Between 1850 and 1895 there were at least eight major racetracks operating in the northern part of California. There was plenty of money to build luxurious tracks that offered decent purses and featured high class horses. In the southern part of the state, a few tracks offered a county-fair type of racing, but horse racing, as such, had not yet caught on.
In time, horsemen began to look at the Los Angeles area for major racing. Land was purchased four miles south of the major business district of Los Angeles and a luxurious facility, Ascot Park, was constructed. It opened on December 14, 1903. Top horsemen came to Los Angles to enjoy superior racing in balmy winter weather. Ascot Park thrived until 1907 when Los Angeles City Council incorporated a long strip of land into its city limits that included the race track. City law prohibited gambling and so Ascot Park’s gates closed.
Within weeks, Baldwin’s Santa Anita Park was under construction. It was an elaborate structure fashioned after Ascot Park, and opened on December 7, 1907 with 7,000 in attendance. It was an instant success. “I have realized my greatest ambition,” Baldwin said at its opening.
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Carol Libby & Karen Hou
Arcadia Historical Society