11/05/2013 1:27PM

Betfair Hollywood Park begins final meeting

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Barbara D. Livingston
Hollywood Park will close for racing after the Dec. 22 card and remain open for training through January.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Thursday marks the beginning of the end for Betfair Hollywood Park.

The storied racetrack, which first opened in 1938, will hold its final race meeting this fall, beginning Thursday and running through Dec. 22. The barn area will remain open until the end of January. In 2014, the track will cease to exist on the Southern California racing landscape, and is scheduled for commercial and residential development.

Gone will be the spring and early summer meeting that provided the first glimpse of the circuit’s juveniles, and the autumn meeting where accomplished horses were tried in major stakes to try to secure one more win for a possible championship.

Hollywood Park hosted the first Breeders’ Cup, in 1984, and again in 1987 and 1997.

In the last 15 years, the track, south of downtown Los Angeles, has been the site of several milestones. Among them, Laffit Pincay Jr. broke Bill Shoemaker’s record for career victories in 1999. Lava Man won three Hollywood Gold Cups from 2005-2007. Zenyatta, stabled at Hollywood Park, won eight of her 19 races here. Fittingly, she was given a retirement party at Hollywood Park in December 2010, a month before she was named the Horse of the Year for that season.

When the Bay Meadows Land Company bought the track from Churchill Downs Inc. in July 2005, the track’s long-term viability was cast in doubt. Bay Meadows Land Company made a three-year commitment to live racing, hoping to acquire government approval to install slot machines. The initiative failed, but racing continued beyond those first three years.

In the summer of 2012, track president Jack Liebau told the California Horse Racing Board that Hollywood Park would not commit to racing beyond the summer of 2013. Last January, Liebau told the racing board the track would race this fall, but did not commit to racing in 2014. In May, the track announced racing would cease operations after this year.

At the time, Liebau wrote in a letter to employees that when alternative gaming was not approved “the ultimate development of Hollywood Park’s property was inevitable.”

The forthcoming race meeting has a calendar similar to recent fall seasons, highlighted by the Autumn Turf Festival and major stakes for 2-year-olds in December. The Sunday, Dec. 1 program has two Grade 1 turf races – the Hollywood Derby for 3-year-olds and the Matriarch Stakes for fillies and mares.

The $500,000 Hollywood Starlet Stakes for 2-year-olds fillies is Dec. 7, one week before the $750,000 Cash Call Futurity for 2-year-olds on Dec. 14. The feature race on the Dec. 22 closing day is the $200,000 King Glorious Stakes at seven furlongs for California-breds.

Thursday’s eight-race program includes an optional claimer at 6 1/2 furlongs that marks the return to racing of Hear the Ghost, the winner of the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita last March. Hear the Ghost was injured after that race and missed the Triple Crown.

In between Thursday’s opener and Dec. 22, attendance is expected to be higher as racing fans make their final visits to Hollywood Park.

When the track closes, the racing calendar in Southern California will change for 2014 and beyond. Santa Anita will extend its winter-spring meeting until late June. Los Alamitos in Orange County will have two brief Thoroughbred meetings – two weeks in early July and the first three weeks of December. Del Mar will host a new autumn meeting next November.

By then, Hollywood Park’s grandstand and barn area will either be a decaying relic or a beehive of construction activity. While simulcast wagering is scheduled to continue in the adjacent casino, the track will be reduced to memories for racing fans and those directly involved in the sport.

For some, that will be recollections of the place they saw racing for the first time, collected a lucrative bet, or spent a warm summer evening watching races and a rock concert.

For others, the memories are even more personal.

Trainer Tom Proctor was 16 years old when his late father, Willard, trained Convenience to win a $250,000 winner-take-all match race by a head over Typecast at Hollywood in 1972. Convenience raced for Glen Hill Farm. On Dec. 1, Proctor will start Glen Hill Farm’s Wishing Gate in the final running of the Matriarch Stakes at Hollywood Park.

“I was there for the match race when Dad ran in it,” Proctor recalled on Tuesday. “I’ve been going there since Princessnesian won the Gold Cup [in 1968]. I won my first race there.

“Racing will go on. I think it’s a shame it’s come to this.”

