On the final day of the 71-day Santa Anita meeting Sunday, the marathon 13/4-mile San Juan Capistrano Handicap produced a thrilling finish. When the photo showed that Interaction had beaten All Squared Away by a nose, 80-year-old Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally got to bask in the glow of another memorable triumph.
Ridden by Joe Talamo, Interaction came charging on the inside in deep stretch to pass All Squared Away and give McAnally his third victory in the unique $150,000 race that starts at the top of the hillside turf course and was won 14 times by Hall of Fame trainer Charles Whittingham.
"We've only got 11 more to go to catch him," said McAnally, who won with John Henry in 1980 and Single Empire in 1999.
It was left to McAnally's wife, Debbie, to put into perspective what her husband has accomplished.
"My husband eats, breathes, sleeps, dreams horses, and that's why he's the Hall of Fame trainer he is," she said.
Interaction, a 7-year-old Argentine-bred son of Easing Along, turned on the speed in the final eighth of a mile.
"He was very courageous," Talamo said. "For him to catch that horse, he showed a lot of heart."
Santa Anita could grow in importance in Southern California racing with the expected closure at the end of this year of Betfair Hollywood Park, which begins Thursday what could be its final 49-day spring-summer meeting.
The California Horse Racing Board is scheduled to announce its 2014 racing dates at a meeting May 23.
"I'm optimistic about Santa Anita's future," Haines said. "People are looking at us to be the backbone of California racing."