Santa Anita Park (Arcadia, CA)
(Racing Dates: 12/26/2019 - 06/21/2020)
Santa Anita Park is a Thoroughbred racetrack in Arcadia, California, United States. It offers some of the prominent horse racing events in the United States during early fall, winter and in spring. 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, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016 and will host in 2019. Since 2011, The Stronach Group are the current owners.
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.
In 1940, Seabiscuit won the Santa Anita Handicap in his last start.
In 1942, racing at Santa Anita was suspended due to the Second World War. Santa Anita was used as an "assembly center" for Japanese Americans excluded from the West Coast. 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 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 standardbred racing was also conducted.
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, and continued through fall 2018. Frank Mirahmadi took over after that.
Starting in 2014, Santa Anita began adding more racing cards due to the closure of Hollywood Park Racetrack, hosting Hollywood Park's old spring dates from late April until June.
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.
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