Los Angeles Times

Bill Plaschke: Crown prints

LOS ANGELES_It's just before 5 a.m. as cool, light rain paints a mist across the darkened stables at Santa Anita Park.

Inside Barn 5, in a long corridor of swirling dust and bits of floating straw, horses have begun peeking from their stalls, their heads bobbing expectantly.

They're waiting. He's coming.

"Time to wake up!" says the Unknown Horseman, smiling underneath a baseball cap and rumpled jacket, his left hand clutching a giant Styrofoam cup of coffee.

As a soulful Spanish ballad flows from a smartphone propped on a bale of hay, Pascual Rivera begins walking through the barn on two bad knees, greeting his family. One by one, he stops at each horse's small home, steps inside, hugs their necks and starts their day.

He pats Thirteen Squared on the head. She nuzzles his hand and licks his fingers as he whispers, "Hey, hey, hey," into her ear.

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