Thursday, October 9, 2008
A beautiful and little known artifact is hidden on the grounds at Santa Anita Racetrack, just east of the paddock gardens and Seabiscuit Court. There, in a grassy enclosure surrounded by manicured hedges, you will find the Maltese Cross, a huge cement replica of the racing symbol used by E.J. “Lucky” Baldwin, on whose former estate sits the present day Santa Anita. In front of the cross there is a bronze plaque with the words: "Here Rest American Derby Winners Volante 1885, Silver Cloud 1886, Emperor of Norfolk 1888, and Rey El Santa Anita 1894. E.J. (Lucky) Baldwin, Rancho Santa Anita."
After her father's death in 1909, Anita Baldwin had the concrete Maltese Cross erected and placed over the burial site of his four American Derby winners. The Maltese Cross and the remains of the horses were moved to their present location at Santa Anita from their original resting spot, about a mile or so to the west where the Baldwin stables once thrived.
Lucky Baldwin's legacy is deeply ingrained in the history of Santa Anita and the city of Arcadia. Baldwin was notorious as a real estate tycoon, womanizer, and gambler. His vast Rancho Santa Anita at one time consisted of more than 60,000 acres.
Baldwin bred and raced some of the best horses in the country, winning nearly every major stakes race of his time. Probably his best horse was Emperor of Norfolk, for whom Oak Tree's Grade 2 Norfolk Stakes was named. Emperor of Norfolk carried Baldwin's black and red maltese cross silks to victory in 21 of 29 races. Sadly, Emperor of Norfolk died in his stall on the evening of opening day of Baldwin's original Santa Anita Racetrack in December 1907.
Lucky Baldwin's Santa Anita Racetrack only operated for two seasons. The new Santa Anita Park opened on Christmas Day, 1934.