Historic Tanforan
Perhaps the most glamorous and historic of all race tracks.
1899 - 1964

A Time To Remember

 

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 Malicious
about to make
 his move!

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Were You Ever There?

My thanks to the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association for permission to excerpt their article that those new to the sport of racing may re-live the moment. And, to the actual present day descendents of Toribio Tanforan, Georgia Allison and Julia Christy.  To you, my deepest gratitude for the sheer joy of knowing you.

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AudioŠ
Malicious - owned by Mrs. Syvia Urban (Mrs. Robert Urban)
2 mile champion of the United States
Jockey Johnny Adams, up - Joe Hernandez makes the call,
December 16, 1938 at Historic Tanforan

Expect some download time 1:45 mg's.

.(After you have listened to and closed down the audio - please refresh your page.)

50 plus years ago:
Historic Tanforan in San Bruno, California reopened its doors for racing once again. Closed since World War ll, it was purchased the previous winter by a syndicate headed by Eugene Mori, who also built and operated Garden State Park in New Jersey. Originally built in 1889, Tanforan was a state-of-the-art race track for its time. It became famous, though, for two betless meetings run in 1923 and 1924 by a group of Sportsmen who wanted to keep racing alive during the anti-gambling blackout that began in California in 1911.

Those betless meetings, sponsored by John Marchbanks and Adolph Spreckels, helped to rebuild the state's once-proud racing heritage and paved the way for pari-mutual racing to return in 1932.

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Tanforan, named for Toribio Tanforan who was a Spanish Grandee and who owned the original land, is the oldest major race track now in operation ( CTBA June 1961) in California. Its history is, perhaps, the most exciting and glamorous of any modern-day course.

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It was built in 1889 and located on Rancho Buri Buri, which was a Mexican land grant belonging to Sanchez, and Toribio Tanforan was his grandson-in-law. There must have been a strong tie for the name to be kept on. This area is, perhaps, better known to the modern day racetrackers as San Bruno, just north of the San Mateo - San Francisco County line. The track opened its gates to the public on Saturday, September 4, of that year for a run of 78 days. There are some old-time horsemen who well remember its earlier days.

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It was the brain child of Dan "White Hat" McCarty., one of the most colorful figures of his day in the Bay District area. He first sold the idea of building a track on the Tanforan property to his friend, Lord Talbot Clifton, a wealthy English nobleman. The later gentleman in turn approached Prince Andre Poniatowski, a descent of Poland's royal family , and enlisted his active interest. Poniatowski was married to one of the Sperry family, a sister of the wife of William H. Crocker. With the Crocker banking interests behind the venture the final construction of the historic track was assured.
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Most of the influential families of San Francisco gave their support. Prominent owners raced there like Walter Hobart, Burns and Waterhouse Green B. Morris, Lucky Baldwin, Sam Hildreth, Ed Corrigan, Pat Dunne, Walter Jennings, Senator George Hurst, A. B. Spreckels, Lee J. Rose, Senator Leland Stanford, James Ben Ali Haggin, William MacDonough, Charley Fair and Charley Boots.
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The initial meeting operated under the name of the Western Turf Association. One of its first stewards was Joseph Caim Simpson, the man who had brought the immortal Marion to California. All too soon, because of unfavorable conditions arising in racing, the big names withdrew their support, and Tanforan closed its gates for many years.
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Tanforan reopened in 1923. That year and the following one constituted the well-remembered "betless meetings." These were largely the result of the work of Adolph B. Spreckels. It was called the Pacific Coast Jockey Club and the entire plant underwent considerable reconstruction. Spreckels and his group pulled out after two years, and once again the track closed down. It opened again in the early 1930's for the option meetings, and finally and permanently in 1934 when legalized betting was returned to California. It has a varied history, encompassing many of the greatest names in racing.
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Note:  Tanforan is now the center for a new sophisticated shopping mall known as The Shops Of Tanforan. Tanforan Racetrack had a long and proud 65-year history, hosting many famous racing horses including Seabiscuit. A statue of Seabiscuit, currently located on the site, will be moved to a place of more prominence as part of the center's renovation. Tanforan Racetrack was the takeoff site of the first Aircraft Carrier landing onto a deck upon the Cruiser Pennsylvania (which is not the battleship Pennsylvania).