2020 not the first time fire has impacted Santa Anita

2020 not the first time fire has impacted Santa Anita
With wildfires that have ravaged much of the West Coast raging nearby, Santa Anita has delayed racing for six days. To the north, Golden Gate Fields has cancelled one racing card because of the fires and accompanying air quality issues.

This is not the first time that fire has impacted horse racing. The 2003 Breeders’ Cup was held at Santa Anita as fires raged close by.

“The meteorological impersonation of dragon’s breath,” an article from the Oct. 25, 2003, Fort Worth Star-Telegram described the conditions. “Smoke and fire included, along with a possible 100-degree temperature.”

The fire was about 25 miles east of Santa Anita and already had covered more than 4,000 acres, according to the article.

Another story in the same edition of the paper claimed the fires wouldn’t impact the racing at all.

RELATED: Santa Anita to postpone start of Autumn Meet due to Bobcat Fire

“This is common for Southern California,” Stuart Zanville, then-director of marketing and public relations for Santa Anita, said in the story. “People who live here are used to things like this.”

The racing did indeed continue unaffected by the fires, which dropped ash from the sky the day before the race. Pleasantly Perfect won the Breeders’ Cup Classic, running down the favored Medaglia d’Oro.

A major factor in 2003, as in 2020, was the air quality in the area. For the 2003 Breeders’ Cup, the air was seen as less of a problem, as horses’ lungs are better equipped than humans' to filter out particles.

Ten years before that, in October 1993, racing was cancelled for one day at Santa Anita because of smoke from what the Desert Sun in Palm Springs California called “relentless wildfires.”

An article in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat from Oct. 29 of that year said the racing was cancelled in part because fans were unable to get to the track because of closed freeway exits.

The 1993 Breeders’ Cup also was held at Santa Anita, and though the fires were still burning when it rolled around in November, the event was not affected by the fires.

Going even further back, fires challenged the opening weekend at Santa Anita in December 1953, but still wasn’t enough to cause a cancellation, according to a Dec. 29, 1953, story in the San Francisco Examiner.

A story from the previous day’s Los Angeles Times offered details on the two fires, which were spurred on by strong winds in the San Gabriel Mountains and resulted in hundreds of people being evacuated.

The start of the 2020 fall meet at Santa Anita was delayed for a planned six days. Opening day is now scheduled for Sept. 25.

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