The hunch bet Saturday at Santa Anita Park was Pee Wee Reese in the second race. After all, it was Jackie Robinson Day in the majors, with teams honoring the Dodgers great on the 70th anniversary of Robinson breaking the color barrier.
Pee Wee Reese, the horse, was named by owner Nick Alexander after Pee Wee Reese, the Dodgers Hall of Famer who helped Robinson during his most difficult days.
And Pee Wee Reese came through with a 1 1/4-length victory in his first try around two turns, winning the optional claiming mile race on the turf in a swift 1:33.78 for his fourth consecutive victory under jockey Joe Talamo.
“It was so cool,” Alexander said.
Alexander grew up in Pasadena and became a Dodgers fan when the team moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. He has named several of his horses after baseball players, including Catfish Hunter, Junior Gilliam and Steve Bilko.
He was a car salesman for years and started Nick Alexander Imports. He has turned over the business to family members and built a growing stable of horses focused on breeding to his stallion, Grazen.
Pee Wee Reese could become his next stallion if he continues his improvement and becomes a stakes winner. The 4-year-old son of Tribal Rule is three for three on the turf. Trainer Phil D’Amato has been good at developing front-running turf horses such as Obviously, and Pee Wee Reese could be next in line.
“Pee Wee has just progressed,” Alexander said.
Alexander still could name more horses after his favorite baseball players, but he has one condition.
“I learned not to name them after slow baseball players,” he said.