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Blog: There's More To the Story At Golden Gate Fields

Photo Day gave me a backstage pass to a brand new world.

If you have ever been to the horse races, you know that instant of highly charged excitement when the starting gates open and those mighty animals fly out. One way or another, if only in movies, most of us have witnessed those brief tense moments as the horses round the track and race for the finish line. That’s the only part of the sport I had ever experienced, and that only a few times.

But I have been curious about Golden Gate Fields for quite some time. I’m not a rider, but I can appreciate horses as athletes: beautiful and powerful and so fast. I have often wondered about just how they make their way to that starting gate. So when I saw that the track was hosting a Photo Day with an all-access pass, I signed up. The day started at 7:00 in the morning, watching the workouts. It included a tour of one of the barns, and close-up vantage points at the paddock and the winner’s circle. It was interesting, and exhilarating, and ultimately exhausting — just like I imagine it is for the trainers, jockeys, exercise riders, and grooms who work with those horses day-in and day-out.

Those minutes-long races are the result of so much work that goes on behind the scenes. It was fascinating to catch a glimpse of it.

Here’s a look at some of what I saw on Photo Day.

Golden Gate Fields. There’s more to the story.

Racing resumes on October 18, 2012.

See more from Dorothy Brown on her blog.

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michael randolph October 05, 2012 at 07:17 PM
Dorothy has seen the back side from the inside.Not many take the chance. I love the photos of my friends working horses and people. Way more going on here than just betting. Please I want to see more thanks.
Karen Nierlich October 05, 2012 at 09:51 PM
Great photos Dorothy. Really digging this first one with the round bales of hay posted at horse head level for grazing.
Tatter Salad October 05, 2012 at 11:15 PM
It's really too bad the Albany City Council has historically been against Golden Gate Fields. While the Track is the reason our school system has the money it does, the Council confounds the Track's attempt to make a profit. Friday night racing was taken away years ago by the Council, which was a major and profitable draw. Expanding gambling during the off-season with 'casino-like' gaming was also trounced. This is in spite of a past ballot measure characterized the majority of Albany to be in favor of gambling there. Since then, 'casino-like' gaming has increased substantially in nearby towns, and the gaming profit-taxes goes to them, not us. I see each horse in the photos as a Ferrari. Training fee costs alone (not food, not purchase price, not vet or jockey) exceed $40k per year! Realize that each horse supplies jobs to 100's of people, while Albany (previous Police Chief aside) contributes little. You don't see horses out of the track area because the City of Berkeley has an ordinance against horses on public streets (Albany doesn't). Understand the the operators of the track, and the land owners have different goals. For the former, they simply wish to keep their jobs, while for the past 30 years the land owners have been trying to sell or develop the land, and abandon the Track altogether. This places the track operators in a difficult position; how can they justify improving the site when the owners goal is to dump it ASAP?

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