Wednesday, December 31, 2008

In Summation Heads Three Grade 1 Winners in El Conejo

In Summation with Nicholas Bachalard, assistant trainer to Cristophe Clemente, in the Santa Anita paddock 12/30/08.

Edited Santa Anita press release.

In Summation, fourth in October’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint, will be among three Grade I stakes winners in a field of five set to contest Santa Anita’s 28th running of the Grade III, $100,000 El Conejo Handicap at 5-1/2 furlongs on Thursday, New Year’s Day.

A newly-turned 6-year-old trained by Christophe Clemente for Waterford Stable, In Summation is the defending champion after setting a stakes record of 1:01.27 when victorious one year ago.

Rafael Bejarano will be aboard the Florida-bred who was assigned 120 pounds and will break from the outside post. In Summation has earned $1,115,066. His record of 10-6-1 in 26 starts includes a victory in Del Mar’s Grade I Bing Crosby Handicap in 2007.

Black Seventeen, seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint after taking the Grade I Vosburgh Stakes at Belmont Park, was assigned high weight of 121 pounds. Clinton Potts rides the 5-year-old trained by Brian Koriner. Black Seventeen has posted a 4-2-1 record in 11 races for earnings of $536,077.

Garrett Gomez is scheduled to ride Johnny Eves after riding the 5-year-old gelding to victory in the Nov. 22 Vernon O. Underwood Stakes, a Grade III event at Hollywood Park. Johnny Eves, victorious in Santa Anita’s Grade I Malibu Stakes in 2007, will carry 119 pounds. The California-bred, trained by Jay Robbins, shows a record of 6-4-0 in 18 starts with earnings of $485,120 for Mooncoin LLC.

The complete field for the El Conejo Handicap, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Machismo, Mike Smith, 115; Its in God’s Hands, Martin Garcia, 109; Johnny Eves, Garrett Gomez, 119; Black Seventeen, Clinton Potts, 121, and In Summation, Rafael Bejarano, 120.

Machismo Schools at Santa Anita

Machismo schooling in the Santa Anita paddock 12/30/08.

Machismo schooled Tuesday morning for trainer John Sadler at Santa Anita, in preparation for the $100,000 El Conejo Handicap on New Year's Day. Jockey Mike Smith has the call. Here's how the field shapes up:

The 28th Running of The El Conejo Handicap (Grade III)
$100,000 Guaranteed - Five And One Half Furlongs
4-Year-Olds and Up

1 MACHISMO 04 G 115 Smith, M Sadler, John
2 ITS IN GOD'S HANDS 05 G 109 Garcia, M Miller, Peter
3 JOHNNY EVES 04 G 119 Gomez, G Robbins, Jay
4 BLACK SEVENTEEN 04 H 121 Potts, C Koriner, Brian
5 IN SUMMATION 03 H 120 Bejarano, R Clement, Christophe

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Miss Dolce Schooling at Santa Anita

Miss Dolce was looking pretty in the paddock this morning at Santa Anita, where she schooled for trainer John Sadler. The daughter of Unbridled's Song, owned by Tommy Town Thoroughbreds LLC, was game winner of her racing debut in a maiden special weight event at Hollywood Park on Nov. 29. She is entered in Santa Anita's 2nd race Wednesday, an optional claiming race, and Mike Smith again has the call.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Dearest Trickski Schools for Kalookan Queen at Santa Anita

Dearest Trickski
looked good schooling for trainer John Sadler this morning in the Santa Anita paddock. Owned by Stronach Stables, Dearest Trickski will face eight rivals in Wednesday's Kalookan Queen Handicap at 6-1/2 furlongs. Regular rider Mike Smith will be aboard.

The race is named for Kalookan Queen, a multiple graded stakes winner and the only female to win Santa Anita's Potrero Grande Handicap in its 26-year history. Trained by Bruce Headley for Louis Asistio, Kalookan Queen's wins included the Ancient Title Breeders' Cup and Santa Monica Handicaps. Her career earnings totaled more than $1 million. Here's the complete field for Wednesday's running:

The 6th Running of
The Kalookan Queen Handicap
$70,000 Added - Six And One Half Furlongs
Fillies & Mares, 3 Years Old and Up

1 LOVELY ISLE 05 F 115 Espinoza, V Frankel, Robert
2 MOONSHINE ALICE 05 F 114 Sutherland, C Frankel, Robert
3 SO LONG SONOMA 03 M 114 Bejarano, R Headley, Bruce
4 HIGH RESOLVE 05 F 115 Gryder, A Gilchrist, Greg
5 TIZZY'S TUNE 03 M 117 Solis, A Baffert, Bob
6 HIGHLAND TORREE 05 F 114 Garcia, M DeLeon, Rafael
7 DEAREST TRICKSKI 04 F 122 Smith, M Sadler, John
8 BARONESS THATCHER 04 F 118 Gomez, G Biancone, Patrick
9 LADY SPRINTER 04 F 116 Nakatani, C Reviriego, Juan

Zap! of the Week: Almost Opening Day at Santa Anita

Featuring an interview with She's Cheeky, yours truly photographing Santa on Horseback, and The Pamplemousse... what more could you ask for? Enjoy!

Zap is known as "the eye" for being able to measure quality in thoroughbred racehorses, and is practically a fixture at Southern California tracks. He has a deep appreciation for quality horses, music, movies, live performance, and comedy. Zap co-hosts Race and Sports Radio every Saturday and Sunday at 9:00 AM (pst) on San Diego's XX Sports Radio (1090 AM) and online at .

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Blue Norther Stakes a Tribute to Great Filly and Great Trainer Wally Dunn

I was honored to be asked to present the winner's trophy in today's Blue Norther Stakes, the 4th race at Santa Anita for 2-year-old fillies at one mile on the turf. The race was named for the top filly Blue Norther (1961-1972), who was undefeated in 5 starts as a 3-year-old, winning the Ashland Stakes, Kentucky Oaks, and Santa Anita Oaks. The aptly-named filly was by Windy City out of Wyndham (a blue norther refers to a swift moving, cold front marked by a dark blue-black sky and strong, wintery winds).

The stakes is also a tribute to Blue Norther's trainer, Wally Dunn, who I was fortunate to call a friend during the last years of his life. Born in 1911 in Manitoba, Canada, Thomas Wallace "Wally" Dunn was a lifelong horse trainer. He went to British Columbia at the age of 17 to find work in Thoroughbred horse racing. Wally was one of five brothers who were involved with the sport, including Wilson Dunn, who bred George Royal, and George Dunn, who trained the 1965 Canadian Horse of the Year.

Wally Dunn moved his horses from British Columbia to Santa Anita in the 1930's. One of them was Canadian-bred Sahara Chief, who was listed in the Daily Racing Form as "something from Canada." Sahara Chief won and paid $107 for a $2 wager.

Wally's only break from horses was during World War II, when he served overseas with the Canadian Army. After the war, he returned to train in California.

His notable racehorses included Correspondent, winner of the 1953 Blue Grass Stakes and the 1954 Hollywood Gold Cup; and Colorado King, who won the 1964 Hollywood Gold Cup and American Handicap, while equalling the world record time of 1:46.40 for 1-1/8 miles.

