TEMECULA, Calif. (March 7, 2018) – The iconic Seabiscuit won this race. So did such celebrated thoroughbreds as Affirmed, Spectacular Bid, John Henry, Lava Man and Game On Dude, a horse partially owned by former Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees manager Joe Torre, who not only won it a record three times, but owns the race record.
It is the Santa Anita Handicap, the “Big ‘Cap” — American racing’s most important and prestigious race for older horses, which is Saturday, March 10. And there is no better place that day to watch and wager on the Big ‘Cap and the other graded stakes races simulcast live from Santa Anita Park than the Pechanga OTB parlor.
Located inside the Poker Room on the second floor above Pechanga’s spacious casino, Pechanga OTB is offering a special menu to guests on Big ‘Cap Day. For $10.95, guests have their choice of a Street Taco Station or fresh Panini Roast Beef, Ham or Turkey Sandwiches, along with accompaniments such as Spanish rice, refried beans, potato salad and fruit.
This adds to the value that is the hallmark of Pechanga OTB. What makes Pechanga OTB the place to watch and wager on the Big ‘Cap and the three other graded stakes races that day is that unlike other OTB rooms around Southern California, there is no admission charge at Pechanga OTB. Nor is there a charge for coffee, sodas or water.
“This is the start to us getting prepared for this season and what promises to be an exciting racing season,” said Richie Lopez, Pechanga’s assistant director of the poker room and OTB parlor. “Because of how popular this event is, we’ve set up tables outside the OTB room for people to watch and wager on the action.”
Reserved for horses 4-years-old and up, the Santa Anita Handicap dates to 1935, when it was called “The Hundred-Grander” for providing an unheard of $100,000 purse (the equivalent of more than $1.8 million today) in the depths of the Great Depression. A glimpse of its winner’s roll is a veritable Who’s Who of jockeys: Bill Shoemaker (who won the race a record 11 times between 1954 and 1985), five-time winner Laffit Pincay Jr., who is the winningest jockey in the history of thoroughbred racing, four-time winner Gary Stevens, Mike Smith, who won the Big ‘Cap three consecutive years (2013-15) aboard two different horses: Game On Dude and Shared Belief, and three-time winner Corey Nakatani, among others.
But even with 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed among its winners, they never made an Oscar-nominated movie, nor cast a statue of Affirmed that presides over the walking ring at Santa Anita Park. Those honors are reserved for the immortal Seabiscuit, who is best identified with the Big ‘Cap. He lost in photo finishes in 1937 and 1938, suffered an injury before the 1939 race, then overcame that to finally close the deal by winning the 1940 Big ‘Cap by 1 ½-lengths in front of 78,000 fans. It was Seabiscuit’s final race.
There are three other graded stakes races at Santa Anita that day, the Grade 1 Triple Bend Stakes and the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile. But it’s the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes for 3-year-olds that promises to hold plenty of interest – both among casual fans and avid horseplayers.
That’s because the San Felipe is a recognized prep race for Kentucky Derby contenders, one of which is one of the favorites coming into the 2018 Run for the Roses. That will be the likely San Felipe favorite – Bolt d’Oro – who will try following in the hoofprints of his sire, 2002 San Felipe winner Medaglia d’Oro.
Like the Big ‘Cap, recognizable names to racing fans dot the San Felipe winner’s roll, including Kentucky Derby winners Affirmed, Sunday Silence, Fusaichi Pegasus and, most recently, the popular California Chrome, who destroyed the 2014 field to win by 7 ½ lengths en route to his Kentucky Derby and Preakness victories.
Pechanga OTB opens at 9 a.m. First post for Saturday’s card is noon.
Pechanga OTB is open Wednesday through Monday, with live simulcasts from America’s best racetracks featured on 22 flat-screens and on individual monitors at several of the 72 comfortable seats. Special events are planned for racing’s biggest days, which means for more information on the numerous promotions, please see www.pechanga.com.