Wednesday, January 27, 2010

We Have Another Winner! Sally Cruikshank Wins Blog Contest at Santa Anita

Sally Cruikshank and Santa Anita's Irene Torres with "Carmen" in the Paddock Room.

Sally Cruikshank of Northridge, Calif. was the winner of this week's "Where at the Track is Carmen Santa Anita?" contest when she was the first to spot the little trophy horse at Santa Anita Racetrack. Cruikshank, who has been visiting Santa Anita for approximately two years, said it took her nearly four races to find Carmen.

"I covered every potato chip seller at the track, even in the Infield," Cruikshank said. "They'd say, 'Can I help you?' Me: 'No, I'm just looking!" Cruikshank also managed to get a win and exacta on race 5 before she left!

Irene Torres, who works in the Paddock Room food stand where Carmen was hidden, was equally excited about the contest. Torres has worked at the track for 25 years.

Congratulations to Cruikshank, who won a season clubhouse admission pass for the remainder of the Winter-Spring meet, compliments of Santa Anita!

Watch for another contest next week, when Carmen will again be hiding somewhere at the track.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pick 6 Bet Had its Roots in Caliente's "5-10"

A guest post by David J. Beltran

“I came close to hitting the 5-10; a guy two seats down from me hit it!”
--Anonymous Caliente horseplayer.

We get emails announcing its carryovers. Handicappers adjust their playing to take a stab at it. At any racetrack in the United States the pick-6 is now an everyday betting staple. But it was not always the norm.

John Alessio, General Manager and President of Caliente racetrack was always open for ideas, and when the “5-10” bet was suggested, Alessio took notice. It was taken from a popular bet at Hipodromo La Rinconada in Venezuela, the cinco y seis (5 and 6). The object of the cinco y seis was to select the runners of the day’s feature race in running order: first through sixth. Nail down five of the six runners and one received a small percentage of the pool. This lottery type bet paid huge amounts for a tiny investment, and the bet was supported not only by the regulars but anyone who could make it on time to the track and place the bet. Legend has it that the track had a window outside to place the bets.

This wagering format was studied for months by racing officials at Caliente. They planned to make it more playable and to suit the needs for Agua Caliente, which attracted crowds from both sides of the border. At Caliente, the format was changed. The object of the wager was to select six consecutive winners. The bet was placed on races five through ten, hence the name the “5-10.”

On April 15, 1956, Agua Caliente unveiled its new bet, which would turn this tiny track into a powerful weekend magnet for gamblers. The daddy of all the pick-6’s made its debut. That first 5-10 had a pool of just $10,082. Six people hit it with five winners each; five of those simply had $2.00 minimum bets worth $907.20 each. The other winning bettor bought five $2 dollar tickets, which were collectively worth $4,536.

The bet was placed by filling out a double-sided form. Local players quickly named this betting slip “la forma.” One would write out selections in one column and alternate selections in another. This was done in case of a late scratch.

The slip was then stamped at a betting window and sent downstairs to a room where several workers would sort out the tickets with winning numbers as the races progressed. It was fascinating to see the workers quickly sort through stacks of betting slips. Later, Caliente would punch the betting slip and the amount bet on the 5-10 would tally on the tote system, thanks in part to some customers who tried to cash illegitimate or forged tickets.

Alessio had unleashed a monster. This beast would for the next two decades draw an unprecedented flow of horseplayers to the city of Tijuana unseen since the glory days of the Agua Caliente Casino in the 20’s and 30’s. Caliente held all the aces, with no Sunday racing in California and this bet with “get rich quick” possibilities of lottery proportion. California racing was tied to a bland menu of Win, Place and Show betting and could do little to change or compete with the betting format found at Caliente.

