Stronach Group proposes $30 million in renovations and upgrades for Santa Anita

A view of Santa Anita Park.
Santa Anita will replace its dirt training track with a synthetic surface as part of proposed improvements being made to the facility.
(Amanda Lee Myers / Associated Press)

The Stronach Group, which has been decidedly silent about how its closure of Golden Gate Fields will change California racing, laid out its plans to upgrade Santa Anita with a projected $30 million in improvements both in infrastructure and other services, some as soon as the opening of its winter season on Dec. 26.

Among the initiatives the track announced were:

  • More than $1 million to help relocate horses, trainers, jockeys and backstretch workers to Southern California, if they choose to do so. Aiden Butler, chief executive of 1/ST Racing said, the number is capped.
  • $500,000 in funds to help support the California breeding program, which with the closure of Golden Gate Fields, will lose many races that are just written for Cal-breds. TSG also promised to hold sales at Santa Anita to support the breeders. But, the question remains, will the races being written at Santa Anita be beneficial to a large part of the Golden Gate population or will trainers and owners be forced to go to other states to find racing opportunities for horses of that quality.
  • A $4.5 million synthetic training track (Tapeta) to replace the current inner track at Santa Anita. That track is too small to allow for racing.
  • The promise to help fund health care costs for part of 2024 for employees of Golden Gate Fields.
  • Improvements to horse care and training by adding an equine pool for hydrotherapy and exercise. It’s expected to take two years and cost $500,000.
  • A one-mile one-turn turf track, where the chute will be built in the current north parking lot.
  • And $23.2 million toward backside barn improvements. Santa Anita has been promising this for several years and now it appears as if it will follow through.
  • A museum that celebrates California racing.

Craig Fravel, executive vice-chairman of 1/ST Racing, was coy about if TSG plans to get some of the Northern California simulcast revenue that currently resides with Golden Gate. This would certainly derail any plans for the fair circuit to expand its reach to 10 month as it hopes.

The Stronach Group remains quiet on plans surrounding the closure of Golden Gate Fields. Sen. Dianne Feinstein joins critics seeking answers to the closure.

July 26, 2023

“We’re in competition for purse money that is supported by other sources in virtually every other state in the country,” Fravel said. “We have to work with others in the industry like Del Mar and Los Al, the TOC to boost the purse money we offer on a daily basis. If that means we have to work a way to getting some of the money that is wagered in the [North], we will work towards that.”


Two people with knowledge of the thinking of TSG executives, but not authorized to speak publicly, said the company defiantly plans to try and acquire Northern California simulcast money.

One the major complaints by horsemen in the announced closure of Golden Gate is how it was done in secrecy by TSG.

The California Horse Racing Board, the state body that governs race tracks, found out by accident three days before the scheduled announcement when another agency asked a question about the closing of Golden Gate Fields.

The California Thoroughbred Trainers (CTT) and Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) did not learn about the closure until after The Stronach Group was told that The Times was going to report the closure on Sunday afternoon. The TOC was scheduled to meet with Stronach executives on Monday but was moved up to Sunday afternoon.

The Stronach Group has decided to permanently close down Golden Gate Fields in Berkeley after its final meet ends in December, boosting Santa Anita.

July 16, 2023

“There are private negotiations going on and sometimes people have to keep things quiet until the last possible minute,” Fravel said. “It did get leaked out much sooner than we anticipated and our schedule for consulting and informing others was disrupted. That was unfortunate and we’re making up for it now. … We hope they understand why it happened the way it did and now we’re going to move on with our business.”

The biggest question lingering that remained unanswered in the 29-minute news conference was what was going to happen to the land at Golden Gate Fields. It was brought up by Sen. Dianne Feinstein in a letter to TSG on Wednesday.


There was no clarity. Fravel said private discussions are taking place and he could not speak to the issue.