Santa Anita Park was opened on Christmas Day, 1934 and is the oldest racetrack in Southern California.
In February of 1935, the first Santa Anita Handicap was run. The race’s $100,000 purse, the largest of any race ever up until that time, produced its nickname the Big ‘Cap. In 1940, Seabiscuit won the Santa Anita Handicap in his last start. In 1942, racing at Santa Anita was suspended due to World War II. From 1942 to 1945, Santa Anita was used as an internment camp for Japanese-Americans. The track reopened in 1945. In 1953 a downhill turf course was added.
The 1960s brought about a major renovation of Santa Anita Park, including a much-expanded grandstand as well as major seating additions. In 1968, The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club gave the fall dates to Oak Tree Racing Association and those races are run every fall at Santa Anita. Oak Tree has been given the privilege of holding the Breeder’s Cup on three occasions, in 1986, 1993, and 2003.
In 1984, Santa Anita was the site of equestrian events for the 1984 Olympics. In 1985 the track set an attendance record of 85,527 people on Santa Anita Handicap Day. Magna Entertainment Corp. now owns Santa Anita Park. The track boasts statues of both Seabiscuit and George Woolf. Trevor Denman has served as the track announcer at Santa Anita since 1983.
Major Races: $500,000 Strub Stakes, February 6; $1-million Santa Anita Handicap, March 6; $250,000 Santa Anita Oaks, March 14; $750,000 Santa Anita Derby, April 3; $400,000 San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap, April 18.