The history of Santa Anita horse racing is almost as amazing as the racing that goes on at the track in the present day. The modern version of the race track is now viewed as one of the most important and beautiful in the World, with high quality races like the Breeders’ Cup now taking place in the shadow of the San Gabriel Mountains for a view that is almost as enjoyable as the racing itself. Going through periods of success and decline, the good times returned to Santa Anita Park in 1997 with a renovation of the track and its classic buildings.
Horse racing has taken place at Santa Anita Park for over a century, with the first track owned by a gold prospector named Lucky Baldwin having only a short life from 1904 until it burned to the ground in 1912. A successful bid to legalize gambling in California in the early 1930s led to movie mogul Hal Roach combining his marketing expertise with a number of investors to bring horse racing back to Santa Anita Park on the day of Christmas of 1934 as the first racetrack to operate legally in California. Because of its close proximity to Los Angeles and Hollywood, coupled with the impressive architecture of Gordon Kaufmann the stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age arrived at the track throughout the 1930s and 40s.
Alongside creating an impressive social history, Santa Anita Park horse racing has also created a legacy of excellence in the sport of Kings that is difficult to rival. A statue on the grounds marks the fact the much loved Seabiscuit was the winner of the Santa Anita Handicap for his last start anywhere in the World. Throughout the 1960s, 70s and early 80s the success of horse racing at this Park was almost a guarantee, from the mid-1980s to the 1990s the story was much different. Wagers were now placed away from the track as the state of California allowed off track gaming to take place and Internet based casino apps and sportsbooks became popular. The Santa Anita Park was forced to adapt to remain current in the world of racing and remain afloat, spectacular domestic and international races have now become the norm at Santa Anita as the top horses, trainers and jockeys from around the World make their way to the rich race days at Santa Anita.
One of the main reasons for the recent success of Santa Anita Park has been the return of The Breeders’ Cup event to the track. Horses from around the world make their way to this two day event and compete for the richest purse in racing and the title of Breeders’ Cup champion. The Park is a regular choice for the two day event, having first hosted the event in 1986 after the Cup was founded in 1984. Combining the history of the track, which is seen in the many statues of former jockeys, trainers and horses with an impressive social scene and high quality races sees Santa Anita Park remain one of the top racing destinations in the World.