Santa Anita Park Racetrack
When Hollywood Park Racetrack closed in 2013, Santa Anita became the premier track in southern California. Except for Del Mar Racetrack, which opens each year in mid-July and runs through Labor Day.
Santa Anita Park is owned by the Stronach Group, headed by the chairman of the board Frank Stronach. The Stronach Group also owns Gulfstream Park in South Florida, Golden Gate fields in northern California, Pimlico and Laurel in Maryland, and the harness track Rosecroft Raceway.
Santa Anita Park has an 8-furlong, 1-mile dirt course with a relatively short 990 feet. Its turf course can measure anywhere from 6.5 to 12 furlongs, given its unique configuration. Santa Anita’s grass course has a hill start making it one of North America’s most unique grass courses. Additionally, it’s the only course in America where horses turn right, and the turf course crosses over the main track, also a rarity in North American racing.
Santa Anita Park is truly a unique experience and track in the world of thoroughbred horse racing.
Santa Anita Park Racing Season
Thoroughbred horse racing is conducted in the spring, early fall, and throughout winter. It offers some of the prominent horse racing events in the United States throughout the year. The Santa Anita meets usually runs Friday through Monday.
Santa Anita Park Stake Races
Santa Anita has hosted the Breeders’ Cup 10-times since it was inaugurated in 1984. More Breeder’s Cups have been run at Santa Anita because of the beautiful weather, which ensures a Fast Track and a Firm Turf Course, ideal conditions for championships to be decided over a 2-day period. This usually runs in early November.
The two most prestigious races conducted at Santa Anita are the Santa Anita Derby for 3-year old males at 1 1/8 miles, a ‘key’ Kentucky Derby prep race run four weeks before the Run for the Roses. The Santa Anita Handicap is for older males and is usually run in early March at 1 ¼ mile. Both of these races are Grade 1 stakes.
Santa Anita Park Track History
Santa Anita Park was originally part of “Rancho Santa Anita.” The present-day location existed from 1904, and it remained active until 1909, then burned down a few years later in 1912.
In 1933, California legalized parimutuel wagering, which led to a new and revised Santa Anita opened on Christmas Day 1934 as the Los Angeles Turf Club. In February of 1935, the very first Santa Anita Handicap was contested. At the time, its $100,000 purse was the largest throughout the world.
Since it resides in the shadows of Hollywood, Santa Anita has had a tight connection with the film industry, playing host to numerous productions. Famous Hollywood personalities such as Bing Crosby, Jim Rome, Errol Flynn, and Alex Trebek have owned thoroughbred racehorses that have raced and won at Santa Anita.
The 1960s brought about a major renovation of Santa Anita Park, including a much-expanded grandstand and significant seating additions. In 1968, Del Mar Racetrack relinquished its dates for a fall meeting. A group of horsemen, including Clement Hirsch, intervened and established the not-for-profit Oak Tree Racing Association. Oak Tree had no facilities of its own and rented Santa Anita Park for its first autumn meeting in 1969. The Oak Tree Association became the operator of the autumn meets at Santa Anita Park.
Prosperity continued at Santa Anita throughout the 1970s and the 1980s. In 1984, Santa Anita was the site of equestrian events at the 1984 Olympics. The following year, the track set an attendance record of 85,527 people on Santa Anita Handicap Day. However, recognizing the potential revenue boon to the State of California, the California Legislature expanded off-track betting, bring operating betting parlors within closer driving distance of the race-day tracks.
In the 1984 Olympics, equestrian was held at Santa Anita. One year later, some 85,000-plus fans attended the Santa Anita Handicap. Legendary horse Seabiscuit is synonymous with Santa Anita as a movie bearing his name was filmed there, a statue of him exists in close proximity to the paddock, and he ran his last-ever race there.
In 1997, Santa Anita Park was acquired by Meditrust when it purchased the Santa Anita Companies. Following the elimination of the special tax treatment accorded Pair Share REITs, Meditrust sold the track to Magna Entertainment Corp. In 2006, Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita cohosted the Sunshine Millions, a day of competition with $3.6 million in stakes races between horses bred in the State of Florida and those bred in the State of California.
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