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Santa Anita Racing Returns: Horses and Statues and Food Trucks, Oh My!

zenyatta.jpg
Jockey Mike Smith and Zenyatta after winning the 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita. (Photo by Benoit Photography/used with permission)
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While the Southland blisters in the expected heatwave, Carmageddon II forces people to become stationary and the Dodgers continue to flail away against the Colorado Rockies, Saturday is a big bang of events as Santa Anita opens their Autumn Meet which culminates with The Breeders' Cup World Championships on Nov. 2 and 3.

The Great Race Place will bring the food truck festival back to their infield. Among the food trucks participating are Frysmith, Nom Nom, Slider City, The Grilled Cheese Truck, Joe's Pizza and Komodo among the nearly 40 trucks. With the temperatures expected to be around the century mark, it's probably a good thing Coolhaus will be there.

For the people who have those detestable creatures also known as children, the Pumpkin Patch Family Fun Day will have pony rides, face painting, carnival games, a free hay maze and a free inflatable jumper.

And USC Trojan fans who are lost without Saturday football, the USC band will be playing between the seventh and eighth races around 4 p.m. They will be debuting the new theme song for Santa Anita called "My California."

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The freeloaders will see trainer Doug O'Neill who won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes with I'll Have Another sign autographs from 11 a.m. to noon, and the first 15,000 fans will receive a yellow Santa Anita cap like the one he wore during the hunt for the Triple Crown.

At noon, a life-sized statue of Zenyatta will be unveiled joining Seabiscuit and John Henry as the only horses memorialized at Santa Anita. Zenyatta won her first 19 races before losing by a head in her final race at the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs. Perhaps her most thrilling victory came in the 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita where she overcame her typical slow start to become the first female to win the Classic.

Speaking of the Breeders' Cup, the first post of racing begins at 1 p.m. Five of the last six races are "Win and You're In" races where the winners will automatically gain entry into the Breeders' Cup. What used to be called the Lady's Secret Stakes will be the inaugural 1-1/16 mile Grade I $250,000 Zenyatta Stakes. The eighth race of the day for fillies and mares three-years old and up which will post around 4:30 p.m., Zenyatta won this race three consecutive years from 2008 to 2010.

The first of the automatic qualifying races is the 1-1/16 mile Grade I $250,000 Chandelier Stakes for two-year old fillies, the sixth race of the day with an estimated post time 3:30 p.m.

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Legendary trainer Bob Baffert will have three horses in the seventh race of the day, the Grade I $250,000 FrontRunner Stakes. Of note is Carving which is co-owned by Baffert and former Olympic skiier Bode Miller.

The 1-1/4 mile Grade I $250,000 Rodeo Drive Stakes is the only one of the five graded stakes races to be on turf and is for fillies and mares three-years old and older.

The final graded stakes race, the Grade I $250,000 Awesome Again Stakes will feature Game On Dude. Game On Dude won three Grade I stakes in 2011 and came in a close second in the 2011 Breeders' Cup Classic while ridden by Chantal Sutherland despite pulling ahead down the stretch before Drosselmeyer came out of nowhere to take the $5 million purse.

After finishing second in the Pacific Classic on Aug. 26, trainer Baffert announced he would replace Sutherland with Rafael Bejarano to ride the five-year old gelding. It should be worth noting that Game On Dude is co-owned by former Dodger and Yankee manager Joe Torre.

Also notable is jockey Mario Gutierrez returning to Santa Anita after his success riding I'll Have Another. Of the notable races, Gutierrez will be riding:
* Wittgenstein in the fourth position in the Chandelier Stakes
* Miss Mittagong in the ninth position in the Zenyatta Stakes
* Camelia Rose in the seventh position in the Rodeo Drive stakes

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And if you just want to be a degenerate gambler, the last six races will be Pick Six which will feature all stakes races — the five Grade I stakes and the ungraded Unzip Me Stakes. And if you couldn't nab the exactas, superfectas, the straight bets or anything else, there's also the $400,000 guaranteed Late Pick 4 for the last four races.

To go car-less to the track, take the Gold Line to the end of the line at Sierra Madre Villa Station and transfer to the Metro 187 line that drops you right outside the parking lot.

General admission is $5, and if it gets too hot at least there is air conditioning inside the grandstand.