Most Popular Horse Racing Tracks In California 

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There are few states in the U.S. that are as passionate about their horse racing as California. The state is one of the best for international visitors, as the warm climates typically ensure that a dry day at the racing enables visitors to explore every corner of some of the world’s best tracks.  

The West coast will once again host the Breeders’ Cup in 2024, with the next two editions of one of the world’s most prestigious meets taking place at Del Mar.  

But, what are some of the most popular tracks in California, and what are some of the biggest races to take place at the courses?  

Santa Anita Park 

Santa Anita Park is one of the most beautiful locations to watch horse racing in the United States, with fans having been allowed to attend racedays at the track since it was opened for the first time on Christmas Day in 1934. As one of the best tracks in the U.S., it has hosted the Breeders’ Cup on a staggering eleven occasions, and it was also home for the equestrian events during the 1984 Summer Olympics.  

Since 2011, it has been owned by Stronach Group, and it plays host to some of the most famous races in the region.  

Among the most popular days is the Santa Anita Derby, which is one of the key Kentucky Derby preps, with ten winners of the race in California going on to land success in the opening leg of the Triple Crown. Find more information about the Derby here: https://www.twinspires.com/kentuckyderby/  

History was made in 1988 when Winning Colors became the only filly in history to win both the Santa Anita Derby and Kentucky Derby. One of the most prestigious races on the calendar is the Santa Anita Handicap, which has been staged annually since 1935. One of the most famous winners of the race was Seabiscuit, who landed victory at the third attempt in 1940. 

Del Mar 

Del Mar is one of the most famous tracks in California, having been welcoming fans since its opening day in 1936. The course was previously known as the Del Mar Fair between 1984 and 2001, and it is owned by the State of California. The initial idea to open the track was born following the success of Santa Anita, and Bing Crosby was hugely influential in fulfilling the dream of opening the racecourse.  

It was home to the rich and famous throughout the 1940s, with many Hollywood stars attending a day of racing at Del Mar. The first big race to be staged at the track was the Bing Crosby Stakes, which was held for the first time in 1946. It has been won by some famous sprinters throughout recent history, including Street Boss in 2008 and Points Offthebench in 2013. Del Mar has hosted the Breeders’ Cup on two occasions, and it will host the next two editions of the legendary meet.  

In total, six Grade 1 races are held at Del Mar throughout the season, with one of the most popular being the Pacific Classic. This race is run by horses aged three and older, and winning runners will secure a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. A number of winners have landed victories in both races, including Bayern in 2014. California Chrome became the first Kentucky Derby winner to follow up with success in the race at Del Mar in 2016.  

Los Alamitos  

Los Alamitos is another of the most popular tracks in the state of California, with the track located in the city of Cypress. It is renowned for hosting both thoroughbred and quarter horse racing, and it holds the distinction of hosting four stakes races in the latter worth over $1 million. This track was built by Frank Vessels after moving to the state from Kentucky in 1947.  

The first raceday at the track was staged in 1951, with eleven days of racing being staged in the inaugural meet. However, the meet was increased to 16 days following the success achieved by the racecourse in 1952. The Los Alamitos Derby is one of the most famous races to be staged at the track, with this contest open to horses aged three, with a total distance of 1 1/8 miles being covered. A number of legendary horses have competed in the race, including Affirmed, who would land success in 1978 before winning the Triple Crown.  

The Champion of Champions is a Grade 1 for quarter horses to be staged at Los Alamitos, with winners of major preps lining up in the field. Refrigerator is the most successful winner of the race, having landed victories on three occasions. Apollitical Pence landed a second victory in 2021, becoming the first back-to-back winner of the race since Tailor Fit in 2001. This meet is typically one of the most popular of the year at Los Alamitos.  

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