, pickled asparagus, a strip of crisp bacon, a cutting of rosemary, or just about anything else you can think of. One Bloody Mary I saw even had a small beef slider on a spear.
- Combine all ingredients in a pitcher with a tight-fitting lid. Close the pitcher, and shake vigorously. Prepare up to four days in advance. It's best if it marinates for at least 24 hours. To assemble the cocktail sprinkle celery salt on a board. Rub a lemon wedge on the rim of the glass. Turn the glass over and into the celery salt. Pour 2 parts vodka and 4 parts Bloody Mary Mix into the glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge, olives or any other vegetables you like. I used a pickled asparagus spear in the image above. (A crisp piece of bacon, celery, carrots, etc.)
Find a hotel near Arcadia
Because of the summer heat, the horses are now moving on to Del Mar, which is another beautiful track.
Do you have a favorite racetrack? Please leave a comment below. If you like the pictures, please pin them.