Caliente was an innovator, always trying new ideas and betting concepts. At the time, Caliente already had Quinellas and the Daily Double and would introduce the “Perfecta” (Exacta) in the 1960’s. While the regulars at Caliente were very accustomed to the Quinella format, the perfecta offered more of a challenge. In order to win, one had to perfectly select the first two finishers in a race; hence the name, “perfecta.” This new wager debuted in the first race on Saturday, September 25, 1965. When Our Bongo, ridden by Raul Caballero, won the first race over second place finisher, Jolly Caper, with Antonio Herrera in the irons, Caliente made racing history. The first perfecta ever at Caliente paid $32.60 from a pool of over $7,700. It should be noted that the Perfecta is the original concept for what is now known as an Exacta. Santa Anita did not institute an Exacta until 1971, the year Caliente burned down.

To say that the 5-10 wager had an influence at the admission gates would be an understatement. Attendance for a typical Sunday card was roughly 25% more than Saturdays. The handle would double, if not triple on the days Caliente offered the 5-10. And when Caliente introduced the Reserve Jackpot system, patrons could expect to wait as long as three hours at the border crossing just trying to get home after the races. Word spread quickly, and the commute from Los Angeles to Tijuana would start after the last race at Hollywood Park, Santa Anita, or Del Mar. Caliente track management made it easy for the North American bettor to venture south into Tijuana. One could easily book a flight out of Long Beach Airport and land at Brown Field in Otay Mesa, catch a chartered bus across the border into Tijuana where one would receive a free program and Clubhouse admission. After the races, reversing the procedure, one could be at home in the Los Angeles area by 8:00 pm. Caliente would later issue free passes for its regulars. After a time, the track would no longer charge parking or admission fees, for the stands were always full. Under the Alessio regime, Caliente catered to its customers, with free programs, seating and even betting vouchers.

With each succeeding Sunday, the pool for the 5-10 grew at a steady rate. As the pool sizes grew, so did the payoffs. Then on July 15 of that first year, a North American record payoff occurred when a $2.00 ticket with 5 winners paid, $20,088.20. This surpassed what was then a world record payoff for a Daily Double of $12,724.80 set on July 4, 1954 -- also at Caliente. The 5-10’s greatest growth period was when a rule was put into action in which 25% of the pool was set aside. The previous record was always in jeopardy of being broken. What was a record one Sunday could be just a memory the next Sunday. $20,000 turned into $30,000 $50,000 then $60,000.

On September 1, 1957, just 17 months after its inception, more than 22,000 fans filled tiny Caliente. They poured $124,816 into the 5-10 pool. Emerging as the sole winner was A. Thomas King of Los Angeles. On a $2.00 investment, he collected $84,250.80, as the only person who correctly chose all six winning horses. By now the Sunday 5-10 pools were grossing $100,000 or more.

Then on September 14, 1957, it was made available on the Saturday programs as well. It became even more popular. Caliente was filling the void left by its California peers as it attracted players venturing south looking for more action than the limited betting menu offered in the states. The 5-10 created a new breed of handicapper -- not only betting on the horses but trying to eliminate other players by picking long shots. The 5-10 spawned a new sophistication, which was only found in Mexico and the West Coast.

These handicappers were indeed the sharpest of the sharpies. Multiple tickets were the norm. Many serious 5-10 players viewed a straight $2 ticket as merely a backup. The failure of these multiple slips beefed up the jackpot on a weekly basis. The fact that one lost only made one come back in an effort to get even. This would become the mantra for players who pursued the 5-10 dream for years, many without even hitting a small consolation payoff in an effort to find the Holy Grail of horse betting.

Even with all the huge payoffs, the 5-10 was not always life changing. Many times the winning selections were short priced horses, favorites, that were on many if not ALL the betting slips entered that day. Payoffs were commonly as low as of $150; but none was as low as the $5 payoff when 4,163 Caliente patrons picked all six winners. On that day, favorites were the rule of the day.

After the rebirth of racing at Caliente following the fire, the 5-10 grew to monstrous proportions. The pools exceeded $150,000 to $200,000 and more when no one hit all six winners. The reserve jackpot would continue to grow until someone hit it. Ten percent of the regular 5-10 pool was deducted each racing day to accumulate the Reserve Jackpot. Once it reached $250,000, it was distributed one week later on Sunday, unless in the interim there was a single ticket with all correct six winners. One half would then be added to the regular 5-10 pool on “distribution” day, and the remaining half would remain in the jackpot. The amount distributed was the same, regardless if there was one single winning ticket or multiple ones.

