Perfect Start to Santa Anita’s 50th Year

Times Staff Writer

No wonder Robert P. Strub and his wife, Betty, were smiling. The sky was blue, the San Gabriel Mountains were purple and the yellow and blue pansies were in full bloom. It was, in short, the perfect day for the 50th anniversary opening of Santa Anita Park.

Even the traffic was awful, which Strub, president and chief executive officer of Santa Anita, took as another good sign. It would later translate into a super attendance of 65,954 and an opening-day record for money wagered--$9,401,017.

For those in the Directors’ Room at Santa Anita Park, the magnificent buffet created by executive chef Tony Pope seemed especially wondrous. The schedule for hosts such as Arthur Crowe and his wife, Mary Louise, went something like this: greet guests and friends, bid, watch the first race, then stack a plate with Long Island bluepoint oysters en coquille. Chat some more, bid, watch the second race, and head for the cold hors d'oeuvres--smoked salmon, prosciutto, shrimp and crab. After a short break, bet again and watch the third race, compare wins and losses, then rush to the sirloin of beef and the San Bernardino quail. And there was no shortage of raspberries for dessert, which one guest proclaimed the best ever.


Gov. and Mrs. George Deukmejian, seated with the Strubs, provided perspective on the upcoming inaugural activities (the gala Jan. 4, the swearing in Jan. 5 and the reception and ball). Also at that table were former U.S. Atty. Gen. William French Smith, the Clement Hirsches, the Robert Erburus, the Karl Samuelians, Marilyn Evans and Paul Deats.

Good Vantage Point

At the Crowes’ table, the Daniel Frosts and the Philip Hawleys had a good vantage point along with Supervisor Pete and Gerry Schabarum, the Frederic Giersches and the Warren Williamsons.

Both the Hirsches (he heads the Oak Tree meet) and the Williamsons arrived late because of heavy traffic. Said Williamson: “I had not intended to be here for the first race, but I fully intended to be here before the fourth!” They were in time, however, to see Ferdinand, ridden by William Shoemaker, win the Malibu Stakes $100,000 in the eighth race.

Also in the Directors’ Room were Marion and Earle Jorgensen, Edward and Hannah Carter, the Franklin Murphys, the Richard S. Cohens, Martha and Jimmy Kilroe (he’s Santa Anita’s senior vice president of racing) with former Ambassador to Ireland Peter Dailey and Jackie, Violetta and Bill Dougherty and the William Lansdales.

The Santa Anita “family” was in force as well: Camilla and Robert H. Strub, along with brother John and his fiancee, Jennifer Phelps (they’ll wed Valentine’s Day); Raymond M. Rogers, executive vice president; Hal Roach, now 95, and one of the founders of Santa Anita Park; and the Gwynn Wilsons (he’s a former general manager).

More in the room were Mrs. Harrison Chandler, the Felix S. McGinnises Jr., Carl McGinnis and Ann Brophy, the Richard Calls, the Fred Ryans, the Joseph W. Harpers Jr., and the Thomas M. McDaniels Jr.