From Seabiscuit to Zenyatta, Santa Anita Park has been home to some of the most legendary horses, jockeys, and trainers, and some of the most memorable races in the history of the sport.
The track is also recognized as one of the most majestic in the world. That is why the biggest annual competition between horses from all over the world is so often held at Santa Anita Park. After the first-ever back-to-back Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita in 2008-09, the BC booked consecutive events there again in 2012-14 and will return in 2016. Arcadia is also recognized as one of the most gracious and supportive host communities for the 90,000 spectators who flock to the two-day event for days in advance to enjoy all that Arcadia and Southern California have to offer.
Santa Anita Beyond Breeders’ Cup
Santa Anita Park runs three meets per year from late December to mid-April, from late April to late June, and from late September to early November, when races are run Thursdays-Sundays.
But the venue is open to the public 365 days a year. There is no more spectacular setting than sitting at Clockers’ Corner at the west end of the grandstand in the early morning hours, watching dozens of horses working out on the track against the backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains.
On any given day you may see movie and TV stars since the track has been host to hundreds of films and series since Charlie Chan and the Marx Brothers filmed movies there in 1936 and 1937.
And, of course, there are the celebrity horses and jockeys associated with Santa Anita. Among them: Seabiscuit, John Henry, Citation, Spectacular Bid and Zenyatta. Plus George “The Iceman” Woolf, Johnny Longden, Willie Shoemaker, Chris McCarron, Laffit Pincay Jr., Gary Stevens and Mike Smith.Dec. 25, 1934: Opened Christmas Day with a crowd of more than 30,000.
1940: Seabiscuit wins Santa Anita Handicap in front of crowd of 78,000.
1942-1944: Racing suspended during World War II, when track was initially used for seven months as an assembly center for Japanese Americans, then for two years as Camp Santa Anita – used for an Army ordnance training center and USO shows, and finally to house German prisoners of war for a few months.
May 15-July 7, 1945: All-time season attendance record average of 35,247 per day that still stands – more than 75,000 on Memorial Day and more than 60,000 on July 4.
Jan. 4, 1946: George Woolf dies the morning after a fall during a race at Santa Anita.
March 1, 1947: 85,000-plus attendees
July 29-Aug 12, 1984: Host of Olympics equestrian events; 232,158 people attend; 250 horses represent 31 nations
March 3, 1985: 85,000-plus attendees
1986: Breeders’ Cup
2008-09: First back-to-back Breeders’ Cup host; Zenyatta wins come-from-behind race in 2008: Considered one of the most exciting and amazing ever; 75th anniversary ceremony Dec. 26, 2009; statue and historical marker dedicated
2012-14: First back-to-back-to-back host of Breeders’ Cup – 90,000 attendees over two days
Firsts at Santa Anita
• Public address announcer calling the race
• Instant electrical timing flashed at intervals during the race for public viewing
• Magnetic control gate for simultaneous release at the start
• Only turf course in America with a right-hand and downhill slope