About Santa Anita Park Racetrack
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but you’d have to be a stick in the mud not to
appreciate Santa Anita Park. This is the oldest horse racing track in Southern California and
arguably the most beautiful anywhere.
First, there’s the backdrop. Santa Anita Park was opened in 1934 in Arcadia, just a stone’s throw
from Los Angeles at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. Then there’s the venue itself, which
was designed by Gordon B. Kaufmann in the Art Deco style of the times. You’ll find a one-mile dirt
oval (the Cushion Track synthetic surface was abandoned in 2010), a turf course at 9/10ths of a
mile and a rare “hillside” turf course for sprints.
Santa Anita’s initial investors included well-heeled entrepreneur Charles H. Strub and Hollywood
movie producer Hal Roach, who made a fortune on the Laurel and Hardy films. Thanks to their
largesse, the first Santa Anita Handicap was run in 1935 with a purse of $100,000, by far the
largest ever in the United States up until then.
This big prize instantly made “The Big ‘Cap” one of the most important races in the world.
Seabiscuit won his last race here in 1940; other past champions include Affirmed (1979),
Spectacular Bid (1980) and John Henry, who won twice in 1981 and 1982.
The Santa Anita Handicap is currently a $750,000 Grade 1 stakes race (10 furlongs, dirt, 4-year-
olds and up) and still offers the biggest purse on the calendar – that is, when the Breeders’ Cup
isn’t in town. Santa Anita Park has hosted the Breeders’ Cup six times, most recently in 2012. The
2013 Breeders’ Cup will also be here in November.