Wally died in 2004 at his home in Arcadia, California, at the age of 93. We miss Wally, especially at Clockers' Corner, but appreciate Santa Anita providing this opportunity to remember him with a special stakes race each winter.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Eddie Logan Stakes Honors Santa Anita's "Footman"

Today's 7th race at Santa Anita is the 3rd running of the Eddie Logan Stakes for two-year-olds. Formerly run as the Hill Rise Stakes, it was renamed in 2006 in honor of Eddie "The Footman" Logan, who has been a shoe shine attendant at the track since its opening day in 1934. The 98-year-old Logan is a well-loved fixture at Santa Anita where his customers, and anyone else passing by his stand, are greeted with his famous, "Have a lucky day!"

Trainer Mike Machowsky, shown getting a shoe shine, has the likely favorite in the stakes, with Kelly Leak. According to Machowsky, the horse was named after the character of the teenage troublemaker in the film The Bad News Bears (1976). Owned by Blahut Racing, LLC, Avila, Johnson, et al, Kelly Leak will be ridden by Victor Espinoza.

La Brea Stakes has a Rich History

Today’s Grade 1 La Brea Stakes kicks off the La Canada Series at Santa Anita for newly turning 4-year-old fillies. The 7-furlong La Brea is followed by the El Encino Stakes at 1-1/16 miles on Jan. 18, and the La Canada Stakes at 1-1/8 miles on Feb. 15. The series, run at increasing distances, is the female counterpart of Santa Anita’s Strub Series that began on opening day with the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes.

The series has been run since 1974-75, and only three fillies have ever won all three races: Taisez Vous (1978), Mitterand (1985) and Got Koko (2003).

The La Brea is named for Rancho La Brea, an area in the heart of Los Angeles County noted for the La Brea Tar Pits, the word word "brea" being Spanish for tar. Rancho La Brea is one of the world’s most famous fossil localities and is recognized as having the largest and most diverse assemblage of extinct Ice Age plants and animals in the world.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Santa Anita's Opening Day Lives up to Expectations

Gayle Anderson of KTLA-TV interviews Santa Anita's Allen Gutterman.

From the excited buzz at Clockers' Corner early this morning until the last race was run, the opening day of the 2008-09 Winter/Spring Santa Anita meet lived up to all its great expectations. The day began at the morning workouts, where Gayle Anderson of Los Angeles' KTLA-TV Morning News was out to interview Santa Anita's VP of marketing, Allen Gutterman, about the day's activities, including the fan giveaway of a full-color 2009 wall calendar.

The weather was picture perfect, although a bit chilly for Southern California, with temperatures in the low sixties and breezy conditions. Fans lucky enough to be here in person were treated to a first-hand look at pageantry of the sport, world-class racing including three stakes races, a full Mariachi band, and a performance by the famous Budweiser Clydesdales.

Budweiser Clydesdales performing on the track at Santa Anita, Opening Day.

Attendance topped 33,100 -- an increase from last year's opening day crowd of 30,156. The Grade 1 Malibu Stakes, first leg of the prestigious Strub Series, was won by Bob Black Jack for trainer James Kasparoff, jockey David Flores, and owners Harmon & Kasparoff.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Jockey Brice Blanc at Clockers' Corner Christmas Eve

Brice Blanc took a break with his son, Maxime, at Clockers' Corner on Christmas Eve. I had the opportunity to chat with Brice for a few minutes, and I was impressed by his warmth and cheerfulness.

As someone who loves horseracing, I really admire the dedication of the wonderful people who work directly with the horses every day, from season to season, the year around. There's no break from the care and training of our equine athletes. It may be Christmas, but the horses still need to be fed, trained, walked, bedded down, and cared for just like any other of the 365 days of the year.

So today, on Christmas Day, I offer my thanks to all of the grooms, hotwalkers, trainers, assistant trainers, exercise riders, jockeys, and all who give their best to the horses -- and make it possible for the rest of us to enjoy the excitement of Santa Anita's Opening Day tomorrow, and every other race day! Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Gio Ponti Schools for Sir Beaufort Stakes at Santa Anita

Gio Ponti
, the likely favorite for Friday’s Grade 3 Sir Beaufort Stakes at Santa Anita, schooled in the paddock on Tuesday morning.

The 3-year-old son of Tale of the Cat is trained by Christophe Clement for owner Castleton Lyons. Garrett Gomez has the call in the Sir Beaufort. Gio Ponti enters the race with a record of 4 wins from 8 starts, including the Grade 3 Hill Prince Stakes at Belmont and Grade 2 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs, and earnings of $760,800.

Merry Christmas from Santa Anita!

Look who's here to bring presents to all the good little racetrackers! I caught this rare photo of the jolly old elf on horseback during morning workouts on Christmas Eve.

The excitement was palpable at Clockers' Corner this morning, where the two most common greetings I heard were, "Happy Holidays!" and "Are you ready for Opening Day?"

Opening Day of Santa Anita's winter/spring meet has been a holiday tradition since 1934. This year's opening day, Friday, December 26th, will feature three stakes races including the 57th running of the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes. First post is at 12:00 noon.

The Return of the Sport of Kings

Aerial view of Santa Anita in 1934. In the background Smoot's abandoned track can be seen.

The conclusion of a 7-part series about horse racing in early Los Angeles County.

by Leonard N. Wynne

From the summer of 1932 until the spring of 1933, there was surge in efforts to build race tracks in California – despite the fact that racetrack gambling was still illegal in the state. When queried about the legality of such a venture, Joseph Smoot, the man leading the project to build a racetrack at Santa Anita, remarked that there “is no law against the building of a race track.”1 Although Smoot admitted that gambling would likely take place – privately between individuals – he reaffirmed his pledge that the operation of the racetrack would always be conducted within the laws of the state – being funded exclusively through donations. The success of such a venture would, however, require one racetrack to establish itself as the preeminent racing facility in the region, holding off all would-be competitors. The rush of various organizations to open the first track was halted, ironically, by the one goal that they all desired – the legalization of racetrack gambling in California.

The passage of Proposition 3 in July of 1933 not only legalized pari-mutuel gambling at racetracks in California, but it also created the California Horse Racing Board. The CHRB was invested with the sole authority to regulate the licensing and operations of all racetracks in the state, and it was made clear that permits to conduct horse racing would only be awarded to organizations which displayed sound financial standing, with members of proven integrity. Additionally, the CHRB required all applications to include a “good faith” deposit of $10,000 to secure a permit to conduct racing.

If there were any questions about how rigid the CHRB would be in maintaining their pledge to allow only organizations of the highest caliber to conduct racing, they were answered when the board convened for its first session to review the applications presented to them. Meeting with representatives of several racing organizations in early October, 1933, the CHRB would reject all but one of the applications – that of the St. Francis Jockey Club, which was seeking a permit to build a racetrack in the city of San Francisco.

In Southern California, with the Los Angeles Jockey Club having abandoned its efforts to build a track in Arcadia, and the California Jockey Club having shifted its attention from Baldwin Park to the Bay Area, proposing to build a track in San Mateo, the one hope for Santa Anita lay in the hands of a group of racing promoters the press had dubbed the “Millionaire Jockey Club.” This group, headed by Hollywood producer Hal Roach, had originally sought to build a racetrack in Culver City. Although denied their initial request for a permit, the “Millionaire Club” was encouraged by CHRB chairman Carleton Burke to continue their efforts to strengthen their organization, and to then apply again. Burke later optimistically reported to the press that although no decisions had been made at the meeting, “we expect to see horse racing in Southern California next spring.”2

Enter the "Doc"

Back in Los Angeles, Hal Roach and his associates – having now formed the Los Angeles Turf Club – immediately stepped up their efforts to secure the financial backers who would allow them to meet all the CHRB requirements. Although they initially planned to have a membership composed solely of Southern California residents, Roach and the Los Angeles Turf Club made the decision to look North, to San Francisco, for the support of the man responsible for securing the first permit the CHRB had issued – Dr. Charles Strub.

