Making my way into the Club House, I headed to the FrontRunner restaurant, Santa Anita's latest culinary showpiece. In this glassed-in space five stories above the finish line, I simultaneously deliberated between tuna niçoise and lobster tortillas and a $2 bet on the favorite versus a 14-1 long shot.
After dessert, still hungry for the raw racing experience, I returned to the general admission grandstand to mix with a cross-section of Angelenos. A new 2,000-square-foot video monitor helped me follow the leaders without obscuring too much of the track. As the pack crossed the finish line, the frenzy abruptly subsided into glee or disgust. Pulse back to normal, I placed my next bet and prepared to be transported once again.
Live racing Wed-Sun and holiday Mondays, Dec 26-Apr 16. General admission $5 (box seats $16), parking $3. 285 W. Huntington Dr. (at Baldwin Ave.), Arcadia; (626) 574-7223.