It was on days like these that Caliente would host upwards of 12-15,000 fans and handle more than $1,000,000. The start of the fifth race was delayed by a minimum of 20 minutes. The horses would amble to the gate, at times resting under the shade of the many trees that lined the outer rails, just to make sure that everybody got their 5-10 tickets in.

The record payoff at Caliente for the 5-10 was set on November 12, 1977. Ignacio Gomez was the only patron that day to hit all six winners. His payoff was $350,204.40. This caused him to say, “The 5-10 is the best bet in all racing.”

Everyone in Tijuana knew of the 5-10, from housewives that pooled their money to the city’s racetrack regulars. The 5-10 was something to shoot for, at times reaching monumental proportions, for the citizens of Tijuana. Even in “non racing circles” the 5-10 meant good luck or well being. For example, should someone’s daughter marry a man who was well off, the girl’s parents might say, “She got the 5-10 with this one.” The 5-10 was one of many threads that connected the city’s non-racetracker with the hipodromo.

One by one, Caliente’s betting innovations would be absorbed into the North American betting format. In the early days of Agua Caliente Jockey Club, the plush Agua Caliente Casino supported the rich racing meet, which consisted of a $100,000 Handicap and $30,000 Derby in the late 1920’s. That format has now been adopted and even a new term, “racino,” coined. While Daily Doubles were exotic for American tracks, Caliente offered them as early as the late 1930’s after they were introduced at Bay Meadows. Exacta betting was not given a permanent slot in California until the early 1970’s, and the Quinella owes its beginning to greyhound racing, which has been a mainstay in Tijuana since the days of the Agua Caliente Casino in the mid 1920’s. Caliente would even accept bets on North American tracks at the Foreign Book. That concept was also adopted and it is now called Off-Track Betting. Around Kentucky Derby time, Caliente would also host a future book and was the official barometer on the race.

When Sunday racing was allowed in California, the crowds were no longer the same at Caliente. Even the concept of the 5-10 was taken and given a new name… the pick-6.

Photographs property of David Beltran Collection.

David J. Beltran was born in Chula Vista and raised in San Diego and Tijuana. He has been attending the races since he was an infant, both at Caliente and the Southern California race tracks. Beltran is the author of the book The Agua Caliente Story (Eclipse Press 2004), a correspondent to Caballo, a racing magazine in Mexico, and a writer for the Argentine racing daily, Turf Diario. He recently published an article in HorsePlayer magazine covering betting on South American imports. Beltran also breeds Thoroughbreds and is a blood-stock agent specializing in Argentinean racing and breeding stock. He lives in Chula Vista with his wife, daughter, and two dogs. His previous post explored the origins of the Big 'Cap.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Where on the Track is Carmen Santa Anita NOW?

Here's another look at Carmen Santa Anita, a six-inch tall, rather cheesy looking trophy horse. Once again, Carmen is somewhere at Santa Anita Racetrack just waiting to be spotted by one of my blog readers. The first person to find Carmen and contact me will win an admission pass for the rest of the current Winter-Spring meet, compliments of Santa Anita, the Great Race Place!

Carmen is placed in plain sight somewhere in the general admission area. Study the above photograph for the clues you need to find the little statue. If you find her, simply contact me in person at the TOC office at Santa Anita (near the racing office), or by email at to claim your prize. Last week's winner was Michael Mendez of San Gabriel, Calif.

Enjoy the hunt!

Santa Anita employees and their family members are ineligible to win this contest.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Santa Anita Looking Forward to a Dry Weekend

A dusting of snow on the San Gabriels above Santa Anita.

In California, horsemen and horses alike are looking forward to some dry weather. For the past five days, Southern California has been hammered by a series of four storms caused by a strong El Nino over the Pacific Ocean. The strongest series of storms to hit the area in five years dumped 4 to 8 inches of rain in the coastal and valley regions and up to 12 inches in the mountains, caused 15-20 foot waves along the coast, and sent hundreds fleeing from their homes as mudslides hit the foothills below the burn areas caused by last Fall's wildfires.