Charles “Doc” Strub was a dentist by trade, but a sportsman at heart. Having been the captain of the baseball teams at both Santa Clara University and the University of California, and for a time playing in the minor leagues in California, Strub's first love was baseball. Having become very successful in his San Francisco dentistry practice, Strub soon realized his dream of becoming one of the owners of the San Francisco Seals baseball team, ultimately rising to the presidency of that organization.3

When racetrack gambling was legalized in 1933, Strub, who had also been a fan of racing since his youth, was anxious to get involved in the rebirth of California horse racing. Having enjoyed great success in every venture he had undertaken, Strub was largely responsible for the St. Francis Jockey Club being awarded the first permit to build a track by the CHRB in late 1933. The plans of the St. Francis Jockey Club to build a new track in the city of San Francisco would, however, face stiff local opposition. When the city ultimately voted to reject the proposed track, Strub and his organization reluctantly decided not to fight a second time, and abandoned their plans.

Back to the Drawing Board

The sudden demise of the St. Francis Jockey Club would have a significant impact on the future of racing in California. With the plans to build a track in San Francisco abandoned, William Kyne and his California Jockey Club – which had earlier been denied a racing permit – quickly worked to gain the approval of the CHRB for the proposed Bay Meadows race track. Meanwhile, Charles Strub, who was still anxious to be involved in horse racing, accepted the offer of Hal Roach and the Los Angeles Turf Club to travel South, and to join that organization's efforts to open a track in Southern California.

On his arrival in Southern California, Stub joined with Roach and other members of the Los Angeles Turf Club in their efforts to secure backers for the project. Rather than seeking out just a select few wealthy individuals, Roach and Strub began a campaign, calling on many prominent Angelenos to offer individual subscriptions to the organization for the sum of $5,000 each. Derided by other racing promoters for their “door to door” approach to funding their project, the Los Angeles Turf Club would soon have the satisfaction of proving their detractors wrong – raising the one million dollars in needed funding. On January 4, 1934, Roach and Strub presented the CHRB with their application, and a check for $10,000.4 A week later the permit was secured, and the work on the new track was begun with all haste.

The Race to the Wire

Prior to the approval of their permit, the Los Angeles Turf Club had considered three possible sites on which to build their proposed racetrack. The most desirable to the organization was the old Baldwin ranch, with the beautiful San Gabriel Mountains serving as a backdrop. The one limitation to the Arcadia site was that, despite the improvements that had previously been completed by Smoot, the property offered little opportunity for future expansion – and even at that time Strub and his associates were looking to the future. When Anita Baldwin agreed to sell a large portion of land just to the East – where once Lucky Baldwin's vineyards and winery had stood – the future of racing at Santa Anita was assured.5

On March 26, 1934, a thousand spectators gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony at the new Santa Anita Park. Anita Baldwin, who was traveling in Europe at the time, was not on hand to reenact the ceremonial passing on of Baldwin's colors that had marked the groundbreaking for Smoot's attempt to build a new Santa Anita the year before. Nevertheless, the event did carry on the tradition of uniting the old with the new, as Jack Fisher, an elderly African-American blacksmith who had turned a shovel of dirt at the ground-breaking of Baldwin's original track, was given the opportunity to do the same at the new Santa Anita Park.6

With the formalities concluded, the Los Angeles Turf Club immediately began the construction of the new facility. The task ahead of them was, no doubt, daunting, and many viewed the plans to have the track open by the following February unrealistic. All such doubts would soon be expelled, as it was announced that progress on the track was far ahead of schedule, and that Santa Anita would be ready for racing by Christmas Day. In a period of just over eight months, the racing oval, stables for 1,000 horses, and a beautiful Art Deco clubhouse and grandstand, designed by the well known architect Gordon Kaufmann had been completed.7

The Great Race Place

By early December the first horses began to arrive at Santa Anita, in preparation for the highly anticipated race meet that would be highlighted by the Santa Anita Handicap, a stakes race with a purse of $100,000 – the highest ever offered in the nation.8

On Christmas Day, 1934, despite the hardships of the depression – or perhaps motivated by it – a crowd of some 39,000 eagerly arrived at the beautiful new facility in Arcadia. Shortly after 1:30 PM that afternoon, a cheer went up from the crowd in the stands as a brown mare named Las Palmas became the first horse to cross the finish line at the new Santa Anita Park, winning the first race of the day – The Greetings. Nearly a quarter of a century had passed since the original Santa Anita had closed its gates when, on this day, in the shadow of the very same mountains, racing fans hailed the return of the Sport of Kings to Southern California.9

Photos courtesy of Arcadia Public Library.
Related posts:
Part 1, The Sport of Kings in the City of Angels
Part 2, Sport of Kings, or Den of Thieves?
Part 3, The King of Arcadia
Part 4, Baldwin's Luck Runs Out
Part 5, Days of Auld Lang Syne: Arcadia in the Years Without Racing
Part 6, Pretender to the Throne
Hollywood Park and the Great Fire of 1949

1 Los Angeles Times, January 1, 1933, A2.

2 Los Angeles Times, October 12, 1933, A9.

3 Beckwith, B.K., The Story of Santa Anita, 13.

4 Los Angeles Times, January 4, 1934, A9.

5 Anita Baldwin was paid $236,500 for the initial piece of property,
and ultimately the LATC would more than double the size of the land
purchased. Los Angeles Times, January 10, 1934, A11.

6 Los Angeles Times, March 27, 1934, A11.

7 The track as it opened in 1934 was considerably smaller than it is
today. Between 1935 and 1938 additions to both the clubhouse and
the grandstand would practically double the size of the track.

8 A general estimate places the $100,000 value from 1935 to be the
equivalent of approximately $1,500,000 in 2007.

9 Racing actually took place at fair meets before the major racetracks
as the facilities were already built and fair racing was managed
differently. The opening of the modern Santa Anita was preceded by
Alameda County Fair, Bay Meadows, and the Los Angeles County Fair.

Leonard N. Wynne is a lifelong fan of horse racing and its history. Wynne earned a Bachelor of Arts in History from Cal Poly Pomona, and holds advanced degrees in History from Cal State Los Angeles and the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is currently on leave from PhD program in History, UCSC. His areas of specialization include 19th Century United States with an emphasis on religion and gender and Popular Culture in the United States.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Greg Gilchrist Ships Indyanne in for Saturday's La Brea Stakes

Trainer Greg Gilchrist clocks a worker at Golden Gate Fields.

One of my favorite trainers is bringing one of my favorite runners to Santa Anita on opening weekend. Leading West Coast conditioner Greg Gilchrist ships his good 3-year-old filly Indyanne down from Golden Gate for the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes on Saturday -- the filly version of opening day's Malibu Stakes. I had a chance to see Indyanne walking in the shedrow at Gilchrist's barn last weekend when I visited Golden Gate, and she looked absolutely gorgeous!

