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Let's Watch the Horsies!

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Einstein crossing the finish line at the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 7. All photos by Jimmy Bramlett

This Saturday is the 72nd Santa Anita Derby. Gates open at 10 am, and the first race is at noon. The winner of the big race will be eligible to race in the Kentucky Derby, the first jewel of the Triple Crown races, in May. The best known winner of the Derby, Affirmed in 1978, was the last horse to win the Triple Crown.

At the Santa Anita Handicap last month I was standing next to a gentleman named Jim, a laid off driver in his sixties who lives in Ventura County. I had been to Santa Anita several times but wanted to find out what made racetrack fans tick. In his wrinkled but not visage I figured he could tell me the ins and outs of thoroughbred racing.

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“This is my first time at the track,” he told me.

I was astonished, but I should have known better. He wasn’t like many others who had betting slips in their hand cheering on their pick-three or trifecta picks. He stood there in quiet awe as the horses crossed the finished line right in front of us.