Santa Anita lost three days of racing (Monday, Thursday and Friday) when its track was pounded day and night by rain that seemed like it would never let up. Hopes are high for a good, dry weekend of racing that includes the historic Palos Verdes Handicap on Saturday.

Here's the field for the Palos Verdes Handicap with jockeys and weights in post position order: Dancing in Silks, Joel Rosario, 123; Ez Dreamer, Alex Solis, 116; Paul’s Hope, Victor Espinoza, 115; Eaton’s Gift, Tyler Baze, 117; Quietly Mine, Garrett Gomez, 113; Supreme Summit, Rafael Bejarano, 114; Kinsale King, Martin Garcia, 116, and Ventana, Joseph Talamo, 113.

The Palos Verdes Handicap will be run as the eighth race on a nine-race program with first post at 12:30 p.m.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Historic Palos Verdes Handicap at Santa Anita

Here’s one for the history books. According to a report in the Pasadena Independent following opening day of Santa Anita’s 1955 meet, “History Book raced to an easy length victory yesterday in the $23,300 Palos Verdes Handicap before 62,000 racing fans, second largest opening day crowd in the history of Santa Anita.”

History Book, trained by Buster Millerick for Mr. and Mrs. B.J. Richards, was ridden to victory by Ralph Neves, finishing in front of Karim and Hour Regards. The field also included Porterhouse (winner of the 1956 running) and betting favorite El Digg, both finishing out of the money.

The historic stakes is named for Rancho Palos Verdes, a quiet suburb of Los Angeles that sits atop the bluffs of the Palos Verdes Peninsula with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. It is on the site of the first Spanish ranch land grant in California – Rancho San Pedro. In 1827, a parcel of that original land grant was procured by Jose Dolores Sepulveda and named Rancho de los Palos Verdes (“range of green trees”).

The peninsula was originally inhabited by Native Americans belonging to the Tongva tribe, who traded with neighbors on Catalina Island just 26 miles across the Pacific.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Blind Luck and Jockey Rafael Bejarano in an Early Morning Work

Blind Luck worked 5 furlongs in 1:01.4 under jockey Rafael Bejarano at Santa Anita on Friday morning. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer (assistant trainer Dan Ward), Blind Luck is a multiple grade 1 winner, including the Hollywood Starlet and Oak Leaf Stakes, and a finalist for Eclipse Award as outstanding two-year-old filly. She is preparing for the Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 6.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

New Kid in Town: Jockey Mike James at Santa Anita

Apprentice Jockey Mike James with his agent, George Ortuzar, at Santa Anita.

Mike James and his agent, George Ortuzar, were out early Friday morning at Clockers' Corner, where I had a chance to chat with them for a few minutes. James graduated from Chris McCarron's North American Racing Academy in Kentucky in 2008 -- in the first graduating class. He has since ridden at Turfway (where he won his first race), Keeneland, and most recently in Northern California.

A native of Southern California, James recently moved back to his family home in Glendora. In discussing his experience at the racing academy, James explained that he had never been on a horse before arriving at McCarron's school, but he has always enjoyed participating in extreme sports including skateboarding and snowboarding. He currently rides with a 7-lb. apprentice allowance, and we wish him lots of success riding at the Santa Anita meet!

Friday, January 15, 2010

We Have a Winner! Michael Mendez Wins Blog Contest

Michael Mendez, shown here holding "Carmen Santa Anita," was the first to spot the horse statue at Santa Anita.

Michael Mendez of San Gabriel, Calif., is the winner of the first "Where at the Track is Carmen Santa Anita" contest. Mendez, a regular reader of this blog, is also a regular patron of Santa Anita. He has been coming out to the Great Race Place since he was a youngster and recalled becoming hooked on horseracing when he saw Affirmed and Alydar race.

Congratulations to Michael, who won a season clubhouse admission pass for the remainder of the Winter-Spring meet, compliments of Santa Anita!

"Carmen" was found sitting on the counter at the Thoroughbreds Reward Center, located in the paddock gardens. Watch for another contest next week, when Carmen will again be hiding somewhere at the track.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Where on the Track is Carmen Santa Anita?

