Santa Anita Park logo
|Location||Arcadia, California, United States|
|Owned by||The Stronach Group|
|Date opened||December 25, 1934|
|Course type||Thoroughbred flat racing|
|Notable races||Santa Anita Handicap (G1)
Santa Anita Derby (G1)
Sunshine Millions Day
Santa Anita Park is a thoroughbred racetrack in Arcadia, California, United States. It offers some of the prominent racing events in the United States during the winter and in spring. With its backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains, it is considered by many the world's most beautiful race track. The track is home to numerous prestigious races including both the Santa Anita Derby and the Santa Anita Handicap as well as hosting the Breeders' Cup in 1986, 1993, 2003, 2008, 2009, and from 2012 to 2014, plus 2016. In 2010, Santa Anita's ownership was moved to MI Developments Inc. (MID).
Santa Anita Park was originally part of "Rancho Santa Anita," which was owned originally by former San Gabriel Mission Mayor-Domo, Claudio Lopez, and named after a family member, "Anita Cota." The ranch was later acquired by rancher Hugo Reid, a Scotsman. Later, it was owned by multimillionaire horse breeder and racer Lucky Baldwin. Baldwin initially built a racetrack adjacent to the present site in what is today Arcadia, outside of the city of Los Angeles, in 1904. It closed in 1909 and burned down in 1912.
In 1933, California legalized parimutuel wagering and several investor groups worked to open racetracks. In the San Francisco area, a group headed by Dr. Charles H "Doc" Strub was having trouble locating a site. In the Los Angeles area, a group headed by movie producer Hal Roach was in need of further funds. These two groups combined and the newly formed Los Angeles Turf Club opened the present day track on Christmas Day in 1934, making it the first formally-established racetrack in California. Architect Gordon Kaufmann designed its various buildings in a combination of Colonial Revival and a type of art deco known as Streamline Modern, painted primarily in Santa Anita's signature colors of Persian Green and Chiffon Yellow.
In February 1935, the first Santa Anita Handicap was run. The race's $100,000 purse, largest of any race ever in the United States until that time, produced its nickname the Big 'Cap.
In its heyday, the track's races attracted such stars Betty Grable, Lana Turner, Edgar Bergen, Jane Russell, Cary Grant, Esther Williams, and other stars. Bing Crosby, Joe E. Brown, Al Jolson, and Harry Warner were all stockholders.
Under the leadership of Doc Strub, Santa Anita initiated many innovations that are now standard in thoroughbred horse racing, such as the use of starting gates and photo finishes for every race. It is interesting to note that the implementation of photo finishes at Santa Anita actually recorded an increase in dead heats. Santa Anita was so successful that in its first year under Doc Strub's leadership, it paid its investors a 100% dividend on their investment.
In 1940, Seabiscuit won the Santa Anita Handicap in his last start. Two years later, in 1942, racing at Santa Anita was suspended due to the Second World War, when Santa Anita was used as an "assembly center" for Japanese Americans excluded from the West Coast. (See below.) For several months in 1942, over 18,000 people lived in horse stables and military-style barracks constructed on the site, including actor George Takei, then a young boy. After the track reopened in 1945, it went through the postwar years with prosperity. A downhill turf course, which added a distinctly European flair to racing at Santa Anita, was added in 1953.
Due to its proximity to Los Angeles, Santa Anita has traditionally been associated with the film and television industries. The racetrack sequences in the Marx Brothers 1937 classic A Day at the Races were filmed there, and The Story of Seabiscuit with Shirley Temple was filmed on location in 1949. It was also featured in A Star Is Born (1937). Several stars, including Bing Crosby, Spencer Tracy, Errol Flynn, Alex Trebek, and MGM mogul, Louis B. Mayer, have owned horses that raced at the park.
The 1958 Santa Anita Derby was attended by 61,123 people, making the attendance that day a record crowd. They had come to watch Silky Sullivan come from 28 lengths off the pace and win--going away.
The 1960s brought about a major renovation of Santa Anita Park, including a much-expanded grandstand as well as major 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 meet at Santa Anita Park. This meet usually ran from the end of September until early November. Many key stakes races were held during the Oak Tree Meeting, including many preps to the Breeders' Cup races. The Oak Tree meet relocated to Hollywood Park for 2010 but the California Horse Racing Board awarded the fall dates to Santa Anita in its own right in 2011. This prompted a renaming of many stakes races held at the fall meeting that were formerly associated with Oak Tree. For example, the Norfolk, Goodwood, Yellow Ribbon, Lady's Secret, and Oak Leaf, were renamed at the FrontRunner, Awesome Again, Rodeo Drive, Zenyatta and Chandelier respectively.
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. While the Santa Anita meeting could still draw large crowds, attendance had decreased by a third. Only 56,810 people were at the park for Santa Anita Derby Day 2007 to witness a Grade I event.
In 1997, Santa Anita Park was acquired by Meditrust when it purchased the Santa Anita Companies for its unique real estate investment trust paired share corporate structure. Following the elimination of the special tax treatment accorded Pair Share REITs, Meditrust sold the track to Magna Entertainment Corp. Magna still owns Santa Anita Park. 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.
At Santa Anita Park's European-style paddock there are statues of jockeys George Woolf, Johnny Longden, Bill Shoemaker and Laffit Pincay, Jr. plus a memorial bust of announcer Joe Hernandez and one of trainer Charlie Whittingham with his dog, Toby. There is also a lifesize bronze of Seabiscuit in the walking ring at Seabiscuit Court; a similar bronze of John Henry was unveiled near the Seabiscuit statue in December 2009. Buried near the paddock is Emperor of Norfolk, the best horse Lucky Baldwin ever owned, along with three other great Baldwin horses: Volante, Silver Cloud, and Rey El Santa Anita, all four of them winners of the prestigious American Derby. In 2012, a lifesize bronze of Zenyatta was unveiled prior to the running of the race renamed in her honor.
