Thursday, October 23, 2008
The field sprints away from the starting gate at the top of Santa Anita's famous El Camino Real turf course.
Santa Anita first opened in 1934, yet its beautiful turf course was not installed until more than 20 years later.
The first grass racing in the West took place on Santa Anita's magnificent new hillside, infield turf course, installed in 1953. Called the El Camino Real, it was something quite new to American racing, being patterned on the English and European style of racing. With sweeping right-hand and left-hand turns over rolling terrain, it was a true test for horses, covering approximately 1-3/4 miles. The sprint distance, beginning at the top of the hill, has always been listed as "about" 6-1/2 furlongs because of its inexact length.
The first race ever run on Santa Anita's new grass course was the 4th race on December 26 (opening day), 1953, at 1-1/2 miles. It was won by Empilchada, ridden by Bill Shoemaker and trained by William Molter.
The first stakes race conducted on the new grass course was the San Marcos Handicap on February 3, 1954. The 1-1/4 event was won by Mark-Ye-Well, ridden by Eddie Arcaro and trained by H.A. (Jimmy) Jones.