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And they’re off … to Santa Anita Park for opening day

first_img• Photo Gallery: Opening Day at Santa Anita Park Related Article” ARCADIA – There are two types of women, Thelma Barque figures – those chasing down deals after Christmas and those handicapping fast favorites at the track. Barque of El Monte was among the motley regulars, casual tourists and picnicking families already at Santa Anita Park by noon Wednesday for opening day’s first post, which according to track officials drew more than 30,000 visitors throughout the day. “After our Christmas dinner, my sister was cutting ads out of the paper, but I had all my racing forms out,” Barque said. Their track tradition is more about social ritual, she explained. “You get a hot dog, you get a cup of coffee, you visit the gift shop, and most of all, meet your friends,” Escamilla said. Her secret to picking the right horse? Despite tell-tale racing forms and handwritten notes, she dodged the question. “You got to have money and you got to have luck,” she said. Others weren’t content to leave it to luck. After more than 50 years of coming to Santa Anita, Jerry Lunn of Highland Park banks on the accomplishments of a horse’s bloodline and its rider. Ted James takes his chances. “I’m a long-shot bettor,” said the Altadena resident, because an unlikely horse can make for big returns on his small bets. Overlooking the steeds circling the paddock ring, Robert Frasier of San Gabriel kept an eye out for “a horse with a good rear end.” Recent rains almost put the kibosh on the track’s 71st opener after a $10 million synthetic track surface installed last summer didn’t drain as expected. It looks like sand, but the synthetic fibers, silica sand and rubber grains that make the “Cushion Track” were designed to be less taxing on the animals. Nearly $1 million in repairs kept the track unavailable for pre-season training for most of the month, said Mike Willman, publicity director. But it’s still holding on to more water than is optimal, he said. “It’s better now, but we’re being honest and saying it’s not perfect,” Willman said. todd.ruiz@sgvn.com (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4444 www.insidesocal.com/pasadenapolitics160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan ClarksonAway from the grandstand’s roar, where mariachis and dancers entertained children while their parents filled lawn chairs, it’s easy to forget there’s a sporting event under way with a lot of money on the line. But inside the Paddock Room, it’s serious business. A few long tables and plastic chairs over from where Barque sat circling and erasing her picks, Josephine Escamilla compared notes and exchanged quips with her brothers. Ever since their father instilled equestrian values into their household, the Escamilla siblings descend upon Santa Anita as a regular tradition. “His very last words before he died were, `No more Shoemaker,”‘ Josephine Escamilla said of her father’s fixation on the sport and fondness for legendary jockey Willie Shoemaker. last_img