Santa Anita Park and City of Hope announced March 31 a partnership that will unite the track’s racing fans and the entire California racing industry in the fight against cancer by presenting the first-ever “On-Track to Beat Cancer” event at Santa Anita on closing day, April 17.
Following the last race, humans will replace horses on Santa Anita’s main track. Fans will be invited to join jockeys, trainers and celebrities in a quarter mile walk down the homestretch that begins with a walk through Santa Anita’s starting gate.
Among those leading the way for the horse racing industry will be Bo Derek, Chantal Sutherland, and Jill Baffert.
“We are thrilled to have Bo, Chantal, and Jill involved in this,” said Santa Anita vice president of marketing Allen Gutterman. “In one way or another, we’ve all been affected by cancer and to have three women of this magnitude involved in getting the word out is a huge plus for all of us.”
Derek, one of the most recognizable figures in the entertainment industry and a current commissioner on the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB), will make several public appearances to promote the event in advance.
“This is a very special opportunity for the horse racing industry to give back and I’m very pleased to be part of it,” said Derek. “I’m inviting racing fans to join me on-track to beat cancer and take a quarter of a mile walk down the Santa Anita stretch.
“We’ll have California’s top jockeys and a few surprises, too. We’ve all been touched by cancer and California horse racing wants to lead the fight for a cure.”
Sutherland, a Canadian native who became the first woman jockey to ever win the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) on March 5, will also play a key role in promoting and participating in the “On-Track” event.
“I ride five and six times a day at Santa Anita,” said Sutherland. “I’m blessed with good health but too many friends, in and out of racing, have suffered with cancer. I’m proud that horse racing and Santa Anita are joining with City of Hope to battle back.”
Baffert, a broadcaster and wife of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, is also anxious to promote the event.
“Come out and take the walk and help the California horse racing industry battle cancer,” said Baffert. “If you have ever been to the track, you can imagine what a thrill it would be to step on that dirt and walk down that stretch with those spectacular San Gabriel Mountains overlooking the track. If you haven’t, I guarantee it’s an experience you won’t ever forget.”
Fans choosing to participate are encouraged to wear purple.
“We will have purple colored ‘On Track to Beat Cancer’ t-shirts available for everyone,” said Gutterman. “For those who would like to show their support for City of Hope’s Women’s Cancer Care and Research Program, they’ll get the t-shirt a wrist band and be able to walk down the stretch for just twenty dollars. We’re hoping to be able to create a sea of purple.
“City of Hope has asked that we encourage all participants to wear purple, which is the official color for the Women’s Cancer Care and Research Program,” he added.
Anyone making a minimum $10 donation to City of Hope on closing day will be eligible to walk on the track. Fans are encouraged to bring signs and banners, create teams, take photos and dedicate the walk to cancer survivors or to the memory of loved ones who have succumbed to or who are battling cancer.
“We’d like to set a Guinness Book of Records mark for the most humans ever to walk in unison on a Thoroughbred track,” said Gutterman. “We don’t know if such a record actually exists, but, if it doesn’t, we’ll set the standard.”
City of Hope will also be hosting ancillary events at Santa Anita on closing day. A Wellness Center will be erected in the infield, featuring blood pressure exams, healthy food demos, bone marrow transplant updates. and cancer screenings. Doctors and nurses will be present to facilitate those who wish to participate.
Santa Anita’s infield area will also offer fans live bands, family fun events, food trucks, and VIP buffet tents.