development of the Hollywood Park property by owner Hollywood Park Land
Company has become a reality, so the Hollywood Park Racing Association
will not apply to the
California Horse Racing Board for 2014 race dates at Hollywood Park.
This means the 75th
anniversary season will be the final year of live racing, training and
stabling at the legendary facility. The current Spring/Summer meet
continues through Sunday, July 14.
Racing will cease with the
conclusion of the Autumn meet, which is scheduled to begin Thursday,
November 7 and continue through Sunday, December 22. The stable area is
expected to close by the end of the year.
The development of the
property has been considered inevitable – barring meaningful changes in
racing’s business model - since Hollywood Park Land Company purchased
Hollywood Park from Churchill Downs in 2005.
At that time, the Land
Company advised racing would continue at Hollywood Park for a minimum of
three years and a concerted effort would be made during that period to
try and revitalize the sport’s underlying business
Ownership has been
upfront from the beginning that the property would eventually be
developed unless there were significant changes in the horse racing
business,’’ said Betfair Hollywood Park president Jack Liebau.
“Despite the Hollywood Park Land Company financially supporting two
statewide initiatives with varying degrees of support from other
segments of the racing industry, the attempts to upgrade the business
model were not successful.
“From an economic point of
view, the land now simply has a higher and better use, so,
unfortunately, racing will not continue here once the 2013 Autumn meet
Liebau added further logistics regarding the pending closure will be worked out in the coming months.
From its opening in June,
1938 under the direction of motion picture moguls Jack and Harry Warner,
Hollywood Park has been the home of unforgettable achievements from
legendary performers – both human and equine
– and innovations that continue to be important parts of the racing
The fabled Seabiscuit
captured the inaugural Hollywood Gold Cup 75 years ago, the first
thoroughbred on a superstar-studded roster of winners that also
includes Noor, Citation, Swaps, Round Table, Ack Ack, Affirmed,
Ferdinand, Cigar, Skip Away, females Happy Issue, Two Lea and
Princessnesian and three-time winners Native Diver and Lava Man.
There is also the memory
of what is arguably Hollywood Park’s most famous race – the conquering
of undefeated Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew by J.O. Tobin in the 1977
Before a crowd of more
than 68,000, Seattle Slew, three weeks removed from completing his
Triple Crown sweep in the Belmont Stakes, finished – echoing the words
of iconic track announcer Harry Henson - a well-beaten
The Grade I Swaps Stakes
was created three years earlier to honor the greatest California bred in
history. Owned by breeder Rex C. Ellsworth and trained by Mesh Tenney,
Swaps was memorialized 55 years ago with a
bronze statue that remains near the clubhouse entrance.
One of the most popular
horses ever to race in the United States, John Henry did some of his
best work in Inglewood. The Ole Bob Bowers gelding, who was trained by
Ron McAnally for owners Dorothy and Sam Rubin,
won six stakes at Hollywood Park, becoming the first horse to surpass
$4 million in career earnings when he captured the 1983 Hollywood Turf
Another more recent fan
favorite was Zenyatta. Stabled throughout her brilliant career at
Hollywood Park, the 2010 Horse of the Year, who was adored by the racing
public due to her come-from-behind running style
and her personality, earned eight of her 19 victories at her home
track, including an unprecedented three consecutive wins in the Grade I
Vanity Handicap (2008-2010).
Many of the game’s
greatest jockeys and trainers have added to their glowing resumes at
Hollywood Park, including numerous Hall of Famers.
Laffit Pincay, Jr. and
Bill Shoemaker are the runaway leaders in terms of wins among riders at
Hollywood Park, having combined for 5,465 victories – 568 coming in
Other Hall of Famers who
were once local regulars include Sandy Hawley, Chris McCarron, Eddie
Delahoussaye, Gary Stevens, John Longden, Kent Desormeaux, Don Pierce
and Milo Valenzuela.
Hall of Fame trainers
Charlie Whittingham and Bobby Frankel combined to win over 1,800 races –
371 of them in stakes – at Hollywood Park.
The top 40 trainers – in
terms of victories - in Hollywood Park history include a dozen others -
McAnally, Tenney, Richard Mandella, Bob Baffert, Buster Millerick, Neil
Drysdale, Bill Molter, D. Wayne Lukas, Jack
Van Berg, Lazaro Barrera and Bob Wheeler – who are residents of the
Hall of Fame.
The Breeders’ Cup became a
reality at Hollywood Park in 1984 and returned twice more – in 1987 and
1997 - to the Track of the Lakes and Flowers.
Highlights include Wild
Again’s shocking upset in the inaugural Classic after a very eventful
stretch run, Ferdinand’s narrow win over Alysheba in the 1987 Classic
and Skip Away’s dominance in the 1997 Classic.
The inventiveness fostered
at Hollywood Park – under leadership provided by forward thinking
executives such as James Stewart, Vernon O. Underwood, Mervyn LeRoy,
Marjorie Everett and R.D. Hubbard – remains evident
to this day.Some of the game’s fixtures that began at Hollywood Park include:
Sunday racing, which debuted in April, 1973
Giveaways to fans – topped by a tote bag promotion which drew a record 80,348 on May 4, 1980
The Pick Six – Underwood’s brainchild – and the $1
million guaranteed Pick Six pool, which became a reality in 1998 during
Several other exotic
wagers came to life at Hollywood Park, including Rolling Pick 3s, the
Superfecta, the Place Pick All, the Pick 4 and the Players’ Pick 5, a
reduced takeout wager which debuted at the beginning
of the 2011 Spring/Summer meet.The Hollywood Land Company
also spent more than $8 million to install Cushion Track nearly seven
years ago. California’s first synthetic surface, which opened for
training Sept. 13, 2006, is widely considered to
be the state’s safest and fairest main track.
“Our fans and all of the
employees who have worked at Hollywood Park – both past and present –
deserve our thanks and gratitude,’’ said Liebau. “They have been the
backbone of this historic venue.’’