Santa Anita Park, which opened on Dec. 25, 1934, will celebrate its 75th anniversary season beginning with opening day, Saturday, Dec. 26, with a special early first post time of 11:30 a.m. PDT.
All fans attending will receive Santa Anita’s traditional wall calendar, free of charge with paid admission. This year’s calendar chronicles many of the unforgettable moments in the 75-year history of the Great Race Place.
In addition to a 10-race card highlighted by two grade I stakes, the Malibu and the La Brea, fans will be treated to an action packed day, as the recently retired champion mare Zenyatta will be paraded in front of the grandstand and will participate in an historic winner’s circle ceremony.
A dramatic winner of the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) in her final start at Oak Tree on Nov. 7, Zenyatta will be making her final public appearance prior to being shipped to Kentucky in January to begin her new career as a broodmare.
Owners Jerry and Ann Moss, trainer John Shirreffs, and jockey Mike Smith will participate in the ceremony and all fans attending on-track will receive a beautiful color poster, sponsored by HRTV, of the undefeated champion mare that will include photos of all 14 of her lifetime victories.
“Zenyatta’s win here in the Classic was in the opinion of many, the most dramatic moment in the history of Santa Anita and it surely has catapulted her into the national spotlight along with Rachel Alexandra as many people’s choice for Horse of the Year,” said Santa Anita president Ron Charles. “We are so thankful to the Mosses for making the decision to share her with us this one final time and I think many thousands of racing fans are going to want to be a part of this as well.
“As Trevor Denman said in his Classic call, what she has accomplished is indeed ‘unbelievable’ and we’re hoping this ceremony is going to be unforgettable. We think it’s a great way for to kick off our 75th anniversary and I think this will be something her fans can cherish for many years to come. As Mike Smith has so often noted, she’s truly a gift and we’re so fortunate to have her here again.”
In the 75-year history of Santa Anita, few horses have had more impact than the great Hall of Fame gelding, John Henry. Conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally, “John” became the first two-time winner of the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I), taking the prestigious event in 1981 and ’82.
In recognition of his staggering list of achievements both nationally and at Santa Anita, John Henry will be immortalized for generations to come on opening day, as a life-sized bronze statue of him will be unveiled by McAnally himself in the Paddock Gardens area near the Kingsbury Fountain.
“Without a doubt, John Henry was one of the most popular horses to ever compete here at Santa Anita and he probably meant more to our sport and to our business than any other horse you can think of in the 1980s” said Charles.
John Henry, who was retired in 1985 as Thoroughbred racing’s all-time leading money winner with $6,591,860 in earnings, passed away at age 32 on Oct. 8, 2007, at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
Always a fans favorite, the Budweiser Clydesdales will also be on display throughout the day and will perform between races.
In addition to the 2010 wall calendar and the color poster of Zenyatta, all fans attending opening day will receive two passes redeemable for complimentary admission any day through Sunday, Jan. 3.
With first post at 11:30 a.m. on opening day only, general admission will be $5 throughout the meet, with Club House admission at $8.50 and Turf Club admission will be $20. For more information, fans are encouraged to visit www.santaanita.com.