The Los Angeles area racetrack, one of the most storied in America, will be demolished to make way for mixed-use development.
Top photo: Wikimedia Commons
They die slowly, these old racetracks, cavernous and hulking and gasping for breath as turnstiles click for the very last time and final tickets are crumpled or cashed. There is a worn elegance about their closing days, hoofbeats thundering a regal requiem for memories made and races run. By the time we realize what we’re losing, it’s too late. The ghosts of history hover, nearly drift away.”
In its heyday, the track was a destination for socialites and Hollywood stars. It was founded in 1938 by studio head Jack Warner, and early investors included Walt Disney, singer Al Jolson, actor Bing Crosby and producer Samuel Goldwyn. It was the track where Seabiscuit won the track’s inaugural Gold Cup and where bets like the “exacta” and “Pick Six” that have become mainstays of racing today were first introduced.
Hollywood Park’s shine has faded in recent years. Attendance and wagering receipts have plummeted as tracks struggle to hold their own against casinos and the lottery. The story notes that bids to allow slot machines to be installed inside racing facilities–an addition that track owners argue would help stabilize the industry–were repeatedly shot down.
This video is from 2008, when the direness of Hollywood Park’s future was fast becoming apparent. Back in the day, the grandstand held up to 70,000 cheering racegoers; here, the grandstand is so empty you can actually hear the sound of the jockeys’ sticks as they gallop down the homestretch.
Santa Anita will pick up 11 weeks of additional racing each year for the next two years to make up dates forfeited by Hollywood Park. But for many, Hollywood Park’s closure raises bigger questions about the future of horse racing in California.
“What happened at Hollywood Park doesn’t make our circumstances any easier, but we are just going to have to work through it,” said Joe Morris, president of the California Thoroughbred Association, told Yahoo! News. “This was a private company’s decision, and we just have to continue to focus on building up and supporting what we do have. We have strong horses, great farms. I think we’re in good shape, but there’s always concern about the future.”
Go Hollywood Park.