Indyanne, owned by John Sikura, has won 5 of 7 starts and has never finished worse than second. Her stakes victories include the Azalea at Calder and the TCA at Keeneland. She is one of two daughters of Indian Charlie in the La Brea, the other being multiple Grade 1 winner Indian Blessing, trained by Bob Baffert.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Pretender to the Throne

Anita Baldwin

Part 6 of a 7-part series about horseracing in early Los Angeles County.

by Leonard N. Wynne

Revenue Trumps Morality

In 1932, as the United States was in the midst of the Great Depression, economic hardships helped loosen the influence of the moral reform movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Despite a national ban on alcohol, and laws against gambling in most states, the fact remained that many people would continue to drink and gamble – whether it was legal or not. Moreover, as the Depression worsened, cash-strapped state governments would begin to view racetrack gambling as a source of much needed revenue. With the adoption of the French pari-mutuel style of wagering – a system seen as far more honest, and assuring the states a percentage of each wager – racetracks began to reopen across the nation.

Enter Smoot

In the spring of 1932, the whispers that had been heard around the city of Arcadia that horse racing was about to make a comeback proved to be more than just rumors with the arrival in town of a man named Joseph Smoot. A well-known figure in the horse racing world, Joe Smoot was the man credited for getting the racetrack at Hialeah built several years prior. Now, in partnership with Anita Baldwin, Smoot announced that he was anxious to do in Arcadia what he had already done in Florida – build a first-rate racing facility.

The newly formed Los Angeles Jockey Club would, however, have several obstacles to face – not the least of which was the fact that gambling was still illegal in California. The immediate issue confronting the plans to build a new racetrack, however, was the need to gain city approval to re-zone the Baldwin rancho. By 1930, Arcadia had grown from a small settlement into a city with a population of more than 5,200 residents. Although Arcadia's business leaders favored the proposed track, an equally powerful coalition of civic leaders representing the city's churches and schools were vocally opposed to the plan. Leading up to the special election in Arcadia, the Los Angeles Jockey Club campaigned energetically to gain community support for the building of the racetrack. Their promises that all building contracts would be awarded to local contractors, and that the track, when finished, would provide the city with many desperately needed jobs, helped swing public opinion in favor of the project. On July 26, 1932, the citizens of Arcadia voted to approve the project by a vote of two to one.1

Even before the election took place Smoot, confident that the plan would be approved, began to present his plans for the new Santa Anita Park. The proposed racing facility would have stables to accommodate some 1,500 horses and a luxurious Spanish Colonial style clubhouse and grandstand designed by the noted Los Angeles architectural firm of Walker and Eisen.2

Smoot then announced that the track would conduct a winter race meet that would be highlighted by two of the richest stakes races in the nation – the $50,000 California Derby and $25,000 Los Angeles Derby. Finally, Smoot boldly announced that the track – if approved – would be ready for its inaugural meeting by February 1933.

Smoot's confidence that the track could be completed and in operation within just a few months reflected a sense of urgency that was grounded in a very justified concern. Although racetrack gambling was still illegal in California, in 1931 the state was experiencing a sudden interest in racetrack building. At the same time that Smoot was presenting his plans for Santa Anita, a Los Angeles businessman named Alexander Pantages announced his intention to build a racetrack across town in Inglewood. Meanwhile, a third group, headed by Northern California racing promoter William Kyne, was showing interest in building a racetrack in nearby Baldwin Park.3 Smoot knew all too well that for Santa Anita to dominate racing in Southern California it would have be in operation before any rivals could pose a challenge.4 On August 19, 1932, the public was invited to the groundbreaking at Santa Anita – an event marked by the ceremonial uniting of the old with the new, as Anita Baldwin presented Joe Smoot with a standard bearing colors of the Baldwin racing stables.5

By September of 1932 half of the grading of the new oval at Santa Anita had been completed, and work was begun on constructing the stables. Although a proposition to allow racetrack gambling was defeated in the November election, Smoot nevertheless pushed ahead with his plans, announcing that the stables would be ready to accept the first horses within a month. By December, however, progress on the track had slowed, just as the timing of completion took on more urgency with the turf war over Southern California racing again making the news. Although the group headed by Pantages had faded from the scene, the Northern California group headed by William Kyne – now organized as the California Jockey Club – announced that they had filed the papers to begin construction of the racetrack in Baldwin Park. Even more troublesome to the backers of the Santa Anita project was Kyne's assertion that double shifts would be employed to have the proposed Baldwin Park track opened by mid-February – a full two weeks before the now delayed opening of Santa Anita.6

By early 1933, the threat of competition from the California Jockey Club became less urgent, as that organization had turned its focus to first completing the proposed Bay Meadows track in San Mateo. With the construction of Santa Anita still progressing at a slow pace, Smoot and his organization then turned their attention to a special election slated for June – when, for the third time in a decade, a measure to legalize racetrack gambling would be on the ballot.7

A far more carefully worded measure than the previous two attempts, Proposition 3 was approved by a margin of nearly two to one. With the passage of Proposition 3, the State Constitution was amended to allow for pari-mutuel wagering on horse races, and to establish the California Horse Racing Board to govern all horse racing in the state. The new CHRB would be given the sole authority to license racetracks for operation in California, and to oversee pari-mutuel wagering – to assure that it was conducted honestly, and that the licensing fees gained by the state were allocated appropriately.

Left Holding the Bag

On July 7, 1933, members of the Citizen's Committee for the Regulation of Horse Racing – having fulfilled their objective of getting Proposition 3 passed – gathered for a luncheon at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, to celebrate their victory and to then formally disband. When his turn came address the gathering, Smoot announced that the plans for the completion of Santa Anita would progress immediately, and that he was hopeful that the CHRB would soon grant his organization a permit for at least 50 days of racing. All of the members of the committee, Smoot then announced, would be honored on a golden plaque naming them honorary members of the Los Angeles Jockey Club.8

The optimistic tone of the committee luncheon, however, would be overshadowed less than a week later when Anita Baldwin announced her resignation from her position as an honorary director of the Los Angeles Jockey Club. Baldwin's unexpected resignation touched off rumors that all was not right in the organization. For the next two months little progress was made at Santa Anita, increasing speculation about problems brewing in the Los Angeles Jockey Club, and furthering doubts about the future of the Santa Anita project.

The rumors of dissension within the Los Angeles Jockey Club would prove to be accurate when, on July 22, 1933, the Los Angeles Times reported that the organization had disbanded. It was reported that Joe Smoot – who was primarily the promoter for the organization – had suddenly found himself without the support of his financial backers. Faced with mounting costs, and accusations of unfair labor practices, all work at Santa Anita was abandoned. The Los Angeles Jockey Club's offices in Los Angeles were closed down, and the Arcadia property was returned to Anita Baldwin.9

Just a year after the celebratory groundbreaking in Arcadia, Anita Baldwin was left with a property containing nothing more than several empty barns, a partially completed racing oval, and the staked-out building site for a grandstand that was never started. Joe Smoot, meanwhile, vanished from the California horse racing scene just as suddenly and mysteriously as he had appeared some 15 months earlier.

In Part 7, The Sport of Kings and the Queen of the Foothills, the conclusion of this series, Charles Strub enters Southern California racing, and Santa Anita Park returns to Arcadia.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.
Related posts:
Part 1, The Sport of Kings in the City of Angels
Part 2, Sport of Kings, or Den of Thieves?
Part 3, The King of Arcadia
Part 4, Baldwin's Luck Runs Out
Part 5, Days of Auld Lang Syne: Arcadia in the Years Without Racing
Hollywood Park and the Great Fire of 1949

1 Los Angeles Times, July 27, 1932. 4.

2 Ibid., June 25, 1932, 7, June 27, 1932, A12.

3 Ibid., June 20, 1932, A9.

4 On several occasions Smoot was asked about the gambling
issue and responded that the track would always honor the
law. That expenses were planned to be funded through
donations explains why competition was viewed as such
a threat to the track.

