Santa Anita Park - Thoroughbreds, palm trees and famous faces
Santa Anita, The Great Race Place, host of the 1984 Olympic Games equestrian events, filming location of the movie Seabiscuit and a place of many famous horses, jockeys and trainers.
Sitting on the edge of the small town of Arcadia, Santa Anita Park is a fantastic place to visit, whether you are a horse racing fan or not.
What to expect
Stepping through the gates of Santa Anita, will feel as though you have travelled back to the 1930’s when the track was built. The ornate ironwork, pale green and yellow facade and amazing floors really makes the 1930’s feel alive. There are hundreds of empty parimutuel windows that give the grandstand the feel of a museum. Even the restrooms hark back to the heyday of racing. They are huge and clearly created to handle crowds.
Walking from the grandstand, you are presented with the picturesque setting of the San Gabriel Mountains, palm trees and some of the best racehorses in North America. This is the type of venue where seersucker suits and fascinators are not out of place. But neither are jeans and a t-shirt.
There is much more to Santa Anita than just an afternoon at the races.
Morning workouts – free admission and parking
Morning workouts start pretty darn early but it is worth getting up at 4:30 a.m. to be trackside by 5 a.m. Imagine standing along the rail watching hundreds of thoroughbreds doing what they do best. The sun will begin to rise, back lighting the horses and riders, creating fabulous silhouettes. Thundering hooves, high blowing horses and chatting between riders, are the only sounds to break the quiet of a California morning.
The horses form small vapour trails as they move down the track, some jogging, some working. A few trainers and owners can be seen talking amongst themselves, while track reporters keep a watchful eye and do spontaneous interviews. During breaks, jockeys will join the trainers and owners so there are a lot a famous people to be spotted. Whether you are watching the horses or the people, there is no better way to spend an early morning. Not to mention, the grandstand will be practically empty and you will feel like a special guest.
At Clockers’ Corner, there is plenty of seating with heat lamps for those cool California mornings. There is also a concession stand serving coffee and breakfast. When the sun is fully up, umbrellas replace heat lamps and the famous are easier to spot. On the weekends, there is an announcer in the late morning alerting spectators of well-known horses coming onto the track. You won’t miss a thing.
Should you find you want a peek into the barn area, all you have to do is be at Clockers’ Corner of a weekend at 9:45 a.m. and your wish will be granted.
The Seabiscuit tour is a tram ride taking you into the barn area where you will see Seabiscuit’s old stall and some of the filming areas from the movie. You will also visit the jockey’s room, the silks room, saddling paddock and walking ring. The tour, as with the rest of the morning is free. FREE! This tour runs during the live racing season which, as it happens, is pretty long.
Morning workouts generally run from 5-10 a.m. so you don’t actually have to get up at 4:30 a.m. Admission and parking is free. Go to Gate 8, off Baldwin Ave and someone will be waiting to show you where to go.
$5.00 for a day at the races
Wear a suit or fancy dress and you will fit right in at Santa Anita. Alternatively, you can wear shorts and a t-shirt and still fit in. The quiet peaceful grandstand of the morning will be filled with thousands of race fans in the afternoon. The atmosphere is one of excitement as the horses race and money is won and lost.
Find a spot along the rail of the paddocking area and watch as the horses are walked around and tacked up, while owners, trainers and jockeys meet before the call “Riders up!” The horses and jockeys will file out of the paddock and enter a tunnel that leads to the track for the start of the post parade.
If you are quick, you can make it to an area above the tunnel and get a bird’s eye view as the pairs walk through. The San Gabriel Mountains create a fantastic backdrop to the post parade. Pick your favourite horse either by colour, looks or record and then head to the mutuels and place your bet. Spectators will line the rail of the track in preparation for the race, so secure yourself a spot early so you don’t miss any of the action. Once the race has run, you can stand outside the winner’s circle and watch the winning team have their photo taken. You can also watch the jockeys hop off their mounts and onto the scale. Then it starts all over again for the next 7-8 races.
There are turf races as well as dirt races at Santa Anita, just to add a little more flare to what is already an exciting day.
You will need some sustenance to make it through the day and Santa Anita has you covered 11 different ways. Whether it is a café/bakery, a sports bar or a menu featuring LA’s premier chefs or something in between you can find at Santa Anita.
Click on the restaurant names to learn more.
Clockers’ Café – Bakery and café.
Clockers’s Corner – Breakfast foods while you watch morning workouts.
Farriers – The best place to buy craft beer and wine. Open on select days.
Frontrunner – Casual dining with a view overlooking the track.
Grade One – Not just a sandwich shop but a carvery sandwich shop.
Pick Three – A noodle bar with more options than you can shake a stick at.
Sirona’s Sports Bar – Plated or buffet style dining close to the paddock.
The Farriers Package – This isn’t so much a restaurant, as it is a life style. The package includes Club House admission, box seats, food vouchers, a drink and a program.
The Chandelier Room – Fancy dress required; the perfect place for receptions and other like minded events.
Tri-Taco-Fecta – Self-explanatory, no?
Turf Terrace – Open-air box seating in beautiful California weather over-looking the track. Must make reservations.
Once fuelled up, don’t forget to visit Champions the Santa Anita gift shop which is a great place to pick up souvenirs of your time at the Great Race Place. If you don’t want to shop while there are horses to be watched you can order from Champions on-line.
Best time to go
Santa Anita Park is open all year round but the horses aren’t always there. As luck would have it, the live racing season is a very long one at Santa Anita. Race days are generally Thursday-Sunday starting between 12:30 p.m. and 1 p.m. However, sometimes special race dates and times are added. Best to check the calendar before venturing forth.
Live racing dates (as of the 2017 calendar)
January 1-July 4 September 29-October 29 December 26 – July 4
During the short off-season, there is simulcast racing and often other forms of entertainment such as a circus, concerts or drive-in movies. Generally during the off-season, parking and admission is free, but not always. Check the calendar for dates, attractions and costs.
July 6- September 24 November 1 – December 23
Several movies, TV shows and commercials were shot at Santa Anita. Movies such as Casino, Nixon and everyone’s favourite, Attack of the 50-F00t Cheerleaders. Also, Beverly Hills 90210, Grey’s Anatomy and Bones have filmed scenes at Santa Anita. For a full list and a huge amount of photos please follow this link.
Admission: General admission is $5.00 and free for those 17 and under with a parent. Allows for seating in the main grandstand, the Club House and grandstand apron. More info.
Airports: A short list of airports that are close to Santa Anita Park.
LA airport: 37 miles from Santa Anita.
John Wayne airport: 50 miles from Santa Anita – easy drive
Bob Hope airport: 20 miles from Santa Anita – easy drive
Barn area: This area is off limits to the public unless on the Seabiscuit tour which takes place during weekend morning workouts.
Dress code: Dress as you please but remember that California tends to be warm. Ladies may be thankful they wore flat shoes. On big race days don’t be afraid to wear a big, fancy hat.
Family fun: Every Saturday and Sunday during the live racing season, families can partake in the Family Fun Zone, complete with pony rides and carnival games. Also, families are welcome to watch the races from the infield which has a playground and picnic tables. More info.
Infield: If you want to watch the races from the infield, parking and admittance is free from Gate 6.
Parking: General parking is $4 or treat yourself to valet parking for $10.
Pets: Please do not bring your pets with you to the track.
Programs: $2.50 in the grandstand
Reserved seating: Club House seating ranges from $10-$60 depending on the day, location of seats and special race days. More info. For information on premium areas and seating please follow this link.
Shuttle: Free shuttle service from Metro Gold Line Arcadia Station to Santa Anita. More info.
Site Map: Interactive map right here.
Wheelchair: There are wheelchair areas in the Club House behind section J and in the main grandstand behind section M. There is handicapped parking in both the Club House and general gate areas. More info.
These aren’t side trips so much as a few horse related attractions in the town of Arcadia.
The Derby restaurant: 2 miles (3.2 km) from Santa Anita. In operation since 1922 and in the same location since 1931. This world famous steakhouse and fine dining restaurant is much more than a place to eat. It will transport you back in time to the heyday of racing, much like Santa Anita track. It is full of horse-racing memorabilia, you won’t know if you want to eat or take a walk down horse-racing memory lane. Restaurant info.
Thoroughbred Racing Walk of Champions: Similar to the Hollywood Walk of Fame but instead of movie stars it is honouring the Greats in the California horse-racing industry. The Walk of Champions is conveniently located just outside The Derby restaurant on Huntington Drive. Learn more here.
There is an endless supply of things to do close to the track and little explanation is needed for most.
Craft beer and breweries – Here is a link to a Google map showing the closest breweries etc. Mt. Lowe Brewing Company is the closest.
Wineries – Here is a link to a Google map that shows all the wineries near Arcadia. REV Winery and Brewery is the closest.
Chantry Flat: 7 miles from Santa Anita. Located within the Angeles National Forest and Big Santa Anita Canyon. Complete with a waterfall, rustic cabins, working pack station and historic mountain camp. More info.
Beverly Hills & Rodeo Drive: 31 miles from Santa Anita
Burbank: 20 miles from Santa Anita
Chino Hills State Park: 30 miles from Santa Anita
Disneyland: 32 miles from Santa Anita
Dodger Stadium: 20 miles from Santa Anita
Hollywood: 24 miles from Santa Anita
Huntington Beach: 40 miles from Santa Anita
Long Beach: 35 miles from Santa Anita
Los Angeles: 16 miles from Santa Anita
Santa Monica: 30 miles from Santa Anita
Tijuana, Mexico: 150 miles from Santa Anita
Santa Anita Park on Social Media
***All posts are written for the love of horse sports and I’m in no way compensated for my obvious intellect.***
All photographs are the work of Horse Sport Destinations