Find this statue... Win a Prize!

Meet Carmen Santa Anita, a six-inch tall, rather cheesy looking trophy horse. Carmen is somewhere at Santa Anita Racetrack just waiting to be spotted by one of my blog readers. The first person to find Carmen and contact me will win an admission pass for the rest of the current Winter-Spring meet, compliments of Santa Anita, the Great Race Place!

Carmen is placed in plain sight somewhere in the general admission area. Study the above photograph for the clues you need to find the little statue. If you find her, simply contact me in person at the TOC office at Santa Anita (near the racing office), or by email at to claim your prize.

Enjoy the hunt!

Santa Anita employees and their family members are ineligible to win this contest.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Cast Your Vote for Zenyatta in Greatest Moment in Sports!

The Los Angeles Sports Council is asking fans to help select the greatest moments in sports for 2009 in the Los Angeles/Orange County area. The annual ballot includes great moments in 15 categories including various teams, universities and associations.

In the horseracing category, Zenyatta’s Stunning Victory in the Breeders’ Cup has made the final cut!

Horseracing has only made the list twice in the last ten years. In 2005, Giacomo’s win in the Kentucky Derby as a 50-1 longshot was selected; and in 1999, it was jockey Laffit Pincay breaking Bill Shoemaker’s record of 8,833 career wins at Hollywood Park.

It’s quick and easy to cast your vote on the LA Sports website. Voting runs through Jan. 31. Winners will be revealed on Friday, Feb. 19 during a special dinner and awards show at JW Marriott at L.A. Live. The awards show will air on FSN Prime Ticket.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Christian Santiago Reyes Nominated for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey

Christian Santiago Reyes at Clockers' Corner, Santa Anita.

I caught up with Christian Santiago Reyes and his agent, Tony Matos, this morning, and I had a chance to congratulate them on Santiago Reyes being named a finalist in the Eclipse Award voting for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey.

Santiago Reyes, a native of Puerto Rico, has been the leading apprentice rider at every major Southern California meet since he arrived in the U.S. last April and has earned the most money of the three finalists. The other two nominees are Luis Batista, one of the top riders at Charlestown, WV, and Luis Saez, among the top riders at Calder in Florida.

The 2009 Eclipse Awards ceremony will be held on Monday, Jan. 18 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., and televised live on TVG.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Santa Ysabel Stakes: The History Behind the Name

Photo: Santa Ysabel Asistencia church circa 1875.

The Santa Ysabel Stakes, in the tradition of many of Santa Anita's stakes races, was named in honor of an early California land grant. Santa Ysabel Rancho in the mountains east of San Diego was granted to Jose Joaquin Ortega and Edward Stokes in 1844.

The rancho included the site of an early California mission, Santa Ysabel Asistencia, which was founded in 1818 as a sub-mission to Mission San Diego de Alcala and to serve as a rest stop for those traveling between San Diego and Sonora.

Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, son of Sacagawea, camped at the Mission in 1847 after guiding the Mormon Battalion from New Mexico to San Diego. In 1898 The Santa Ysabel Indian Reservation was established.

The Santa Ysabel Stakes was introduced during the 1967-68 Santa Anita meet -- a banner meet that featured a stakes schedule of 45 added-money events. It was one of ten new stakes added to the Santa Anita roster that year, most of which had names linked to early California history or nearby communities. They included the San Gorgonio Handicap, Santa Paula Handicap, San Jacinto Stakes, Monrovia Handicap, San Simeon Handicap, Oneonta Handicap, Camino Real Handicap, Santa Ana Handicap, and the Baldwin Stakes -- named in honor of E.J. "Lucky" Baldwin, pioneer California racing figure and founder of the original Santa Anita racetrack on his rancho.

The Santa Ysabel is for three-year-old fillies at a mile and a sixteenth. The inaugural running on Feb. 14, 1968 was split into two divisions. Silk Hat II and jockey Jerry Lambert took the first division; and Braulio Baeza, who flew in from Florida for the race, was aboard Fish Net, for a two-length, wire-to-wire victory in the second division.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Tiz Chrome: A Very Cute Derby Prospect!

