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Kate Miller 3rd Nov 2009 - 21:31

Welcome to Santa Anita

William Hill's Kate Miller is in America for the Breeders' Cup. Keep up to date with her regular postings as the build up to the World Championships at Santa Anita intensifies.

Before coming to Santa Anita I was told it was one of the most picturesque racetracks anywhere in the world. Nestled gently at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains it's surrounded by pine trees, an enormous mountain range, and a shopping mall. Only in America could somewhere this stunning have a place to buy trainers, and foot-long hotdogs as its next-door neighbour. To me, it seems a travesty. Can you imagine if whilst driving the soft winding country Sussex roads to Goodwood you stumbled across a T.K Maxx?

Our press hotel is based in the middle of Pasadena, about a ten minute drive to the track, and about half-an-hour from downtown LA. Everyone here is so friendly. They greet you like a long-lost friend when you enter a shop, and seem genuinely concerned about whether you 'have a nice day'. The jury is out as to whether they are frighteningly insincere, or just much, much nicer than us.

Even the tramps are fun! Walking back to the hotel yesterday evening we were accosted by one of the local characters who attempted to persuade us into a contribution to his pocket. Upon discovering we were from England he swiftly launched into his sales pitch. ''What's the greatest nation in the world'' he demanded (cue shrugging and head shaking from us) ''A DONATION'' came back the reply. Even the follow up wasn't bad: ''And the greatest city?'' .............. ''Generosity'.  He deserved something for the entertainment value alone. I may have to remember the line for my next disastrous day punting.

It's fairly warm here at the moment. Commiserations to those back in England where I understand the weather is foul. You do have my sympathies, and genuinely. Not even in the fake/unfake American style.

Right now in the middle of the track five men are practicing a parade with flags. I'm hoping they'll be in better outfits come Friday because at the moment they seem a touch like the Village People, and only three of them actually have flags. It could be an awkward ceremony if two of them can only hold their fists clasped in front of them.

The morning here begins at about 5.30am with trackwork, where a range of accents meet at Clockers' Corner. An area near the home turn where you watch the horses work. Trying to make sense of it is one of the hardest battles of the week. The Breeders' Cup horses are decked in purple saddlecloths which help, but they are mixed in with the hotchpotch of local Californian horses that also do their morning training at Santa Anita. One side of the racecourse can see a multi-million dollar Grade One winner breezing down the back straight; whilst stand side your selling plater might be lumbering around. A little like seeing Quixall Crossett and Sea The Stars both cantering up Newmarket Heath.

It's freezing first thing when you arrive at the track, but Clockers' Corner Cafe boasts an amazing array of coffees, sandwiches, and enormous pastries. You can even purchase the 'Bob Baffert' a cholesterol combination of eggs, bacon, and bread. I haven't sampled it yet, but it did amuse me that amongst those paying homage to the great trainer, many of them had already ordered him for breakfast.

The European raiders are tightly ensconced in the quarantine barn, where they need to remain locked up for 42 hours after their arrival. The Ballydoyle battalion are yet to be unleashed on the track, but Godolpin, StouteNoseda, Meehan and Beckett were all on show this morning. The Freemason's Lodge trio all stretched legs on the turf course this morning, with Conduit and Spanish Moon looking spectacular. The King George winner took the eye of a number of locals, bucking as he left the track and looking as compact as ever. The Americans have taken to Spanish Moon, and seem unconcerned with his dislike of the stalls, as with a lot of things in America. They come a lot bigger here.

Muhannak was another to breeze this morning with trainer Ralph Beckett accompanying him aboard the famous pony 'Freckles'. The dark bay horse is a regular at Santa Anita and ponied Muhannak around before his victory in last year's Marathon. Connections will clearly be hoping the trend continues.

But for Freckles it is onwards and upwards as tomorrow his big western saddle will house none other than Aidan O'Brien's behind. Not bad for a horse than earns just $350 for his weekend's work here.

I'll bid you farewell for now as we are required at the post-position draw. Let's hope we Europeans get to taste some of the great American hospitality, and they don't leave us out in the car park!

Have a nice day!



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