Tuesday, August 11, 2009
During Sunday's coverage of the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes, the TVG commentators marvelled at the crowd gathered in the paddock to get a close-up look at Zenyatta and her connections. They spoke about the amazing structure of horse racing that allows ordinary folks to rub elbows with famous owners, trainers and athletes. What's marvelous, really, is that horse racing itself is bigger than the people who follow the sport.
In the social sense, horse racing is the great equalizer. When you're at the track, you share a special connection with all the other people there. It's like everyone -- from the two dollar bettor to the celebrity horse owner -- is in the same club. Everyone speaks the same language -- and it's all about a love for the horses.
More than 50 years ago, Hedda Hopper saw the same phenomenon and wrote about it in the Los Angeles Times.
Hedda Hopper was a Hollywood actress and gossip columnist who hob-nobbed with the rich and famous and told all in her famous column, "Hedda Hopper's Hollywood." In September 1953, Hopper visited Del Mar Racetrack and had this to say:
"This I saw with my own eyes. Lucille Ball, the most famous woman in America, stood alone at the Del Mar racetrack bar, ordered a drink, downed it and paid for it. In any other place except here, 1000 men and women would have hedged her in buying her champagne."1
Now that's the type of thing I can easily see happening at any California racetrack. In more recent times, I've seen the likes of Mel Brooks, Joe Pesci, Alyssa Milano, and other stars mingling with the crowds at the races. It strikes me that it must be a rare treat for a celebrity to enjoy a pasttime, surrounded by throngs of other people, and feel just like an ordinary racetrack fan. At the racetrack, the real superstars are obviously the horses!
1 - L.A. Times, Sept. 2, 1953, pg. 32.
Photo courtesy of Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.