Since 1950, Santa Anita Park has annually presented the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award to a rider who demonstrates high standards of personal and professional conduct, on and off the racetrack.
South African native Trevor Denman served as Santa Anita's full-time announcer from the 1983 Oak Tree meet until his retirement from the position in 2015. Denman is noted for his calls beginning with "And awaaay they go..." and his distinctive gravelly voice. Queensland, Australia native Michael Wrona was chosen to succeed Denman in March 2016.
Arcadia High School holds its graduation ceremonies at Santa Anita Park in June and its high school graduating class reunions, organized by the school's alumni association, in October.
After President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which authorized military commanders to exclude "any or all persons" from certain areas in the name of national defense, the Western Defense Command began ordering Japanese Americans living on the West Coast to present themselves for "evacuation" from the newly created military zones. Seventeen temporary "assembly centers" were designated to house the evicted population until construction on the more permanent and isolated internment camps was finished. Most, like Santa Anita, were converted from former uses like racing tracks or fairgrounds.
Santa Anita was turned over to the Wartime Civilian Control Administration, the government body responsible for oversight of the temporary detention facilities, in March 1942, and army engineers soon after built 500 barracks on the parking lot and converted the horse stables and the area underneath the grandstand into residential "apartments." Inmates began arriving in April, most coming from the surrounding Los Angeles County, and the center's population soon topped 18,000, peaking at 18,719 by August of that year. Six mess halls, each seating approximately 850 at a time, fed some 3,000 people daily at a cost of 33 cents per inmate. The sanitary facilities faced similar overcrowding, with a ratio of 30 inmates to each shower after the number of showers was increased from 150 to 225 in early July. Consequently, inmates spent a significant portion of their time in Santa Anita waiting in line for meals or to use the sanitary facilities.
The Assembly Center remained open for seven months, and in the meantime, inmates took up jobs in camp at the camouflage net factory, the hospital or various administrative departments, and set up schools to ensure their children's education would not be interrupted. Transfer to War Relocation Authority camps began on August 26, 1942, when 901 inmates left for Poston, Arizona, and over the next month the remaining Japanese Americans were sent to Poston and several other camps. The Santa Anita Assembly Center closed on October 27, 1942.
Santa Anita has a one-mile (1,609 m) natural dirt main track which rings a turf course measuring 0.9 mile, or 1,584 yards (1,448 m). In addition, it has an unusual hillside turf course which crosses the dirt and is used mainly to run turf races at a distance of "about" 6½ furlongs (exact distance is 1,408.5 yards (1,287.9 m)). This type of track is one of the few of its kind in America.
To comply with a State of California mandate, Santa Anita replaced its dirt racing surface with a new synthetic surface called Cushion Track, a mixture of silica sand, synthetic fibers, elastic fiber, granulated rubber and a wax coating. The new Cushion Track opened for training on Sept 4, 2007 and hosted its first live race on Sept 26, 2007. The track lost 11 racing dates in 2008 due to a drainage problem with the new material, but intensive maintenance and the addition of a liquid binder greatly improved the artificial surface. Santa Anita replaced the artificial surface with a return to an all natural dirt surface in December 2010.
Santa Anita occupies 320 acres (1.3 km2). It has a 1,100-foot (340 m)-long grandstand, which is a historic landmark that seats 26,000 guests. The grandstand facade is rendered in an Art Deco style and is largely the original from the 1930s. The track infield area, which resembles a park with picnic tables and large trees, can accommodate 50,000 or more guests. The Park also contains 61 barns, which house more than 2,000 horses, and an equine hospital.
In 2000, the racetrack was named to America's "Most Endangered Historic Places" list. The Santa Anita Racetrack was determined eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places in 2006, but continued to be threatened by developer's plans. A themed entertainment complex proposal was aborted, but there were new plans are in the works for the parking and support areas adjacent to the historic race track and grandstands.
In 2006, there was a proposal to close Santa Anita Park and use its location as the site of a new retail/entertainment complex. The Arcadia City Council approved a plan In April 2007 to develop an 830,000 square foot commercial, retail, and office complex in the south parking area, where the barracks that housed interned Japanese Americans during World War II are located. The proposal planned to tear down the South Ticket Gate and the 1938 Saddling Barn, and to install a simulcast facility in the center of the historic grandstand. In April 2008, a plan was approved to use large parts of the existing track parking lot to construct a mall, the "Shops at Santa Anita"
TVG, which acquired Horse Racing TV (HRTV) in 2015, is a 24-hour television based multimedia network dedicated to horse racing which features racing action from many of the sport's greatest racetracks around the world. TVG broadcasts live from Santa Anita Park.
Talents from HRTV are now employed by TVG Network or XBTV (Xpressbet TV). Santa Anita talent now host the simulcast feed.
Santa Anita Simulcast Hosts
Megan has been an avid equestrian for years, competing, training with Olympians and working with retired racehorse programs. She grew up going to the tracks in New York and later moved to Kentucky where she worked sales, galloped horses and earned a degree from the Equine Industry Program at the University of Louisville. Since 2012, she has been a part of the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup coverage on NBC Sports. Megan has appeared as an on-air analyst at TVG, Turfway Park, Ellis Park, Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN) and is currently the TV Host at Santa Anita Park.
Major races hosted by Santa Anita Park are listed below.
Grade I stakes: (listed by inaugural running)
Grade II stakes include:
Grade III stakes include:
Ungraded stakes include: