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Santa Anita Park Set to Play Host to 2023 Breeders’ Cup

Los Angeles County’s Santa Anita Park has been selected as the venue for the Breeders’ Cup for the eleventh time. The Arcadia-based venue will stage the 40th anniversary of the Breeders’ Cup, one of the most prestigious thoroughbred horseracing events on the planet, let alone US horseracing.

The Breeders’ Cup World Championships ranks alongside the likes of the Cheltenham Festival, Royal Ascot and the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival as the most influential horseracing events worldwide. It offers two days of highly competitive championship racing, with a total of 14 Grade 1 races scheduled and prize purses worth upwards of $31 million.

Drew Fleming, president and CEO of the Breeders’ Cup, described Santa Anita Park as “an integral part” of the event’s history and “the perfect venue” to stage the 40th anniversary.

The Breeders’ Cup is also one of the most watched spectacles in the US horseracing calendar. Fortunately for fans stateside, there are plenty of horse racing betting sites with live streaming platforms that broadcast all the action to bettors on raceday. Many of these online sportsbooks also have a commitment to offering track odds, so it’s possible to get the same value as a racegoer who is heading to Santa Anita in 2023.

What Makes Santa Anita Park Such a Special Racetrack?

Set against the breathtaking backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains which lie along the Mojave Desert and the Los Angeles Basin, Santa Anita is one of the most picturesque racetracks in US horseracing.

The original Santa Anita Park was situated within “Rancho Santa Anita”, which eventually fell into the hands of multimillionaire Lucky Baldwin. It was under his ownership that the racetrack would suffer a catastrophic fire back in 1912, effectively destroying the facility.

Over two decades later, the Sunshine State’s lawmakers agreed to legalize parimutuel wagering and multiple organizations sought to repair and reopen racetracks across California. A group involving movie producer Hal Roach eventually acquired the land and the Los Angeles Turf Club was established.

 

The inaugural Santa Anita Handicap was staged in February 1935 and the venue regularly went on to attract Hollywood stars like Clark Gable, Cary Grant, and Esther Williams, while the likes of Bing Crosby and Harry Warner held shares in the racetrack’s corporation.

Interestingly, the Santa Anita Park circuit used to be a natural dirt track of 0.9 miles in length. The State of California mandated the racetrack’s owners to change this to a synthetic Cushion Track surface in 2007. However, problems with the maintenance and drainage of the surface saw the state allow the racetrack to restore its natural dirt track in 2010.

Santa Anita Park also has a hillside turf course that is uniquely downhill most of the way. In addition, there is a section of the track where the horses must cut across the dirt track in order to remain on the turf.

There’s also the remarkable Art Deco-style structure that is the Santa Anita Park grandstand, which sits 1,100-feet long. It stands almost in its original structure – built back in the 1930s – and can still hold up to 26,000 guests. The infield area of the circuit also includes parkland with picnic benches and trees, making it a hugely attractive place for people to enjoy.

Other Popular Breeders’ Cup Venues Through the Years

Santa Anita Park is all set to hold the 2023 Breeders’ Cup for the 11th time. That means it has been staged elsewhere in the US 29 times. However, no other racetrack has hosted the Breeders’ Cup as many times as Santa Anita. Let’s take a look at a few of the other popular Breeders’ Cup venues throughout the years:

  • Churchill Downs (9-times host)
    Churchill Downs first staged the Breeders’ Cup in 1988 and has done so on a further eight occasions. The infamous home of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs is a major part of US horseracing’ Triple Crown. In the early 2000s, Churchill Downs experienced a significant regeneration at a cost of $121 million. The archaic clubhouse was ditched, the iconic twin spires remained and were given an impressive airbrushing, and a host of new suites were constructed to make it one of the finest venues for elite horseracing action in the US.
  • Belmont Park (4-times host)
    Belmont Park’s debut as a host of the Breeders’ Cup came just two years later than Churchill Downs in 1990. Operated by the New York Racing Association, this track is the home of the Belmont Stakes, the third and final leg of the Triple Crown. Belmont Park is also considered the “Test of the Champion” throughout US thoroughbred racing, which is why it’s such a popular home for the Breeders’ Cup. Its dirt racetrack is the longest in North America at one-and-a-half miles. Meanwhile its inner turf course is a shade over a mile long.
  • Gulfstream Park (3-times host)
    Gulfstream Park actually received the Breeders’ Cup gig in 1989, a year before Belmont Park, but has since only staged the event on two additional occasions, in 1992 and 1999. The event has not returned to Hallandale Beach, Florida in the post-millennium era of the Breeders’ Cup. Nevertheless, the Gulfstream Park racetrack remains a key venue for thoroughbred horseracing in the US. Two Grade One races are staged here annually in the shape of the Florida Derby and the Pegasus World Cup. Like Churchill Downs, Gulfstream Park saw significant reinvestment in the venue during the early 2000s, with $130m pumped in to bring the clubhouse and grandstand into the 21st century.
  • Hollywood Park (3-times host)
    Hollywood Park racetrack actually staged two of the first four Breeders’ Cup events in 1984 and 1987, respectively. However, it has since staged the event on only one more occasion in 1997. Like Gulfstream Park, the Breeders’ Cup organizers overlooked Hollywood Park in the early 21st century. By 2014, the decision was taken to fully demolish the site. The former racetrack is now part of a large-scale development project. Named after LA’s iconic venue, the multi-billion-dollar SoFi Stadium was constructed in the vicinity of Hollywood Park, which is home to the city’s two NFL franchises.

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