Tanforan Racetrack

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Tanforan Racetrack
Tanforan Racetrack
Location San Bruno, California,
United States
Date opened September 4, 1899
Date closed July 31, 1964 (fire)
Course type Flat for Thoroughbreds
Notable races Tanforan Handicap

Tanforan Racetrack in San Bruno, California was a thoroughbred horse racing facility that operated from September 4, 1899 to July 31, 1964. Tanforan was constructed to serve a clientele from the nearby city of San Francisco. The facility was named after Toribio Tanforan, the grandson-in-law of Jose Antonio Sanchez, the grantee of Rancho Buri Buri. [1] [2]

In addition to horse racing, dog,[citation needed] motorcycle,[citation needed] and auto [3] races were also held at the track during its early years. On January 25-26, 1910, the Tanforan Racetrack served as the site for the Second International Air Meet in America, organized by the Pacific Aero Club and attended by aviation notables Louis Paulhan and John J. Montgomery.

Closed following California's 1911 anti-gambling legislation, it reopened without betting for the 1923 and 1924 seasons through the subsidy of prominent area businessmen led by sugar magnate Adolph B. Spreckels. After 1924, it would be another ten years before a full racing season was held once the ban on parimutuel betting had been lifted. [4]

Hollywood film director Frank Capra filmed scenes for two of his films, Broadway Bill and Riding High, at the racetrack.[5]

World War I and II internment center[edit]

Line outside of a mess hall, Tanforan Assembly Center.

Tanforan was temporarily converted into a United States military training center during World War I and eventually was used as an assembly center during the early days of the Japanese American internment. Approximately 8,000 people of Japanese ancestry (mostly native-born Americans) were housed in Tanforan's stables, grandstands and in one hundred and seventy barracks which were built in the infield, prior to their being sent to internment camps in other parts of the country.[6]

Famous race competitors[edit]

Some of Thoroughbred racing's most notable owners and trainers competed at Tanforan Racetrack including owner/breeder James Ben Ali Haggin, and owner/trainer Sam Hildreth. Trainer Noble Threewitt set a record when he won with nine consecutive starters at Tanforan in April 1954.[7]

In 1932, the great Australian champion Phar Lap was brought to Tanforan to rest from his long ocean voyage and then conditioned before being shipped in late January to Agua Caliente Racetrack in Tijuana, Mexico to run in the Agua Caliente Handicap.[8]

Over the years, Tanforan Racecourse saw a number of famous horses compete on its track. Among them, future U.S. Racing Hall of Fame inductee Seabiscuit was stabled at Tanforan after recovering from an injury where he began training for a comeback. .[9]

In 1948, future U. S. Racing Hall of Fame inductee Citation set a new Tanforan track record of 2:02 4/5 for a mile and one quarter in winning the Tanforan Handicap.[10] Two years later his Calumet Farm stablemate and Kentucky Derby winner, Ponder, also won the race. [11]

In 1956, Bobby Brocato won his second straight Tanforan Handicap. That same year, he equaled the Tanforan track record for 8.5 furlongs and set a new track for 9 furlongs.[12]

Tanforan Racecourse burned down on July 31, 1964.[13] In its place today is a shopping mall known as The Shops at Tanforan. Today, a statue of Seabiscuit may be found on the grounds.


Coordinates: 37°38′11″N 122°25′04″W / 37.636367°N 122.41779°W / 37.636367; -122.41779