5 Ibid., August 14, 1932, 18., August 20, 1932, 5.

6 Ibid., December 7, 1932.

7 In 1926 and again in 1932 propositions on the ballot in
California were defeated, due in large part to the wording,
which stated merely “racing,” and called for the creation
of a California Racing Board. Many thus argued that this
could be applied even to such things as college track meets.
Proposition 3 on the June 1933 ballot specified specifically
“Horse Racing” and the California Horse Racing Board.

8 Los Angeles Times, July 7, 1933, A11.

9 Ibid., August 9, 1933, A9.

Leonard N. Wynne is a lifelong fan of horse racing and its history. Wynne earned a Bachelor of Arts in History from Cal Poly Pomona, and holds advanced degrees in History from Cal State Los Angeles and the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is currently on leave from PhD program in History, UCSC. His areas of specialization include 19th Century United States with an emphasis on religion and gender and Popular Culture in the United States.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Malibu Stakes Begins Strub Series at Santa Anita Park

Kingsbury Fountain at entrance to Santa Anita Park.

The $250,000 Malibu Stakes on Santa Anita's Opening Day, December 26, kicks off the Strub Series, an important racing tradition at Santa Anita Park for more than 50 years. The series consists of three races for newly-turned 4-year-olds held over several weeks during the first two months of the winter/spring meet. The series begins with the 7-furlong Malibu Stakes, followed by the San Fernando Stakes at 1-1/16 miles on January 17, and culminates on February 7 with the Strub Stakes at 1-1/8 miles.

The Strub Stakes was inaugurated in 1948 as the Santa Anita Maturity. The name was changed to the Charles H. Strub Stakes in 1963 in honor of the man who built and owned the present-day Santa Anita Park, and the name was shortened to the Strub Stakes in 1994.

From 1960-1997, the San Fernando was contested at 1-1/8 miles. From 1948-1969 and 1971-1997, the Strub Stakes was contested at 1-1/4 miles.

Only five horses have ever won all three legs of the Strub Series: Round Table (1958), Hillsdale (1959), Ancient Title (1974), Spectacular Bid (1980), and Precisionist (1985).

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Wild Promises Gallops for Greg Gilchrist at Golden Gate Fields

Today dawned crisp and clear in northern California, a beautiful morning to watch the workouts at Golden Gate Fields. I visited with trainer Greg Gilchrist and watched his good filly Wild Promises out for a gallop, catching a video of her as she passed the viewing stand twice.

Gilchrist said Wild Promises is pointing toward the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 24. The 4-year-old daughter of Wild Event, owned by the estate of Harry Aleo, won the grade 3 My Charmer Handicap at Calder on Dec. 6, her fifth straight stakes win.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Visit to Bill Anton's Barn at Golden Gate Fields

Anton with Two-Year-Old Colt "Danger"

While visiting Golden Gate Fields in Albany, California, this week, I made a special point of getting out to the morning workouts, where I met trainer Bill Anton, who gave me a very nice tour of his barn. Anton has a couple of nice two-year-olds who could prove to be "dangerous."

DANGER, a bay colt by Storm Creek, gave me the "evil eye" when we approached, looking like he was ready to take a bite out of something (or someone)! Anton, however, was more than a match for the likes of him -- getting the colt to pose for a photo. DANGER has already shown his ability on the track, finishing a close second to Clare's Top Choice in the $50,000 Cavonnier Juvenile Stakes at Santa Rosa in August, for owner Hank Nothhaft.

Anton and "Dangerous Too"

Also by Storm Creek, and owned by Nothhaft, is DANGEROUS TOO, who was much better behaved and posed willingly for a photo.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Happy Holidays from Golden Gate Fields

Becky King, shown ponying Roberto Gonzalez and Potluck Prize to the post at Golden Gate Fields, displays her holiday spirit with matching Santa hats for herself and her pony. (photo by Vassar Photography)

The temperature is in the low 50s here at Golden Gate today, but signs of holiday cheer are all around. This evening, the California Thoroughbred Trainers (CTT) will host their annual Christmas party for the backstretch workers, where a complete holiday dinner will be served. Santa Claus will even make an appearance, with gifts for the children.

Days of Auld Lang Syne: Arcadia in the Years Without Racing

by Leonard N. Wynne

Balloons at Ross Field, Arcadia, c. 1919

Part 5 of a 7-part series about horseracing in early Los Angeles County.

Racing Without Wagering?

On the second day of March in 1909, the racetrack at Santa Anita, all of the local saloons, and many of the other businesses in Arcadia, closed their doors for the day. That morning some 4,000 people solemnly passed through the great parlor of the Queen Anne Cottage where the body of Lucky Baldwin, the “King of Arcadia,” lay in state. Later that same afternoon a private railroad car, bound for San Francisco, bore Baldwin away from Arcadia, and his beloved Santa Anita, for the final time.

With the passage of the Walker-Otis Anti-racetrack Gambling Law, and the death of Lucky Baldwin a month later, few expected racing to ever return to Santa Anita. After only two seasons of racing, the final day of the meet at what had been dubbed the “prettiest track in America” was expected to also bring about the last day of racing ever in California. This prospect dismayed the supporters of horse racing, while, at the same time, it elated its opponents such as the Los Angeles Times, in which the report of “No More Racing After Today” was prefaced with: “THANK GOD.”1

When the gates of the original Santa Anita closed for the final time on April 18, 1909, the fate of the great racetrack was still uncertain. There were those who argued that stands and stables contained a fortune in lumber and other materials that could be dismantled and sold off piece by piece. Another group proposed that Santa Anita should be preserved and converted into the primary training facility for the races expected to soon take place across the border in Mexico. One final group suggested that perhaps there was enough love for the sport that racing could resume at Santa Anita the following winter, even without gambling.2

The idealism of this final group, however, was countered by an opinion that was probably best expressed by R. N. Fager, one of the builders of Santa Anita. Fager – who himself was preparing to depart for a new racetrack in Vancouver – expressed his belief that racing would return to Santa Anita in the future, but there was little money to be made in races without gambling.3

Fager's remarks spoke to the reality that, in that day, as it is presently, adequately maintaining thoroughbreds was a costly venture. Soon after Santa Anita closed to racing, some 600 horses remained in the stables, and the continued cost of their upkeep became a major concern for many smaller owners who did not have the means to simply ship them elsewhere. Faced with mounting costs, and little chance to recoup their expenditures, many of these owners were forced to sell off their horses to racing interests in Canada and Mexico – often at a fraction of their value. Lined up outside of the track, the train cars that once delivered the finest horses in the nation to Santa Anita were now tightly packed and headed to destinations outside of California where racetrack gambling was still legal. Before long Santa Anita, which had once been virtually a city unto itself, was nothing more than a ghost-town.

