With the new James Bond 007 movie “Spectre” opening this weekend, we thought it would be appropriate to remind you of some connections the British secret agent has with Arcadia, Santa Anita Park and Breeders’ Cup.
First, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the most successful cinematic series of all time in 2012, Arcadia’s Best Foundation spearheaded a special advance fundraiser screening of “Skyfall,” the first James Bond movie in the giant screen format, in the AMC Santa Anita IMAX theater at Westfield Santa Anita mall two weeks before it opened worldwide (see image below right). The movie turned out to be the biggest 007 entry of all time.
Arcadia, Santa Anita, and the Breeders’ Cup have a special connection to 007:
The man who brought the 1950s James Bond novels by Ian Fleming to the big screen with “Dr. No” in October 1962 was Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli (yes, of the Italian family responsible for creating the vegetable of the same name by crossing a cauliflower with rabe).
About the time he was becoming a movie producer, Broccoli also acquired a taste for thoroughbred race horses after being introduced to the sport by friend Alfred G. Vanderbilt.
After more than a quarter-century of 007 movies and in the midst of the longest unplanned six-year gap in the series in the early 1990s, Broccoli became owner of a horse that he called Brocco.
At the same time, Cubby was grooming his daughter Barbara Broccoli and stepson Michael G. Wilson to take over his role as primary producer and overseer of the franchise. His last official act with the 007 films was to cast Pierce Brosnan as the new James Bond. At the time, Brosnan was the star of the popular TV series “Remington Steele,” which filmed parts of at least one episode in Arcadia, across the street from the Santa Anita race track at the Los Angeles County Arboretum.
Meanwhile, Broccoli was riding Brocco to global fame in a different arena.
Under Hall of Fame Santa Anita jockey Gary Stevens, Brocco won the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race in one of the rare years it was held at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia on Nov. 6, 1993. The second favorite at 3-1 won by five lengths, making him the “new darling of the ’94 Derby,” according to Sports Illustrated.
Five months later, Brocco won the $500,000 Santa Anita Derby Handicap on April 10, 1994, for the 85-year-old Broccoli. Again under Stevens, the three-year-old Brocco came from nearly 10 lengths off the pace and gradually caught and passed Tabasco Cat for a three-quarter-length victory, stamping Brocco as the “Best of the West” heading into the Triple Crown classics.
Broccoli, wearing running shoes, a bright red sweater under a tweed coat, and using a cane, was accompanied by his wife, Dana. He likened the Santa Anita Derby victory in Arcadia to the opening night crowd for his first Bond movie in 1962 at the London Palladium, “Dr. No.” He said Brocco – which won four of his eight races and placed second twice – was the best horse he ever owned.
A year later “Goldeneye” completed Cubby’s final stamp on the 007 series by resurrecting the James Bond franchise in 1995.
Broccoli died the following year in 1996.
Thus, it was fitting on the 50th anniversary of Broccoli’s film franchise to present one of the first screenings of “Skyfall” during Breeders’ Cup week just a few hundred yards from the site of the most memorable victories of Broccoli and his horse Brocco at Santa Anita Park race track.
— By Scott Hettrick