Los Angeles, notably within the tourist-rich state of California, magnetizes visitors year-round, drawn by its vibrant lifestyle and picturesque landscapes. For those looking to swap sandy shores for sporty shores, the allure of elite horse racing often takes the reins.
California stands in its own illustrious league in the realm of horse racing. If you browse online, you’ll find out that California has been hosting the Breeders Cup for 13 years both at Santa Anita Park and Del Mar, which is impressive.
With a narrative steeped in history and a collection of the planet’s premier racetracks, it’s unsurprising that the sport is a must-see for tourists traipsing through the state.
California Horse Racing History
California bathed in perpetual sunlight and caressed by gentle winds, has long been a stage for the pulsating rhythm of horse hooves and the electrifying roars of spectators. Envision the early 1800s: amidst gold rushes and an emerging industry, horse racing began etching its legacy in California’s vibrant tapestry.
Residents, in search of respite and leisure amid their industrious lives, found a thrilling haven in horse racing. Improvised tracks emerged, initially merely beaten paths, yet they pulsated with vibrant excitement and the allure of prosperity.
In 1933, pari-mutuel betting on horse races was officially sanctioned, meant to “encourage agriculture and horse breeding.” The industry thrives today, with 82,200 horses participating in races and over 48,000 Californians finding employment through horse racing.
A Glimpse at Noteworthy Horse Races Near Los Angeles
Del Mar arguably is a jewel in the crown of horse racing, especially after hosting the global spectacle, the Breeders’ Cup, in 2021. Since first opening its gates in 1937, it has been celebrated as one of the world’s most exquisite tracks, gazing out over the Pacific Ocean.
Boasting a capacity for 44,000 spectators and hosting several Grade 1s annually, including the Bing Crosby Stakes and Pacific Classic Stakes, Del Mar remains an emblem of equine excellence.
Santa Anita Park
Nestled amid palm trees with the mountains painting a breathtaking backdrop, Santa Anita Park, established in 1907, offers more than just races – it’s a visual feast. Despite early tribulations, including a fire in 1912, the park has been home to elite races like the Santa Anita Derby and Santa Anita Handicap, and frequently, the Breeders’ Cup.
The Breeders’ Cup of 2023 is slated to be hosted here, reinforcing Santa Anita Park’s stature in the U.S. racing landscape. Iconic horses like Seabiscuit, Affirmed, and Zenyatta have all raced on this legendary track, adding to its rich narrative.
You can keep updated about the Breeders’ Cup results here: twinspires.com/breeders-cup/results
Los Alamitos Racecourse
Since 1951, Los Alamitos has hosted vital stakes races and is proudly positioned in Cypress, California. Notably, it hosts four-quarter horse races with million-dollar purses, which is unparalleled nationally. Offering year-round Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred racing, it’s renowned for hosting The Champion of Champions, a premier Quarter Horse racing event.
Golden Gate Fields
As the solitary major track in northern California since Bay Meadows’ closure in 2008, Golden Gate Fields, situated in San Francisco, has witnessed its share of historical horse racing moments. Unique to only a few tracks globally, Golden Gates boasts a Tapeta surface, providing an exceptional racing experience while ensuring safety amidst various weather conditions.
Highlighted races here include the San Francisco Mile Stakes and the Silky Sullivan Handicap, maintaining the track’s popularity and respect in the racing circuit.
Cal Expo Horse Racing
Cal Expo, the renowned site of the California State Fair, stands as more than merely a racecourse, serving as a vibrant hub for hundreds of signature events annually.
Spanning an impressive 350 acres adorned with meticulous landscaping, Cal Expo was conceived by Governor Pat Brown and inaugurated by Governor Ronald Reagan in 1968. The existing facilities were dedicated to commemorating California’s achievements, celebrating its agriculture, and reflecting the diversity, traditions, and forward-thinking trends that will steer the future of the Golden State.
While Cal Expo might not bask in the same prestigious limelight in the horse racing world as some of the other tracks previously mentioned, it nonetheless provides a splendid way to enjoy an outdoor excursion with family.
The mission of the California Exposition & State Fair is to craft a quintessential State Fair experience that mirrors California in its entirety—spanning its industries, agriculture, and the rich tapestry formed by the diversity of its populace, along with the traditions and emerging trends shaping its future—all while being bolstered by year-round events.
These racetracks are a mere glimpse of the racing world you can explore during your Los Angeles visit.
While there are only a handful of horse racing tracks around LA, most of them are high-end and host some of the world’s most popular horse racing events. It is truly a heaven for every horse racing enthusiast.
Ensure you review the racing schedule, plan your visit, and if possible, make a point to attend this year’s Breeders’ Cup. It’s a spectacle that is not to be missed by any equine enthusiast.