2 SoCal race tracks to see boost as Bay Area's Golden Gate Fields set to close

ByJ.R. Stone, ABC7 Bay Area Digital Staff KGO logo
Monday, July 17, 2023
Santa Anita to see boost as Bay Area horse track closes
Santa Anita Park will add another day of racing after the Bay Area's Golden Gate Fields closes later this year and the owner relocates horses to SoCal.

ALBANY, Calif. -- The Bay Area's Golden Gate Fields horse racing track is shutting down and its parent company plans to shift more resources to facilities in Southern California.

The move means Santa Anita Park in Arcadia will add another day of racing to its weekly calendar next year.

The Stronach Group, which owns Golden Gate Fields, announced it will end racing at the iconic Bay Area horse race track at the end of its 2023 racing meet.

The company plans to relocate horses to two tracks in Southern California.

The owner says it will "double down" on racing at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia and training at San Luis Rey Downs in San Diego County.

Besides the additional day of racing, Santa Anita will see "expanded content opportunities (and) wagering prospects," the company said.

There is no word yet what would happen to the Golden Gate Fields land that stretches along Berkeley and Albany.

"The Stronach Group remains steadfastly committed to racing in California," said Belinda Stronach, CEO of the company.

"We believe that the future success of racing depends on a business model that encourages investment in Southern California, one of North America's premier racing circuits. Focusing on Santa Anita Park and San Luis Rey Downs as state-of-the-art racing and training facilities that offer enhanced program quality, increased race days, expanded wagering opportunities, and premier hospitality and entertainment experiences is vital to ensuring that California racing can continue to compete and thrive on a national level."

"We recognize that the decision will have profound effects on our valued employees as well as the owners, trainers, jockeys and stable personnel at Golden Gate Fields. The Stronach Group is committed to honoring labor obligations and developing a meaningful transition plan," Stronach added.

The Stronach Group purchased the track in 2011.

Golden Gate Fields, which straddles the cities of Albany and Berkeley along the shore of the San Francisco Bay, opened in 1941.

With the start of World War II, the U.S. Navy took over the property for storage of landing craft that was to be used in the Pacific theater. After the war ended, racing returned to the site.

Among the horses that competed at Golden Gate Fields was 1948 Triple Crown winner Citation, John Henry, Shared Belief, and come-from-behind specialist Silky Sullivan, who is buried in the track's infield.

The track was immortalized in book and movie form. In Jack Kerouac's 1957 novel "On the Road," Sal Paradise visits the track with his friend, who loses all their money.

In the 1997 movie "Metro" starring Eddie Murphy, his character visits the track to gamble and blames jockey Russell Baze for losing his money.

Retired Hall of Famer Baze won his 10,000th career race at Golden Gate Fields in 2008. He earned 54 riding titles and won 5,765 races there during his career.

The closure will leave Northern California without a major racetrack. Bay Meadows, which opened in 1934, shut down and was turned over to developers in 2008.

The Associated Press contributed to this report