In 1933, pari-mutuel wagering was legalized in California. On Sept. 15 of that year the Pomona track was the first to present pari-mutuel wagering on thoroughbred horse racing in Southern California. In 2003, the L.A. County Fair celebrates it 65th racing season as well as the 81st anniversary of the L.A. County Fair Sept. 12-28 at Fairplex.
Racing at the Fair has continued yearly except 1942 through 1947 because of World War II. While pari-mutuel wagering began in 1933, racing at the Pomona track began even earlier, at the inaugural Fair in 1922. Then, it was a non-wagering event that featured harness racing—trotters and pacers rather than thoroughbreds.
When pari-mutuel wagering was legalized in early 1933, Pomona was the first track to open its betting windows after the success at two northern California tracks. Santa Anita opened on Dec. 25, 1934, Del Mar on July 3, 1937, and Hollywood Park on June 10, 1938.
By the 50th anniversary of racing at the Pomona track in 1988, 8,390,232 fans had wagered $711,875,635 and averaged a $1,009,753 daily handle. To date, 12,344,533 fans have wagered $1,989,846,804 and averaged a $2,030,455 daily handle. Inter-track wagering became part of the programming at the Pomona track in 1988.
Through the years, racing days were added and with an expanded schedule additional stakes events were added.
Joining the thoroughbreds and harness horses on the track in 1951 were the quarter horses. Harness racing made its last appearance at the Fair in 1970 and Appaloosas became a part of the program in 1971. Arabians would later become a limited feature at Pomona. In 1986, lights were added to the grandstand for night harness racing on a seasonal basis.
The average daily betting handle passed the $1 million mark for the first time in 1964. In 2002, the average daily handle was $5,791,775 for the 17-day meeting. The total amount bet at the 1933 meeting was $140,639. The first time the total handle surpassed $100 million was in 1996.
In 1998, Fairplex Park realized an all-time high handle for its 18-day race meet of $108,454,254. The handle in 2002 was $98,460,184 and Fairplex Park consistently holds its own, ranking among the top tracks in the nation in daily average handle behind only Del Mar, Santa Anita and Hollywood Park.
Jockey Martin Pedroza held on as all-time Fairplex Park winning jockey when he captured his fourth consecutive Fairplex Park riding crown in 2002, his fifth overall. The 37-year-old Panama native won 27 races—three on closing day—to out finish 19-year-old Tyler Baze after a meet-long battle between the two. Pedroza is Fairplex Park’s career leader with 349 victories.
Mel Stute is the all-time leader among Fairplex Park trainers with 172 career victories. He is also the leading trainer with most stakes wins at 72. So impressive are his statistics that he has been chosen as the inaugural inductee into the 2003 Fairplex Park Hall of Fame. That ceremony will take place on closing day, Sunday, Sept. 28, prior to the running of the Ralph M. Hinds Pomona Invitational Handicap.
In 2003 with a stakes race scheduled each day and two on closing day, more than $4 million in purse money, including $1.15 million for 18 thoroughbred stakes events, will be offered during the meet. The prestigious Barretts Debutante and Barretts Juvenile will increase purses in 2003 to an estimated $118, 800 and $133,150, respectively. Both are for 2-year-olds sold at the Barretts Equine Sales Complex at Fairplex.
A number of promotions are available for race fans, veterans and novices alike, from Betting For Beginners to Aloha Fridays. Seabiscuit Saturday will be celebrated on Sept. 20. Seabiscuit posters designed by Daily Racing Form satirist and caricaturist PEB, will be available to guests at Fairplex Park. One of the horses that portrayed Seabiscuit in the movie will be