A perfect day at Santa Anita Park

3 minutes read

What can you expect while attempting to Santa Anita Park racetrack? Beyond smoking, elegant toilettes and assorted hats dress code cliché from prestigious races, it offers a unique equestrian environment.  Let’s unlock the bridle exploring Santa Anita Park’s backlot: discover the Seabiscuit Tour, and bet for the horse racing while enjoying its distinctive backdrop.

A pinch of history

  • In 1907, Elias J.”Lucky” Baldwin founded the original Santa Anita racetrack.
  • Charles H.Scrub and Hal Roach opened a new one in 1934 on Christmas day.
  • During WWII, it served as a military training center and an assembly center for Japanese American.
  • The racetrack hosted the venue of equestrian competition during LA Olympic Summer Games (1984).
  • Prestigious races take place here like Breeders’Cup World Championship, the Santa Anita Derby and the Santa Anita Handicap.

  1. The Seabiscuit Tour, the behind-the-scenes tour.

I started my day with the Seabiscuit Tour. My knowledge regarding this environment was limited and I was eager to learn more before meeting my friends for horse racing and betting.

This tour includes a visit to the barn and stall, jockeys and silks rooms, the saddling paddock, the carriage horse, and the receiving area (horses are coming there after the race).


The receiving barn

I appreciated visiting these areas, quiet and less crowded in the early morning. Also, some of them are closed to the public as soon as races begin.


This tour is a great insight as for horses & jockeys environment, training and competitions at the Santa Anita Park. I learned that horses are randomly tested for drugs during races. Also, their identification tattoos, located on their lips, are controlled to match with official papers.


Did you know? To calm horses, they bring…. Goats in the barn! They can even go to the training along with horses.

  1. Horse Racing and Betting

I won’t pretend to master the horse betting section as I won only $2 during the day! For a 1st experience, it was definitely a lot of fun. I gambled at a betting window to obtain more information and guidelines regarding the wagering process. While selecting my horses, I expected the luck of beginners to maximize my potential wins 😉


As we started betting, races were more stimulating, exciting and entertaining. We were standing almost jumping as “our horses” approached and competed to cross the finish line first.


At the end of each race, on stage, the presenters introduced the winners along with owners and coaches. Jockeys are also weighted.

Did you know? During races, licensed owner claimer can buy horses.


  1. Renewed Horses and Jockeys

Among renewed jockeys and horses who competed here, some of them are honored with a statue along the area.


Seabiscuit bronze statue



John Henry bronze statue by Nina Kaiser.

Seabiscuit raced several times in Santa Anita. The famous horse ended his career here with the victory of the Santa Anita Handicap.







American champion Thoroughbred racehorse, John Henry (1975-2007) raced 83 times recording 39 wins, 15 seconds, and 9 thirds for $6.6 million earnings!  A total of 17 jockeys rode him before his retirement in Kentucky.



Zenyatta bronze statue



Zenyatta (born in 2004) is also an American champion Thoroughbred racehorse totalizing 19 victory of 20 races and $7.3 million earnings through her racing career. Fun fact: in 2010, she promoted the Dodgers in Los Angeles while appearing with a personalized billboard.




  1. Hollywood backlot

Located a few miles from Hollywood’s studios, Santa Anita Racetrack appeals producers mainly for races related movies. “Charlie Cahn at the race track” was the first movie to be shot there in 1936, followed by “A day at the race “a year later and more recently “Seabiscuit” (2003).


The famous track brings also actors for horse racing and betting like Clark Gable and Marlene Dietrich. Others, like Kevin Costner, had their horses competing in races.



  1. A unique environment and architecture

Surrounded by palm trees and the San Gabriel Mountains, the racetrack’s backdrop is unique and beautiful. I really like its atmosphere and quietness. No wonder they called it the “The Great Race Place.”


Santa Anita Park was designed by architect Gordon Kaufman. Its recognizable art deco style has been rewarded by an award track design.




Sounds like a must see? Leave a comment to join the discussion.



  • Location: 285 Huntington Dr, Arcadia, CA 91007
  • Racing season: December – June from Thursday-Sunday.
  • Cost: from $5 (General Admission) to $60 (Club house box for 6).
  • Free tour at 8:30 AM and 9:45 AM during the racing season (weekends only)
  • Bring your blankets and enjoy a picnic.
  • Duration: I spent the day.
  • Parking on site $4 (general parking) or Metro Gold Line (then Santa Anita Park shuttle to the park)
  • More information available at http://www.santaanita.com/


If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment and share with a horse-centric (or not!). 

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