-- Saturday, 9/8, eveningish, Los Alamitos Race Course:
The McChump Tour had consulted with Stu, an area resident, as to the best route to take from Pomona to Buena Park, where Stu was to meet us and drive on to Los Al. "The 605" was his answer, and thus we had taken the 605. Big mistake, as it turned out. There was a horrid two vehicle accident, with rollover, and 100 emergency vehicles, totally blocking the northbound lanes, and partially blocking those going south. Big delays. Figures the first accident I'd see on this trip would finally be in Los Angeles. Figures it would also involve a SUV, way those clowns drive. Thus far I can state with conviction that 100% of highway accidents involve SUV's.
But arrive at the track we eventually did, and Stu didn't *really* get lost just more like taking the wrong streets, but we were nowhere near in time for first post. What parking might have been I do not know, as Stu had press credentials. Admission was a cool $1.50, and a full pp program including a bunch of simulcast races from Sam Houston and Prairie Meadows rang in at $3.00.
I never got around to describing this track after the last time I visited, so I'll do it now.
It's a much bigger and fancier track than you might envision when you think "Los Al". Not giant, but medium size. The outside is very pleasant to look at, with an attractive white and blue color scheme, and some horse art. Also a very nice palm lined drive and other landscaping on the way in.
Kind of a split level thing, too. When you enter there's the admissions and program stand in the main lobby, but then you take the escalator up to the first floor, which is track level. (And then if you ever need to visit the restrooms, it's back downstairs. This "basement" level is pretty deserted and quiet - mostly offices and stuff I guess.)
The main floor is a big enclosed concourse, not what you'd call luxurious, but certainly not bad, with islands of betting windows and machines in the middle, areas with rows of betting carrels for simulcast type folks, some seats down front looking out onto the track through the windows, and various concessions stands located around the perimeter. My favorite was the Mexican stand down at the right end, which had a very nice lady working it and sold giant and I mean giant Dos Equis and Tecates for $3.75. True value. As Stu was driving, I took advantage of these bargains. They also had some good looking Mex food items, but I didn't try any.
There's open air seating above this first level, under the roof, but it was about 20 degrees cooler here in Los Alamitos than it had been in Pomona, so we didn't try that out. Also lots of boxes with individual TV's, and up at the top a big enclosed area, which Stu said was the very nice Vessels restaurant, but we didn't visit, so I'll take him at his word.
The paddock is indoors, down at the left end, behind big glass windows, while the attractive walking ring is out front in the apron area. This also includes the Winner's Circle at one end.
The apron out front is a big sloped asphalt affair, with quite a bit of free seating, in the form of plastic stadium type seats. Down to the right there's a separate clubhouse building, but that went unvisited on this night.
The track is a nice lighted 5f dirt model with a long quarter horse chute, and has a very pretty infield, with a big lake, lots of palm trees, hedges, bushes, flowerbeds, and a full function tote. Big white fence around the perimeter of the track, and as it was by then dark, I have no idea what's beyond. Stu might have told me, but I forgot.
All in all, a very nice and serviceable track.
The card on the night was eleven races, eight for quarter horses, one for Arabians, and two for thoroughbreds. Unfortunately by not arriving till the 3rd, we'd already missed one tbred race. But not to fear, I can bet QH with the best of them! $4k clm QH ran for $6250, the Arabian stakes (or allowance?) horses were chasing a purse of $17,500, QH straight maiden $7,700, and then the two QH handicaps on the card, an overnight one for $15,000 and the other, the Bull Rastus Hcp, for $21,400.
However, the most important race of the night, the 5th, was a 4-1/2f throughbred race, conditioned $2,500 claimers, running for a purse of $4,400. And we knew it was important, because, thanks to Stu, this race had a very prominent and beautiful "McChump Industries" up at the top of the program page. I nearly wept when I opened the program and saw it.
I decided it would only be right if I chose my UPF best bet of the night horse from this race, so I selected one Ferrara Express. A nice lady from Los Al led the three of us into the Winner's Circle and up onto the little dais, and we watched the race from there, in full view of God and everybody. I thought Ferrara Express was unduly restrained by her jock in this race, and as a result she did not win. It certainly wasn't my handicapping.
