Santa Anita Opening Day, Dec. 2011

Perhaps LUCK Helped Draw the Big Crowds to Santa Anita Opening Day – and Many Dressed for the Occasion


Maybe it was the glorious sunshine Dec. 26, or more likely it was “Luck,” the new TV series set at the racetrack that stars Dustin Hoffman, Nick Nolte, Gary Stevens, Kevin Dunn and others. But whatever the reason, attendance topped 44,500 on Santa Anita Opening Day, the highest number since 1994. And the glamour factor at the Arcadia racetrack may be rising in other ways, too.

Although hats have never been the rule at Santa Anita, as they are at London’s Ascot and Southern California’s Del Mar, this year Santa Anita launched its first annual “Fascinators and Fedoras Hat Contest.” Pasadena Magazine sponsored the competition.

By definition, a fascinator is a fanciful headpiece – often made of jewels, feathers or flowers – that attaches to the head via a comb, clip, band or headband. Think of the Philip Treacy-designed numbers worn by Victoria Beckham, Princess Beatrice and most famously – Princess Eugenie – to Will and Kate’s wedding. To picture a fedora, think Frank Sinatra, Indiana Jones or the men in “The Adjustment Bureau.”

Plenty of men turned up at the racetrack in hats, but not necessarily because of the contest. Relatively few women, however, wore headgear this year, but some people are betting that a trend may yet develop. 

“They’re getting more popular here,” said Carol Bader of the Del Mar Hat Co. in San Diego, who did a brisk business at her concession at the Turf Club. “Hats are still more popular at Del Mar,” she added, describing the atmosphere at that racetrack as “fluffier.”  

With or without hats, a strict dress code applies at Santa Anita for people planning to spend time at the posh Turf Club with its crystal chandeliers or inside the by-invitation-only Director’s Room with its cozy fireplace, colorful murals and elegant wood-paneled walls.  The rules mandate a traditional suit or sports jacket for men, and a dress, suit or slacks set for the ladies. No jeans, jogging suits, short-sleeve jackets, T-shirts or athletic shoes allowed.

Sharing one table at the Director’s Room at Santa Anita Opening Day were three generations of the Williamson family: Alyce and Spud; Henry and Robin; and Warren, Carolyn and Ryan. With three of their horses racing that day, the Williamson clan made two trips to the Winner’s Circle, as their horses Midnight Transfer and American Blend won the third and fifth race respectively.

Also among those present were the actress Bo Derek of the film, “10,” who is a commissioner of the California Horse Racing Board; Adrienne Haines with George Haines, president of Santa Anita; Andrea Van de Kamp with John Van de Kamp, former Los Angeles County District Attorney; and Diane Daruty with Scott Daruty, president of HRTV, the television station dedicated to horse racing. 


Photos: from top, Carol Bader, left, and Chelsea Cantrell selling fascinators and fedoras at the Turf Club at Santa Anita Opening Day; Alyce Williamson with trumpeter Jay Cohen; actress and racing commissioner Bo Derek, famous for her role in the 1979 film “10.”




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Santa Anita Opening Day

Published Dec. 27, 2011 – Ellen Olivier, Society News LA