By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Today the stakes are higher at Hollywood Park, which was recently purchased by Churchill Downs for $140 million. This season it will host a record 52 stakes worth more than $9.2 million on its main track, which is one and one-eighth miles, with a seven-and-a-half-furlong chute. Hollywood Park is now open Wednesday through Sunday starting at noon, through July 19. Friday-night horseracing (June 25, July 2, July 9 and July 16 at 7 p.m.) is a must at $1 admission, $1 beers and $1 hot dogs.
For the fans, there are 50 refreshment stands located throughout the main building and grandstand gardens. Inside, the park offers bars and full-service dining, as well as a clubhouse, which has been converted into an area designed for the serious players, equipped with TVs displaying earlier races. More than 3,500 color monitors are propped up throughout the track. But it’s not all about horses. Children can amuse themselves at the track’s carousel, while their parents can take a break from the track to try their hand at the Hollywood Park-Casino, a $20 million state-of-the-art gambling complex, located next door. For the horses, there are 18 barns with 1,958 stalls, 619 tack rooms, 216 feed rooms and accommodations for 489 grooms. Admission is $6.Santa Anita Park
Santa Anita Park in Arcadia took in its first wager on Christmas Day in 1934. On hand were a reported 30,777 fans, who bet a total of $258,916. The big winner that day was a filly named High Glee, who won the $5,000 Christmas Stakes. It was rumored that owner Charles Strub was in such dire financial straits that the bank had to loan him money to book the bets. As the story goes, the lender was so uneasy about the loan that armed guards were sent to the track to make sure that the money was back that night. The risk paid off for Strub, and for the millions of fans who have attended over the years, witnessing unforgettable moments like Willie Shoemaker’s final race in the $100,000 Legend’s Last Ride at Santa Anita on February 3, 1990.
With a season that lasts virtually all year (September 29 through November 8; December 26 to the end of April), and with a seating capacity of 26,000, Santa Anita has all the amenities for both the serious horse player and the occasional fan, including the infield (open to the public for picnics), a children’s playground, a gift shop and a newsstand. Dining rooms and terraces, snack stands and bars are scattered throughout the park. General admission is $5.âDel Mar Thoroughbred Club
Del Mar’s serene racetrack and picture-perfect location adjacent to the Pacific Ocean have made it the nation’s top-ranked track in daily average attendance for the last seven years. This summer, Del Mar will stage the richest stakes schedule in the track’s 60-year racing history when almost $6 million will be accessible to the West’s top thoroughbreds during the 42-day racing schedule beginning July 22. Some 27 major events will highlight the money-spinning stakes program, valued at $5,975,000. Leading the list is the track’s signature event, the $1 million Pacific Classic on August 29.
From July 22 through September 8, Del Mar opens at noon weekdays and at 11:30 a.m. on weekends, holidays, opening day and closing day. Exceptions are Fridays at 2 p.m., Pacific Classic Day and Labor Day at 10:30 a.m., and Tuesdays, when it’s dark. Grandstand daily admission is $3 ($4 for a reserved seat).Los Alamitos Race Course
Los Alamitos was a quarter-horse breeding farm in 1947, when businessman Frank Vessels Sr. envisioned the site as the future home of horseracing in Orange County. Today, the 435-acre site is the most successful quarter-horse racetrack in the country and is the only one in Southern California to run quarter-horse, thoroughbred, harness and Arabian races, but its niche has always been quarter-horse racing. Quarter horses have been given the distinction as the fastest athlete — within three or four strides of the gate, a quarter horse will reach a velocity of 55 miles an hour, while a thoroughbred will reach only 35. "I like the athletic ability of quarter horses," says Los Alamitos’ Jeff True. "The owners and trainers tend to be actual horsemen themselves, and many thoroughbred owners and jockeys had their start in quarter-horse racing."
Los Alamitos, in Cypress, is open now through December 19, on Wednesday and Friday (7:15 p.m.), Saturday (6:30 p.m.) and Sunday (5:30 p.m.). Grandstand admission is $3, and is free to everyone 62 or older on Thursday nights. Restaurant dining is available at the Vessels Club and the Turf Terrace Dining Room. Harness racing is from December 26 through April 4.Fairplex Park
With a racing season never longer than 18 days, Fairplex Park, which is considered to be the fifth leg of the Southern California circuit, facilitates 19 stakes races throughout the meet, including two on opening day. During its early days, Mae West was a constant presence and even had several of her horses at the track during the 1933 meeting. Clark Gable was also a regular at Pomona, usually cheering on his horse Beverly Hills, who came in second in the Los Angeles County Fair Handicap in 1936.
Fairplex Park and the L.A. County Fair are open from September 9 through 26. Gates to the fair open at 11 a.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, with first post starting at 12:30 p.m. Fairplex Park grandstand admission is included with the price of admission to the fair.