By 1912, horse racing was all but gone from the state of California, and Baldwin's Santa Anita now stood as a silent reminder of days gone by for racing in Southern California. During this time the growing city of Arcadia undertook an effort to change its image. The new city leaders hoped to demonstrate that Arcadia had “reformed” itself, and that it was no longer the city of saloons and gambling many had considered it to be during the short life of Santa Anita.4

In 1912 the citizens of Arcadia voted to ban liquor licensing in their city. At nearly the same time, on last day of January of that year, the grandstands at Santa Anita were burned to the ground by a late night fire attributed to “tramps.”5

While Arcadia in 1913 was moving to distance itself from the shadow of Santa Anita, the spirit of Baldwin's love for racing was still very much alive in the city. That same year the final settlement of Lucky Baldwin's will left the bulk of his estate – worth at the time an estimated $25 million – to his daughters Clara and Anita. Nearly 30 years younger than her sister Clara, it would be Anita Baldwin who would do the most to carry on her father's legacy.6

Anita immediately established the Anoakia Breeding Farm, opening up large portions of the rancho to raise a variety of horses and livestock. Especially important to Anita was her desire to once again have the Baldwin name prominent in the horse racing world. Two years later, in 1915, Anita escorted a number of horses to the Pan Pacific International Exposition being held in San Francisco. It was there, to the cheers of the crowd, that the black with red Maltese cross racing colors of Lucky Baldwin appeared, marking the reentry of the Santa Anita stables into horse racing. Leading the triumphal parade of Anita's stable was none other than Rey El Santa Anita, perhaps the most famous horse in the nation at the time, and still a prize winner at 24 years of age.7

Balloons and Blimps

The promise of the Pan Pacific Exposition would soon be overshadowed when, just two years later, the nation found itself being drawn into the First World War. The entry of the United States into the war brought to an end several years of speculation regarding the fate of the old racetrack. Rumors that had been circulating since 1907 that Santa Anita might be used for auto racing, or perhaps even an amusement park, were laid to rest when Anita Baldwin sold the land to the County of Los Angeles. The County, in turn, deeded the land to the Army, which was seeking a location for a new Air Corps balloon training school. Santa Anita's stables were converted into barracks and offices, and soon the newly named Ross Field was in operation. The arrival of the air base would bring new prosperity to Arcadia – along with a measure of added respectability that the city had sought since the closure of the racetrack.

For Arcadia, however, the boon of suddenly playing host to a thriving military base of 3,500, and witnessing the daily comings and goings of the impressive airships from Ross Field, would be short-lived. By the time the war came to an end in 1919, balloons and dirigibles had been supplanted by airplanes as the future of air power for the military. No longer needed by the Air Corps, Ross Field would be dismantled, and the land given back the county. Soon all that remained in the open fields was the outline of the great oval that was once hailed as the fastest track in the nation.

Gone But Not Forgotten

The year 1919 also marked the beginning of the end for the Baldwin racing stables. On the first day of July that year, Rey El Santa Anita, the star of the Baldwin rancho, died in his stall at the age of 29. In a ceremony befitting his kingly appellation, Rey El Santa Anita was buried with his racing colors and the records of his achievements alongside Baldwin's other great American Derby winners. Fulfilling the final wishes of her father, Anita had a great Maltese Cross erected to mark the location were the champions of the Baldwin stable were laid to rest.8

Over the next decade, even as the nation would find itself sinking into the Great Depression, Arcadia continued to grow and prosper. In just over 20 years the town, once derided for its saloons and racetrack, had transformed itself into the “Queen of the Foothills,” a city of homes, schools, churches, and a thriving business district. Virtually all that remained of the once mighty horse racing empire that Lucky Baldwin had built was the great Maltese Cross, standing in an increasingly lonely grove of trees on the old rancho. Yet there in that grove, as on the bustling streets of the new Arcadia, whispers would soon be heard that horse racing was about to return to the Queen of the Foothills.

In part 6, Pretender to the Throne, Joseph Smoot enters the scene and construction begins on a new track in Arcadia, scheduled for a February, 1932 opening.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.
Related posts:
Part 1, The Sport of Kings in the City of Angels
Part 2, Sport of Kings, or Den of Thieves?
Part 3, The King of Arcadia
Part 4, Baldwin's Luck Runs Out
Hollywood Park and the Great Fire of 1949

1  Los Angeles Times, March 3, 1909, II3.
2 Racing without gambling actually did occur prior to 1933,
although this was primarily at racetracks connected to
county fairs, where spectators came to see not only horse
and harness racing, but other events such as chariot racing
as well.
3 Los Angeles Times/, April 19, 1909 15.
4 McAdam & Snider Arcadia: Where Ranch and City Meet,
(Arcadia: Friends of the Arcadia Library), 1981, 95.
5 Los Angeles Times/, Feb. 1, 1912, II. It has been suggested
that it was more than just pure coincidence that fires that
destroyed the racetrack and the Baldwin's Oakwood Hotel a
few months prior at the same time the city was battling to
ban liquor sales. See McAdam & Snider Arcadia: Where
Ranch and City Meet
6 It is sometimes mistakenly assumed that Santa Anita was named
after Anita Baldwin. Anita, however, was not born until 1876
so, if anything, it was she who was named after the rancho.
7 Los Angeles Times/, July 2, 1919.
8 Los Angeles Daily Times/, July 2, 1919.
Leonard N. Wynne is a lifelong fan of horse racing and its history. Wynne earned a Bachelor of Arts in History from Cal Poly Pomona, and holds advanced degrees in History from Cal State Los Angeles and the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is currently on leave from PhD program in History, UCSC. His areas of specialization include 19th Century United States with an emphasis on religion and gender and Popular Culture in the United States.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Words of Appreciation for Richard Shapiro

The California racing industry was taken aback Monday, when chairman Richard Shapiro announced his resignation from the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB). Clockers' Corner was naturally buzzing with the news the next morning, most people realizing that you don't know what you've got until it's gone.

While it's very easy to sit around and criticize the decisions of the men and women who serve on our racing board, it's next to impossible to find someone willing to take on such a job. To do so takes an extraordinary amount of courage and conviction, something Shapiro demonstrated over and over during the last four years.

Responding to an email I sent him expressing my sadness at his resignation and thanks for all he has accomplished, Shapiro responded in part:

"Please understand, it is not my desire to leave the sport, only the Racing Board. I have come to the conclusion that the CHRB is limited in its ability to direct the reformation of the business, to develop the plans necessary to improve the economics of the game; and therefore if given the opportunity I would like to find a place to help create a better business model as we all move forward. Racing is a wonderful game, with great people, but we need to be dedicated to change, some of which will not be easy; but without developing such a plan, I fear we will not create the rules, and secure the help we need from Legislators and others to allow us to sustain and grow ourselves."

Some Voices at Clockers' Corner...

"I don’t think people realize the extensive amount of time and expense that Richard donated in an effort to do what was best for the industry. Nor are they cognizant of the pressures created by the totally unfair and unwarranted criticism that he was willing to endure. His position as Chairman of the CHRB turned into a full time unpaid job. Only his friends are aware of the overwhelming stress the job placed on him. Throughout it all he remained a gentleman to friends and enemies alike. Most changes in this industry come from the participants. Richard Shapiro was the first Chairman of the CHRB to initiate and accomplish major innovations. I suspect it will be a long time before racing again benefits from such unselfish and important efforts." -- Ed Halpern (Executive Director, California Thoroughbred Trainers)

"When they replace Mr. Shapiro, I'm sure we're not likely to get the same kind of aggressive, motivated behavior that this man had." -- Jim Gremke, owner

"Thanks for a job well done. You are going to be missed. It's nice to see somebody in a position of authority take the initiative and not be intimidated in enforcing the type of changes you made." -- Gary Stevens, Retired Hall of Fame Jockey

"I have been training in this state for the past 20 plus years, and know that only his detractors will speak out, and that the uninformed won't realize what a great contribution this man made to the industry here, to the horses here, to the fairness and kindness of our sport. By being proactive, outspoken and honest, and a "getter done" kind of man, he opened himself up to a ton of criticism, and when things didn't go exactly as planned, he took a raking over the coals.