Brenda Benavidez More than 1 year ago
Since the first Breeders Cup was held at Hollywood Park, it would have been so cool & amazing if the Breeders Cup would have been held there this year since its Hollywood Park's last year, instead of it being held at Santa Anita since they're hosting it for 2014. But it happened already. I still keep telling myself that its not going to close & someone is going to come & save it.
Vickie Aument More than 1 year ago
Shame on the California State governors who could have saved this track - and why is this not considered a historic site??? Because it is - AND BetFair- SHAME ON YOU!
Donna Carlson More than 1 year ago
As I watched the last opening day at Hollywood Park I still can't fathom how we let something so valuable to the horse racing community slip away. The history alone should have been enough to preserve and protect. The fact that you had a breeding flock of flamingos and lakes and flowers in Inglewood should have been enough to count for something to someone.
Walter More than 1 year ago
Probably too late for this idea, but here it is anyway... Inglewood has the same weather as Del Mar, so it's very pleasant in the summer where many other SoCal areas are pretty hot. A couple of NFL teams should collaborate and build a training camp facility on the unused portion of the Hol grounds. This would bring in many people who attend training camps, it would give Hol exposure it needs. It would be a boost to the area. The Cowboys already practice in Oxnard, not sure where the Chargers practice. But, those teams could get together and do it in Inglewood.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Still can't see what they will develop on this site. They say for commercial and residential use. I guess what they mean is for the commercial aspect will be a court house with offices for lawyers and bail bondsmen and the residential will be a prison. Keep everything close to home. For 75 years it was the place of "Lakes and Flowers". Now it will be the place of "Filth and Crime"
AzLimitPoker More than 1 year ago
It's put up or shut up time for racing fans like myself to let yourself be heard by boycotting the entire meet...the ownership of this property has done us a disservice by closing down this track and expecting us to come together and celebrate the final meet...I say do the opposite and don't give them a penny and ignore it like the plague...that's what I will be doing and don't watch TVG either they are in bed with Betfair Hollywood Park...why should we give you money when it's companies like YOU THAT ARE PUTTING RACING OUT OF BUSINESS...NO THANKS!
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Just the change to "Betfair" was a big turn-off, you don't mess with history.
Brenda Benavidez More than 1 year ago
By NOT attending to its final meet its not going to show that we're fans & the track its going to be missed, its actually going to do the opposite. Its going to seem like nobody cares about Hollywood Park. I for one will try to attend as much as I can & see those beautiful thoroughbreds running down the Hollywood Park stretch for the last time.
Joe Harrington More than 1 year ago
We had this same thing happen to us several years back when. They took the fabulous Garden State Park from us forever! It's now a huge shopping center, one more among many, where once stood a giant in the horse racing world. I live 1/4 mile from the spot, only to be reminded of its glory days regularly. My sympathies and my own sadness at the loss of such treasures. Greed overcomes all, unfortunately, in today's world.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
LaPrevoyante, Secretariat, Bombay Duck, Alma North, Romeo Jason, Zarky! just to name a few. Was at Hialeah the afternoon she burned down. Then... Brennan !!!
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Citation, Dr Fager Spend a Buck, Sacred Ground indeed....
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Oh, and Brennan, from penny stocks to Gold Plated washer faucets, he built the Taj Mahal to replace a wonderful club/grandstand, it was elegant, and nice, the Crystal Paddock was Unique, had to be cleaned everyday with all the pigeon waste, still can't believe they just knocked it all down, officials even promised town folks and customers alike that the "pavilion" would always remain as a simulcast facility in one form or another, never happened though....
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
How much time did that slimeball get?
Hail No More than 1 year ago
I honestly don't remember, Chad.
Norm More than 1 year ago
I wonder if bugler Jay Cohen's last call is going to be something mournful like 'The Last Post' (no pun intended), or a rousing 'Hooray for Hollywood', which would probably be the best way to go out. Any ideas, anyone?
Walter More than 1 year ago
Jay plays "hooray for Hollywood" every day before the 1st race post parade. Maybe taps?
Chris Lowe More than 1 year ago
Nine Inch Nails "Hurt".
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
"New York, New York" !!!
Norm More than 1 year ago
Hollywood Park, like other tracks around the country, would have thrived if slot machines had been allowed, so isn't it obvious that it's the Californian politicians, taking bribes to vote against having them, who have brought racing to an end at Hollywod Park. If we'd had slot machines, the local Indian casinos would have lost a lot of business, so you can see who's been buying the poilticians. Vegas is much further away, so don't think they are to blame. And, apparantly, Arnold Schwartzenegger did NOTHING to try and save Hollywood park!
Crystal David More than 1 year ago
I am devastated by the closing of Hollywood Park. I cannot believe nobody has stepped up to buy it. I have been a racing fan for 40 years and have always wanted to go there. Now I will never get the chance! :-(
Norm More than 1 year ago
I know what you mean. I don't know why Betfair didn't buy it. It's been 'Betfair Hollywood Park' for the last few years, and they've certainly got enough money.