Zap of the Week

Larry Zap brings you some very nice video of potential Derby prospect, Tiz Chrome trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert. By the great Tiznow, this colt has the cutest face you've ever seen. Check out the white nose! This is definitely one we'll be following in coming weeks.

For more information about Larry Zap, see Contributors on the About tab.

Good Morning from Santa Anita Park

Sunrise at Santa Anita, Friday morning, Jan. 8. While most of the country has been hard hit with winter storms and cold, sunny Southern California is basking in sunshine with temperatures reaching the high 70's in the afternoons. Now really, isn't this the best place for your horses to be in the winter?

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Historic San Pasqual Handicap Saturday at Santa Anita

Ack Ack, shown here winning the 1971 Hollywood Gold Cup, kicked off an amazing year with the 1971 San Pasqual Handicap. He went on to win the San Carlos Handicap, San Antonio Handicap, Santa Anita Handicap, American Handicap and Gold Cup, earning the first Eclipse Award as Horse of the Year.

The San Pasqual Handicap has been run since 1935 and has been won by such outstanding runners as Ack Ack, Alphabet Soup, Ancient Title, Congaree, Native Diver, Precisionist, Pretense, and Silver Charm.

Like many of Santa Anita's stakes races, the San Pasqual is named for a Mexican land grant. The 14,000-acre El Rancho San Pasqual embraced almost all of what is now Pasadena, South Pasadena, Altadena and San Marino.

The rancho was originally granted to Eulalia Perez de Guillen on Easter, 1826, for her many years of service as keeper of the keys at Mission San Gabriel. She traded the land for her freedom from an arranged marriage and a small cottage near the mission. After passing through several hands, the deed ended up with Jose Perez, a distant relative of Eulalia, who abandoned the property. In 1843, the rancho was given by the governor of Mexico to Manual Garfias, a lieutenant colonel in the Mexican army.

Some time between 1838 and 1845, an adobe was built on Rancho San Pasqual. Near the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848, the adobe served as headquarters for General Jose Maria Flores, the interim governor of California. The defeated Californios met in the adobe to discuss a tentative treaty, which would become the Articles of Capitulation. Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the adobe is hidden from view by apartment houses and 1920's bungalows on a knoll in South Pasadena.

Furthest Land heads a field of seven in Saturday's Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap for 4-year-olds and up at 1-1/16 miles on Santa Anita's Pro-Ride track. Furthest Land, trained by Mike Maker for owners Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, won the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile on Nov. 7 at Santa Anita. The 5-year-old son of Smart Strike has won 8 of 16 starts for total earnings to date of $869,689.

Here is the field for the San Pasqual, from the rail out: Cherokee Artist, Rafael Bejarano; Bold Chieftain, Russell Baze; Nownownow, Joe Talamo; Goldsville, Alex Solis; Neko Bay, Mike Smith; Spurrier, Joel Rosario; and Furthest Land, Garrett Gomez.

Photo courtesy of Hollywood Park.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Horses in Living Color: A Book Review

When I first opened this beautiful book, I could hardly wait to turn each page. A breathtaking collection of more than 175 full color photographs, it is a celebration of the endless variation of colors and patterns of the horse. But Livingston has captured much more than that. Whether they are frolicking in a field, working, or at rest, each picture seems to provide a glimpse into the very soul of the horse.

Barbara Livingston, recognized as one of horse racing's leading photographers, has twice won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Photography. Horses: In Living Color is her fifth book and her first venture outside the world of Thoroughbred racing to pursue her passion for all varieties of equine subjects.

For this book, Livingston traveled across North America in search of the most unusual and uniquely colored equines, photographing horses ranging from paint-colored feral Assateague ponies to striking brindle warmbloods. She captured not only the colorful, but also the rare -- manes that nearly reach the ground, strikingly colored eyes, and unusual markings. Each photograph also reflects Livingston's obvious respect and love for the horse.

Horses: In Living Color
is definitely a book you will want to keep out on your coffee table to be looked at and enjoyed time and again. It is available at