He changed the racing landscape in California. The medication reforms passed under his administration alone made for the most level playing field in the U.S. The installation of safer tracks led to the cleanest run Breeders' Cup I can remember. He should be thanked by us all, and if you see him at the races, thank him for all the hours and sweat he gave for free." -- Howard Zucker (Board Member, California Thoroughbred Trainers, and former Chair, Track Safety Committee)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Santa Claus Comes to Santa Anita!

We're in the middle of a "cold snap" here in Southern California, and just in time for Christmas. Monday night, the snow level was down to about 4,500 feet -- which meant, once the clouds cleared away, snow was visible on Mt. Wilson.

This morning I caught a photo of (apparently) Santa on horseback during morning workouts at Santa Anita, with a view of the snow-dusted San Gabriel mountain peak in the background.

The horses were extra frisky in the cold morning air, blowing clouds of steam as they returned from their workouts. The synthetic track looked to be in excellent condition after nearly 2 inches of rainfall over the past 24 hours, and I heard nothing but good comments about its condition.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Visit to Winners Foundation

LeRoy Martinez and Bob Fletcher at Winners Foundation Santa Anita office.

I was recently honored to be appointed to the board of directors of Winners Foundation, a non-profit organization established to provide information, support and referral sources to employees and family members of the California horse racing community. Founded in 1984, its primary purpose is to assist men and women whose personal and professional lives, and those of their loved ones, are being adversely affected as a result of alcohol and/or substance abuse.

Also appointed was Michael Kilpack, Supervising Investigator, Southern Region, for the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB). Kilpack has been with the CHRB since 1984, and worked 20 years at Southern California Thoroughbred tracks. He is currently assigned to the Los Alamitos field office.

Completing the board are Thomas Capehart, Charles Dougherty, Jr., George Haines, Darrell Haire, Joseph Harper (Chair), James Henwood, Doris Johnson, Beverly Lewis, Donald Murray, George Nicholaw, Neil O’Dwyer, Gino Roncelli (President), Noble Threewitt, Peter Tunney, and Michael Ziegler.

Although I have long admired the work of Winners Foundation, and have volunteered to work at their annual charity golf tournaments for years, this week I made my first visit to its Santa Anita offices. I immediately felt immersed in an atmosphere of serenity.

“We say we’re like Switzerland,” said Executive Director, Bob Fletcher. “We provide a neutral place people can come and just hang out, feel safe, find respite from the things in their lives bothering them, and hopefully some solutions.”

At all Winners Foundation facilities, confidentiality laws are respected, and the organization is totally independent – meaning they are not mandated to answer to the California Horse Racing Board, track security, or track management.

“The nice thing about it is the racetracks respect that,” said Fletcher. “So, people can come by, sit on the couch, get a cup of coffee, maybe watch a race or two, air their grievances. We want this to be their clubhouse, their sanctuary. Then, when the trust is built, we have a better opportunity to help them."

Winners Foundation has skilled and caring representatives at each of the California primary tracks as well as each of the racing fairs. The Southern California staff includes senior case manager LeRoy Martinez and executive assistant Yolanda Pina. Nora Lee is the supervisor in Northern California, along with senior case manager Armando Calero.

Winners Foundation provides confidential assistance on a one-to-one basis to employees and family members seeking help, supplying simple information and direction to more formal recovery programs.

Any employee or family member of the California thoroughbred horse racing community, that is eligible, may seek assistance and referrals free of charge. This includes backstretch workers as well as frontside employees of Del Mar, Fairplex, Golden Gate Fields, Hollywood Park, Oak Tree, Santa Anita and the California Association of Racing Fairs.

I am truly honored to join such an esteemed group as a board member, and look forward to working with them for the betterment of the lives of the people of our great sport. To contact Winners Foundation or make a donation, click here.

Baldwin's Luck Runs Out

Lucky Baldwin's Santa Anita Racetrack, c. 1908.

Part 4 in a series about horseracing in early Los Angeles County.

by Leonard N. Wynne

When the original Santa Anita opened on December 7, 1907, Lucky Baldwin was feeling on top of the world. After 50 years of steadfast determination he had finally witnessed the fulfillment of his fondest dream. The man whom the Los Angeles Times had dubbed the “Emperor of Arcadia” was now the owner of an extensive stretch of land in the San Gabriel Valley that was home not only to one of the most successful racing stables in North America, but also to a first-rate racing facility that even the critics of horse racing were calling the “prettiest track in the America.”

Racing supporters in Southern California were likewise overjoyed with the opening of Santa Anita, for at long last they had a racecourse that could rival that of any other state in the nation. Indeed, Santa Anita did prove to be a racetrack worthy of notice, as world records quickly began to fall on the one-mile oval that was considered to be the fastest track in the nation.

Lingering Hostility

While the opening day at Santa Anita was one of jubilation for all involved, there was a dark cloud looming just over the horizon. The early 1900s were, after all, the height of the Progressive Era in the United States, and across the nation – from city hall to the nation's capital – politicians were pledging to vanquish corruption in all its forms. Going hand in hand with the rise of the Progressives, the nation also witnessed the strengthening of moral reform movements, which viewed activities such as drinking and gambling to be detrimental to the nation's moral fiber. Since racetracks generally offered both of these perceived vices, they would become especially troublesome targets for the reformers.

At the turn of the 20th Century, horse racing in Los Angeles had moved from Agricultural Park to Ascot Park, and then ultimately to Santa Anita, driven mostly by the desire to evade the growing anti-gambling influences in the city and county governments. By 1907, however, the anti-gambling forces had become more than just a local concern – they were now a force to be reckoned with in state politics as well. Across the nation states had begun to ban racetrack gambling, so it was not unexpected when an anti-racetrack gambling law began making its way through Sacramento. The 1907 bill passed the State Assembly and was then sent on to the Senate for a vote. The State Senate, however, refused to pass the measure without further study. The bill was then forwarded for review by the Committee on Public Morals, and here it effectively died. 1

Moral Reform Becomes Law

The defeat of the 1907 Anti-racetrack Gambling Bill incensed the moral reformers in California, who made it clear that in the upcoming elections they would hold each candidate's stance on racetracks to be a litmus test for their qualification for office. When the California Legislature convened the following year a new round of anti-gambling legislation was introduced. The Walker-Otis Bill – which was copied almost verbatim from the Agnew-Hart Bill introduced in New York – found far more support in Sacramento this time around. Just a little more than a year after the opening of Santa Anita, on February 4, 1908, both houses of the California Legislature passed the Walker-Otis Bill and sent it on to Governor James Gillett to sign. California racing, the New York Times proclaimed, had received a “fatal blow.”2

The Collapse of the Baldwin Empire

It was, perhaps, no coincidence that, as the Walker-Otis Bill was in the process of being passed in Sacramento, Lucky Baldwin suffered what was reported to be a nervous collapse on February 3, 1908. Although the Los Angeles Times reported that the “King of the Turf” was near death, and not expected to live out the night, Baldwin managed to cling to life for nearly a month.3

Then, on March 1, 1909, a double tragedy struck. In the second race of the day a fatal accident claimed the life of a jockey, and at the nearby rancho Lucky Baldwin, at the age of 81, succumbed to pneumonia. The dark clouds that had been looming on the horizon finally moved in and cast a pall over the racetrack. When the gates of Santa Anita re-opened two days later, the atmosphere at the track and the hope for its survival were anything but optimistic.

