A Day At The Races: Santa Anita

800px-santaanitaentrance_wbToday is my mom-in-law’s birthday (She’s 91!) and we took her to Santa Anita for a lovely lunch and afternoon of very exciting horse racing.  I hadn’t been for years and it was a great time. (It might not have been so great had I not won some $$…but I did!)

Even if you are not into betting on the ponies, having lunch in such a beautiful and historic spot is worth the few bucks for parking and entrance fees. We opted for the Clubhouse ($8.50) and made a reservation at FrontRunner restaurant. Our seats were good, right on the finish line and close to betting windows.  Service was hit or miss, but we were in no hurry, so it wasn’t a huge problem.

There are only a few more weeks of racing at Santa Anita and next week, April 4, is the Santa Anita Derby – the race that Seabiscuit tried and failed at a few times before finally hitting it big there. I’m sure the crowds will be big and gregarious and fun.

Santa Anita Park
Arcadia, California
Just off Baldwin on the 210 freeway

Jump out of the starting gate for more about our adventures in Santa Anita.

(Photo of Santa Anita Park entrance by Elf, used with permission via CC license/share alike 2.5.)

There are nine races a day on weekends and the first race is at 12:30. We arrived, opted for valet parking ($10) on account of the 91 year old (still spry, but just not for long distances). We got our Clubhouse hand stamps and picked up a racing form (couple of bucks) and headed up to our table at FrontRunner. 

Then the betting began! It took us a while to warm up and it almost frightened me how intense the mom-in-law studied the racing form, marking it up, folding it strangely, really getting into it. When it was time to bet, she hedged all over the place! Betting 2-4 horses per race, mostly to “Show” (which means she might get some money back if the horse comes in 1st, 2nd or 3rd…) To each her own style I guess.

My style (and my husband’s) is odds and names. So of course in one of the later races I had to bet on the favorite to win: #8 Liberian Freighter (I think I bet about $2 to win) and then I bet $2 on #1 Mr. Wolverine to Place. And they both did! I even took a photo without realizing how stoked I’d be when I put the camera down.


Baby gets a new pair of shoes!
Baby gets a new pair of shoes!

About halfway through our afternoon, the bugler came to play Happy Birthday for the birthday gal. This is something you arrange ahead of time and it was quite fun. He was gracious and funny and quite popular.


Racing moves from Santa Anita to Hollywood Park at the end of April and lasts until July 19. Then the races go to Del Mar.

You can make a great day of it with friends and family, even brining picnics to the infield park and watch the racing from the inside. 


That $5 bet to win, won me $25!
That $5 bet to win, won me $25!

3 thoughts on “A Day At The Races: Santa Anita”

  1. I’ve been to Santa Anita Park and had a great time, but I always have mixed feelings about horse racing in general. It sounds like a great birthday for your mother-in-law though!

  2. Well, if it had been just me and Kurt, I would hollered…but we had to return the MIL to her place. Big day out for her, I’m sure she’ll sleep well tonight!

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