Santa Maria High School agriculture students recently received firsthand experience in the California horse racing industry with a trip to a part of Hollywood Park Racetrack that is not open to the general public.
The 24 students, representing the SMHS Future Farmers of America Horse Judging Team and Agriculture Biology class, began the day with a visit to Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Doug O’Neill’s barn.
O’Neill has more than 60 horses, including retired “Lava Man,” who has won the Hollywood Gold Cup, the Santa Anita Handicap, Pacific Classic at Del Mar Racetrack and netted more than $5 million.
SMHS English teacher and FFA Horse Team adviser Carolyn Sherry and instructor Clemente Ayon said the opportunity for the students to leave the classroom and apply their knowledge to the real-world was “invaluable” and “an experience that will last a lifetime.”
Student studies included how to care for, raise and learn about the business of farm animals. The anatomy and physiology of many animals was also applied.
SMHS senior Giselle Sanchez-Zuno realized a racetrack operation requires a lot of hard work behind the scenes.
“I was really impressed and amazed at how much preparation goes into getting horses ready to race,’’ Sanchez-Zuno said.
— Kenny Klein is the media contact for the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District.