The Quarters’ Cast Make a ‘Route of Ground’ Impression – by Michelle Yu

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When it comes to racing, I'm predominantly a thoroughbred fan.  So I wasn't exactly thrilled to be sent to Los Alamitos 3 nights a week to cover quarter horse racing. I know that TVG covers the quarters, harness and hurdlers, but to me, racing has always been about the Thoroughbreds: life blood machines running a route of ground. Quarter Horses are good for the rodeo but as far as handicapping them I was as clueless at reading their form as I was in my first year of Chinese school. 
 Lucky for me my Los Al experience has been nothing but pleasurable. I got a little teased for my "dressed up" outfit the first night, but now that I've settled into my jeans and puffer vests I'm considered 'one of the team.' 

To begin with, not a soul to be found at the OC track hasn't been helpful. The talent aside (yes Mike Joyce, you're talent and expected to be nice), everyone has a helpful hint or a quick tip to be offered. My first week there I not only got a crash course in QH PPs from champion conditioner Adan Farias, but I got a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies from the crowd and a hot cocoa from the in-house handicapper. The Clerk of Scales has been a wealth of info, and the jockeys have all taken the time out to come say hello. 
 Secondly, I was shocked to feel the thrill of actually watching the quarters. They are huge slabs of rear end muscle that give it their all for an entire race. It isn't a wonder to me now what entices people to come out night after night in the “cold” to watch them run. 
 It's been amazing to feel not only the hospitality of the track and its people but to really get a helping hand when it comes to handicapping these motor scooters. The game of Quarter Horses is completely different from Thoroughbreds, and I have yet to have a trainer there decline an interview or not give a thorough answer to my seemingly silly questions. I don't know many trainers that would help "train" a journalist on what questions to ask so for this I'm most thankful (special thanks to the Hansons, Lissette, Vod, Juan and Chuck)!! 

And of course, what would a Los Alamitos blog be without mention of the Vessels? I still haven't set foot inside the upstairs but was a lucky beneficiary of Doc Allred's pity on some cold, hungry analysts and got the most phenomenal dinner I've ever had at the track. I am now a spokesperson for life. 
 Overall, I head to my night shifts now with a smile on my face. I feel camaraderie amongst them you would feel at your neighborhood dive bar. “Yeah, we're all here together and it might not be the Ritz but its fun and the people are great.” While my mind still thrills over thoroughbred racing, a piece of my heart now belongs to the Quarters. When spring rolls around, and I leave the Winter Derby for the Kentucky Derby, you can bet that I'll think of the new friends I've found at Los Al.  And when it comes time for the Champion of Champions, believe me, I'll be there to cheer on my favorite. And next year when winter rolls around and everyone is ensconced in the warm studios of TVG, my hand will be the first one in the air to say "send me to Los Al".

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