Thursday, July 9, 2009
In today’s horse racing, it is increasingly important that tracks put in an extra effort to entice new fans to come and old fans to leave the comfort of betting from home to attend live racing. Tracks which are aesthetically pleasing have a significant advantage in gaining and retaining patrons. The attractions are not only exciting races with powerful equine athletes, but also magnificent surroundings. Such features have the power to impress newcomers and reinvigorate lifelong fans.
My personal favorite sight is morning workouts. Training open to the public is a great way to attract new fans. Here there is constantly a horse to look at. They travel at different speeds, from a walk to an all-out drive, and you can really pick out the good and bad movers. Their sheer strength is evident in their popped-out veins, arched necks, and the muscled arms of their exercise riders. I am always amazed by the body heat the horses work up. Steam shoots out of their nostrils like a steam engine, and gently wafts from their skin on cooler mornings. It is even more amazing with an orange glow from a sunrise. As the morning progresses, the aura moves from the cool colors of the night to the warm colors of the day.
Not many sunrises are more beautiful than those viewed from Clockers’ Corner at Santa Anita Park, where the undulations of the San Gabriel Mountains are gradually lit as the sun rises higher into the sky. The litter of losing tickets and other discarded items has yet to populate the ground. The cement is clean except for the stray clumps of Pro-Ride fiber. The occasional parrot flies over the track, and peacocks call from the arboretum across the street. The famous teal-colored grandstand looks amazing when it is lit up in the dark, and later when the panels of the box seats shine golden reflections in your eye.
Santa Anita is my heaven on earth. There, attention is paid to almost every visual detail, and even the rougher parts are endearing. Silver patterned wallpaper, golden metal lamps with celestial cutouts, and English statuary are among the little details that together make a big impact. This is in stark contrast to a warehouse atmosphere where it feels like the track only cares about taking your money at the betting window.
Good aesthetics are certainly not limited to Santa Anita. Two other tracks that I have visited, Hollywood Park and Del Mar, also have physical features that create a pleasing ambiance. Hollywood, “The Track of Lakes and Flowers,” has an infield with ponds, waterfalls, flora, and fauna to draw your gaze. A flock of pink flamingos is the highlight. Behind the grandstand is a tree-filled paddock and a secluded gazebo built over a creek. At Del Mar, beautiful paddock flowers share the spotlight with beautiful people.
A track that pays attention to visual details is a more pleasant place to be and is more likely to attract more patrons, who in return are more likely to bet more races!
Marcie Heacox is an avid racing fan and self-taught photographer and artist. She is a full time student at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, with a major in Communications with an emphasis in journalism. Her career goal is to work for a top Thoroughbred racing publication. To view samples of her stunning photography please visit her website here .