Day 228 of 365 Things Around Pasadena™ brings us to Arcadia and Santa Anita Park.
Opened Christmas Day, 76 years ago, this is the oldest racetrack in Southern California. Designed in the Art Deco style by architect Gordon B. Kaufman, this Park has quite a colorful history.
It was originally part of “Rancho Santa Anita” and was owned by former San Gabriel Mission Mayor-Domo, Claudio Lopez, named after a family member “Anita Cota”. The ranch was later acquired by rancher, Hugo Reid, a Scotsman. Later, it would be owned by Gold prospector Lucky Baldwin. He initially founded a racetrack adjacent to the present site in what is today, Arcadia, outside of the city of Los Angeles in the 1904 but it closed in 1909 and burned 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 reopened the track on Christmas Day in 1934. In February 1935, the first Santa Anita Handicap was run. The race’s $100,000 purse, the largest of any race ever in the United States until that time, produced its nickname the Big ‘Cap.*
Santa Anita is no stranger to Hollywood. It has been featured in several films: A Star is Born 1954, A Day at the Races with Marx Brothers, amongst others. Santa Anita Park stood in for the entrance to Walley World in fave 80s movie National Lampoon’s Vacation.** As I write, HBO is filming a new series there titled “Luck” about what else, but life on the racetrack. Quite a few other TV shows used The Santa Anita is their locale of choice. I Am No Stalker did a great write up on its TV history here.
In the meantime, a new season is off and running!
For something fun and different visit Santa Anita in the morning to catch the morning workouts on each racing day. The workout hours are usually from 5 am to 10 am. You can also get breakfast there as early as 5:30 am. Check the daily race schedule here.
Santa Anita Park
285 West Huntington Drive
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