The horse that did win, however, was Cut To Fit, and her connections entered the Winner's Circle eyeing us suspiciously. I congratulated the owner. The horse entered, all eyes in the park were on us, the picture for the McChump Industries race was taken for posterity, and for all I know we were on TVG as well, as this race was on the schedule. True American celebrities.
I felt just a little guilty, I guess, that this owner would forever have "McChump Industries" there on his win picture. But then I recalled that I have one for a horse of my own that reads "Sun City Lawn Bowlers", and then I didn't feel bad at all. Finally, when the announcer said "this race was named for McChump Industries and we're real glad to have that group with us tonight", I was pretty damn proud. I was glad to be there too, Los Al. And thanks, Stu!
As our two seconds of fame were now up, another giant Dos Equis was surely in order.
Meanwhile, my QH handicapping skills proved a little rusty, and I managed to lose $21.10 on the night. Stu and McChump #2 did little better, at least as far as their UPF horses, both losers. Though when you pick a QH named Secretly Seymour, like McChump #2 did, I think you are just begging for a loss. Secretly Seymour.
In other news, a young man of 17 took the mike for that 5th race of ours, and he did a real good job. Trainers and jocks I was mostly unfamiliar with, except for jock Gary Boag, and legendary trainer Blane Schvaneveldt (sp?).
We did have some additional excitement. Just after the horses had crossed the line in the 7th, boom!, all the lights in the place went out. As they slowly struggled back on, bit by bit, amid PA assurances that things were going to be okay, my attention was directed (not saying by whom) to a big ad on page 55 of the program, which stated "The Lights will NOT go out at Los Alamitos. Back-up generators have been installed to ensure uninterrupted racing." I found that interesting.
And finally, in the featured 10th, the Bull Rastus Handicap, we had the pleasure of watching one of the best distance QH in the land, 7 yo Sign of Lanty, totally destroy his field in this 870 yd event. It constituted his 21st win from 51 starts, and added the winner's share of the purse to his already healthy bankroll of $311k+, which is darn good in the QH world.
All in all, a very enjoyable evening at a friendly, fun, and reasonably priced racetrack. Thumbs up for Los Al.
Miles travelled to get to this track: 48
-- Sunday, 9/9:
Upon arising, after an evening of good, cheap beer, McChump #2 and I both felt a big breakfast might be in order. Accordingly, we started searching the Buena park area for a likely looking dive. The Buena Park area, disturbingly, seems to be relatively dive free. After some driving around, and increasing hunger, we decided to lower our standards and stop in a chain resturant, El Torito. Pleasant surprise! A huge Mex breakfast buffet with all sorts of good, spicy stuff, fresh handmade corn tortillas, and menudo that McChump #2 declared "muy muy", was very good and very welcome, if a shade expensive. Just a tip for those of you in the area.
We didn't really get lost going back to Fairplex again, more of a passing up the correct exit thing. This proved profitable, however, as in Montclair we discovered a garish pink strip club, the name of which I can't recall, but it had a great sign out front: "100's of beautiful girls, and 3 ugly ones". Right at the corner of Central and Mission, for those of you in the area.
Parking and admission was free on this day, as we now "knew someone". (Thanks, Ron.) Nothing real notable happened this day, except all three of us managed to pick losers for UPF.
Round about 5:00 pm it was time to head back to the Ontario airport, and we didn't really get lost so much as not have a clue how to get where we were going.
Suddenly, the car radio was all a-crackle with the news that there had just been a temblor in downtown L.A., buildings had swayed, dishes had leapt off shelves, cats had howled, call-in witnesses were breathlessly describing what they'd felt, and everyone was all a-flutter. Me and McChump #2 looked at each other.
"You feel anything, chump?"
"Nope. How about you?"
But we did. The Ontario airport is built funny, I guess. The entire time we were sitting waiting for the plane to leave, the floor would start vibrating and shaking, then quit for awhile, then start vibrating and shaking again.
Me and McChump #2 would look at each other. Scary earthquake!
The Phoenix airport, and good solid terra firma, and streets where we knew where we were going, looked real good.