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Best Thoroughbred Racing Spots Near Los Angeles

HORSE RACING - Los Angeles, the City of Angels. It is one of the grandest cities in the entire United States. Nearly synonymous with Hollywood, the city is intimately connected with celebrities and the riches and grandiosity that accompany them. 

Although there is certainly more to the city than their societal upper crust, one cannot help but think of luxury when thinking of spending time in this illustrious California city. 

Speaking of luxury, Thoroughbred racing is known as the Sport of Kings for a good reason. The greatest blue-blooded horses have exorbitant price tags and require a lot of upkeep. Even if currently the focus of horse racing fans is on the Belmont Stakes odds, there are a lot of horse racing events happening near LA. 

They are generally sent to the care of the best trainers and jockeys, who come with their own high-level fees. Therefore, the best owners in the racing business are generally no stranger to luxury or financial success. 

There is also the fact that by placing successful bets, a spectator in the Sport of Kings can financially elevate themself and gain access to high society. In no other sport can someone watching from the sidelines parlay an amount as small as fifty cents into thousands, should Lady Luck find her way to them. 

Considering all of this, it is unsurprising that some of the greatest Thoroughbred racing venues in the United States are within driving range of Los Angeles. What are those tracks, and how far away are they? Let’s take a look. 

Del Mar Thoroughbred Club 

Del Mar, California 

Distance Between Del Mar and Los Angeles: approximately 101 miles 

Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is known as “Where the Turf Meets the Surf.” This track is incredibly imbued with Southern California luxury and charm, in particular because it was founded in part by legendary performer Bing Crosby at the outset of Hollywood’s Golden Age. The track opened its doors in 1937, and Crosby himself was there to greet racegoers at the gate. 

Crosby not only helped found the track, he owned a number of quality Thoroughbreds. The first major racing event that Del Mar hosted was a match race on August 12, 1938, which pitted the superstar Seabiscuit against Crosby’s well-regarded colt, Ligaroti. The first race ever to be broadcast by NBC (by radio), the match proved to be a thrilling battle in which Seabiscuit prevailed by a bare nose. 

Nowadays the highlight of the Del Mar racing calendar is the Grade I Pacific Classic Stakes, which has a guaranteed purse of at least one million dollars. The winner is also given a guaranteed berth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Notable recent winners of the Pacific Classic include controversial disqualified Kentucky Derby first-place finisher Maximum Security, multiple championship-winning mare Beholder, and undefeated Horse of the Year Flightline. In addition, Del Mar Race Track has hosted the Breeders’ Cup series on two occasions (2017 and 2021), and is scheduled to host again in 2024 and 2025. 

Los Alamitos Race Course 

Cypress, California 

Distance Between Cypress and Los Angeles: approximately 24 miles 

When Los Alamitos Race Course first opened in 1951, it was designed to accommodate Quarter Horse racing. It quickly became one of the greatest Quarter Horse race tracks in the world, eventually hosting four million-dollar Quarter Horse races, including the Los Alamitos 2 Million Futurity. Go Man Go, one of the greatest racing Quarter Horses in history, was also based at Los Alamitos. 

It was in 2014, though, that the track reconfigured itself so as to be able to host Thoroughbred meets. This was mostly due to the closure of Hollywood Park, and many of the great stakes races that were held at that location were relocated to Los Alamitos. 

None of the Thoroughbred races held at Los Alamitos are currently holding Grade I status, but there are three Grade II races held at the track: the Great Lady M. Stakes, the Starlet Stakes, and the Los Alamitos Futurity. The latter two races are two of the richest and most prestigious races for two-year-olds in the United States. 

Santa Anita Park 

Arcadia, California 

Distance Between Arcadia and Los Angeles: approximately 17 miles 

Santa Anita Park is truly “The Great Race Place.” 

Santa Anita was the first organized Thoroughbred racetrack in the state of California. It formally opened on Christmas Day of 1934, and less than two months later, the track’s signature race, the Santa Anita Handicap, debuted. 

The race was notable in that it was the first annually run event with a guaranteed purse of at least $100,000- an astronomical sum in the midst of the Great Depression. Many of America’s greatest Thoroughbreds have claimed victory in the Santa Anita Handicap (which has held Grade I status since the grading system was implemented in 1973), including Seabiscuit, Round Table, Ack Ack, Affirmed, Spectacular Bid, John Henry, and Alysheba. 

However, Santa Anita is far from a one-race track. The track boasts an impressive thirteen races with Grade I status, including sprints, distance races, races for fillies and mares, and races for every age division. Santa Anita has also hosted the Breeders’ Cup series more often than any other track since the series debuted in 1984, most recently running the races in 2023.

[Photo By Montanabw - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54703109].




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