The Stonarch Group, operating under 1/ST RACING has announced a $30 million project to revamp Santa Anita and consolidate racing operations in Southern California following the closure of Golden Gate Fields.

The release emphasizes 1/ST RACING will invest to invigorate an ‘aging business model’ that has ‘plagued California racing for decades’. There will be 26 extra race days, with the fourth day of racing returning to the track. California sports betting suffered major setbacks as recently as November 2023 when it was crushed both in a Tribal capacity and a mobile, operator-led route.

Horse racing, however, remains a significant product in California. Another popular state for racing is the Bluegrass State, home to The Derby. Kentucky sports betting has recently been passed into law, and so pressure may start on California ahead of fresh legislature sessions at the start of 2025.

Belinda Stronach, Chairwoman, President and CEO of The Stronach Group commented: “We are confident that this comprehensive package of important measures will not only bolster the racing, training, owner and fan experience at Santa Anita Park, “The Great Race Place”, but also support Northern California stakeholders through a challenging transition period, and lead the way with state and industry wide changes that will result in a healthier, competitive and sustainable future for Thoroughbred racing in Southern California.”.

What changes are coming?

The commitments made are as follows:

  • Over $1 million pledged to support those leaving Golden Gate Fields following its closure. The money will go towards the relocation of horses, trainers, jockeys, employees and caregivers as part of the wider consolidation of racing in Southern California.
  • A $4.5 million brand-new all-weather synthetic track will replace the existing Santa Anita Park track. The move will improve overall safety, plus allow seamless transition of horses used to running at Golden Gate Fields.
  • Funding towards Golden Gate Field employees health care premiums.
  • Creation of an accessible job board to support the Santa Anita transition
  • An investment of $500,000+ over two years towards building an equine pool for hydrotherapy and equine welfare.
  • $23.2 million towards a backside barn improvement.

“While we continue to work diligently on what the north might look like in 2024, today’s announcement answers important short-term questions about the future of California racing and Santa Anita Park,” said Bill Nader, President/CEO of the TOC. “This represents both an investment and a commitment by Belinda Stronach and her team to not only stabilize but likely improve California racing for stakeholders, horsemen/women, backstretch workers and the betting public. These initiatives will provide a much better environment for our horses and make our overall racing stronger for the immediate future.”

Terry Lovinger, a California breeder commented: “With these renovations and the commitment to California-bred racing, I see the opportunities for Cal-breds greatly increasing and providing more value for those horses because of it. I’m going to breed more mares to take advantage of it. This is going to benefit the entire industry in the state.”

“The sizable investments outlined today will pave the way for a future for racing in California,” added trainer Mark Glatt. “The improvements proposed will benefit the horses and the horsemen in the state. This past wet winter underlined the need for installing a Tapeta all-weather training surface for the safety of the horses and to provide the best possible training environment.”