A Comparison of Arlington, Santa Anita and Hialeah Park Racetracks

A quick recount of the history of this famous racetrack it was opened as Arlington Park in 1927 by California businessman Harry D. “Curly” Brown who later served as president of the Oriental Park Racetrack in Havana, Cuba. In the next three decades, the racetrack changed management several times which was led also by Benjamin F. Lindheimer, who is well remembered for promoting 1955 match race broadcast by CBS television in which Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Nashua defeated the Kentucky Derby winner Swaps. Hall of Fame dmv handicap placard trainer Jimmy Jones of Calumet Farms endorsed Lindheimer as the savior of Chicago racing and Arlington Park as one of the finest racetrack he had ever been – as quoted by Sports Illustrated.

In the mid 1980’s, the racetrack was acquired by Richard L. Duchosis’s led investment group with a pledge to present world champion races which was broken when a fire broke out which completely destroyed the grandstands and clubhouse. Following the accident, the Arlington Million happened at Hawthorne Race Course for some time before the racetrack fully opened in 1989. In September 2000, Churchill Downs Incorporated completed the purchase of Arlington Park.

Arlington Park has drawn attention for the races and for its association with people from media and entertainment. It has had association with famous TV personalities like Caton Bredar and Lynne Snierson in the 1980’s through the 1990’s and with Jessica Pacheco and Alyssa Ali in the more present times. Arlington Park has been a happening place in the last few years, live performances and concerts from contestants of American Idol in two consecutive years in 2010 and 2011 drew a large fan base and supporters.

Arlington Park also went hi-tech first with the installation of the first public address system and as early as in the 1930’s, and it added the first public totalisator which allowed a credible tote board and thus decreased the time between races. It was also the first to add a photo finish camera; the first to introduce electric starting gate in 1940; the installation of the largest closed circuit TV system in of all sports in 1967; and the introduction of trifecta wagering in 1971.

A combination of Group 1 and Group 2 races happen at this racetrack most notable of all is the USD 1 million purse Arlington Million. The Arlington Million is a part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series and the winner directly qualifies for the Breeders’ Cup on turf. Arlington Park came in the limelight when it hosted the 2002 Breeders’ Cup Championship.

Santa Anita Park, considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful racetracks with the San Gabriel Mountains in the backdrop, is located in Arcadia, California. It is home to some of the most prestigious racing events in Thoroughbred racing which include the Santa Anita Derby and Santa Anita Handicap and has also hosted Breeders’ Cup on a few occasions including in the year 2013.

First opened in December 1934, the racetrack, a marvel of architecture designed by architect Gordon B. Kaufman, is the oldest racetrack in California. The facility originally a part of “Rancho Santa Anita” was originally owned by San Gabriel Mission Mayor Claudio Lopez named on a family member “Anita Cota”. It changed hands from rancher Hugo Reid to gold prospector Lucky Baldwin who initially founded a racetrack adjacent to the present site in Arcadia which closed in 1909. The legalization of parimutuel racing in California in 1933 brought in several investor groups to open racetracks. In the San Francisco area, a group headed by Dr. Charles H Doc Strub and a group headed by movie producer Hal Roach joined hands, and the newly formed Los Angeles Turf Club reopened the track on Christmas Day in 1934.

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