Although the discovery of a loophole in the Walker-Otis law would allow gambling at California tracks to continue for almost two more years, there was little discussion of a third season of racing in Arcadia.4 In the minds of most involved with California horse racing, the passage of the Walker-Otis law had assured that the end of racetrack gambling in California was now a foregone conclusion. By this time, racing interests in California had begun working out an agreement with the government of Mexico to move racing south of the border. American horsemen would organize the Tia Juana Jockey Club, and soon it was announced that racing would once again live in California, albeit in Baja and not Alta California.5

As for Santa Anita, there appeared to be everywhere a sorrowful sense that the track's fate had been sealed with the death of Lucky Baldwin. As the end of the race meet neared, Santa Anita's owners found themselves having to issue free admission tickets in order to attract the crowds that once packed the grandstands. While there was some discussion of how the track might be utilized in the future – perhaps as a training facility for the races in Mexico – most agreed that although Santa Anita was owned by the racing association, without Lucky Baldwin the track could not hope to survive.

On April 17, 1909 Lucky Baldwin's precious Santa Anita Park opened its gates for the final time. Harry Carr of the Los Angeles Times – which had long been a harsh critic of racing – was on hand to record his final reflections on the last day of racing at the track that Lucky Baldwin had built. Following the call to the post for the final race at Santa Anita, Carr rather smugly observed, the band in the grandstand began to play Auld Lang Syne.
    For a moment it looked as though the rotten old gambling
hell would close its doors with a touch of real sentiment,
but the sharp jingle of the bell in the betting ring
suddenly interrupted the sorrowful music. At the sound,
all sentiment was forgotten, and the eager, excited mob
almost plunged headlong down the grand stand stairs to
get to the bookies before the last bet. The band was left
to toot its sad remarks out into the empty air.6
Part 5, Days of Auld Lang Syne, explores Arcadia in the years without racing.

Related posts:
Part 1, The Sport of Kings in the City of Angels
Part 2, Sport of Kings, or Den of Thieves?
Part 3, The King of Arcadia
Hollywood Park and the Great Fire of 1949
1  Hitchborn, Franklin, The Story of the Session of the California
Legislature 1909. 32

2 New York Times, February 5, 1909, 8.

3 Los Angeles Times, February 4, 1909, 11.

4 Both Walker-Otis and New York's Angew-Hart laws had wording that did
not expressly prohibit verbal wagering. The bookmakers worked out an
elaborate scheme which used a middle-man in the betting ring to
circumvent the law. By 1911 both states had amended their laws to
close all possible loopholes. Hitchborn, Franklin, The Story of the
Session of the California Legislature 1911, 183-7.

5 The spelling the Anglo owned organization and the press used at the
time was Tia Juana. Only later, after the second track at Agua Caliente
was built would they use the Spanish Tiajuana. Los Angeles Times,
March 18, 1909, 17.

6 Los Angeles Times, April 18,1909 II1.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

Leonard N. Wynne is a lifelong fan of horse racing and its history. Wynne earned a Bachelor of Arts in History from Cal Poly Pomona, and holds advanced degrees in History from Cal State Los Angeles and the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is currently on leave from PhD program in History, UCSC. His areas of specialization include 19th Century United States with an emphasis on religion and gender and Popular Culture in the United States.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hollywood Park the Final Resting Place for Three Great Racehorses

In its 70-year history, Hollywood Park has seen many of horseracing's greats come and go. Three of them remained to call Hollywood Park their final resting place: Native Diver, Landaluce, and Great Communicator. Native Diver is buried beneath a monument in his honor in the saddling paddock. Landaluce and Great Communicator are buried in the Infield.

Landaluce's grave marker in the Infield at Hollywood Park.

Landaluce, a 1982 filly by Seattle Slew, raced only at two, and was unbeaten in 5 starts. She was trained by D. Wayne Lukas and ridden by Laffit Pincay, Jr. Landaluce won the Grade 2 Hollywood Lassie Stakes by an incredible 21 lengths, in a final time of 1:08 for the 6 furlongs. It was the greatest margin of victory ever by a two-year-old at Hollywood Park. Her other victories included the Del Mar Debutante Stakes, the Grade 2 Anoakia Stakes at Santa Anita, and the Grade 1 Oak Leaf Stakes at Santa Anita.

Sadly, she became ill with Colitis X and died December 11, 1982. Landaluce was named Champion Two-Year-Old Filly for 1982, the award given posthumously. The Hollywood Lassie Stakes was renamed the Landaluce Stakes in her honor.

Great Communicator's grave marker lies only a few feet from that of Landaluce.

Great Communicator, a 1983 bay gelding by Key to the Kingdom, was the winner of the 1988 Breeders Cup Turf - and the first gelding to score in any Breeders Cup race. Trained by Thad Ackel, Great Communicator had consecutive 1988 and 1989 victories in the Hollywood Turf Cup, the San Juan Capistrano, and the San Luis Obispo Handicap. His other victories included the Golden Gate Handicap, the San Marcos, and the Henry P. Russell Handicap. Great Communicator suffered a breakdown in the 1990 Carleton F. Burke Handicap at Santa Anita and had to be euthanized.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Working Together to Save Horses

On a recent Saturday night, Ron Charles, Santa Anita Park president and MEC chief operating officer, got an urgent e-mail plea for help from Diana Baker, a volunteer in Thoroughbred rescue efforts and former member of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation's national board of directors. Baker said that a friend of hers, Caroline Betts of Southern California Thoroughbred Rescue was, at that moment, at the Euclid Stockyards horse auction, where a former racehorse, Sunday Match, was about to be sold to a buyer from a slaughterhouse. The horse, which had raced at Santa Anita and had recorded workouts as recently as two months ago at Fairplex Park, was going for $250 to $300.

According to Baker’s e-mail, the sale could take place any moment. Charles called Betts and told her to buy the horse and said he would take care of the purchase price, as well as the cost of the first couple of months of its care.

In addition to a chance to rescue this race horse from being slaughtered, Charles saw the incident as an opportunity to further unite the organizations already taking a stand to prevent the inhumane treatment of racehorses – the California Retirement Management Account (CARMA) on whose board Charles serves as a director, the California Thoroughbred Trainers (CTT), and the MEC racetracks, including Santa Anita. Last month, MEC announced a company-wide policy promoting the humane treatment of racehorses and instituting a zero-tolerance anti-slaughter policy. Under the policy, any trainer or owner stabling at an MEC facility who directly or indirectly participates in the transport of a horse from a MEC facility to either a slaughterhouse or an auction house engaged in selling horses for slaughter will be prohibited from having stalls at any MEC facility.

Since Saturday night, Charles has had meetings with CTT executive director, Ed Halpern, and CARMA chairperson, Madeline Auerbach.

“We want to send a message that we have implemented an anti-slaughter policy, and we intend to do everything in our power to enforce it,” said Charles. “Ed Halpern stepped right up and resolved to find out exactly how the horse got there. With his assistance, we will talk to the trainer involved and put him on notice that if any horse he was training ends up at a slaughter lot, he will never race at an MEC track again.”

“CARMA has taken the lead in the care of California’s retired racehorses, and has done it with an organization, a plan, a strategy,” Charles continued. “MEC will work with CARMA to try to prevent racehorses from suffering such a tragic end.”

According to Auerbach, CARMA is in the process of developing programs so that emergency funds will be available for unique situations like this.

“The horse Ron saved will be eligible for CARMA funding,” said Auerbach, “and when one of the farms finds a slot they can take this horse.”

“People at the highest level in racing in California are donating their time to the cause of humane treatment of our equine athletes,” said Charles. “We are becoming a leader in the protection of retired race horses.”