12/19/2013 9:52AM

Hollywood Park's curator of memories

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Edward “Kip” Hannan, supervisor of production operations for the television department, has been digging up and organizing media that chronicles Hollywood’s 75-year history.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Hollywood Park will run its final race Sunday. In the bowels of the track, Edward “Kip” Hannan will be racing, too. Against time.

Hannan, first on his own and later with a modicum of assistance, has been trying to catalog and organize 75 years of the track’s history, in film, videos, and audio calls, chronicling moments from Seabiscuit to Citation, Swaps to Affirmed, John Henry to Zenyatta. But as the clock ticked down to the final days of the meet, his treasure trove had no home, a sad reminder of the haphazard way in which preservation of racing’s history is often simply left to chance.

“This sport deserves more than getting lucky that some fan uploads a historical race onto YouTube,” Hannan said. “God bless those fans, but this should be done by the sport. The sport deserves more.”

Hannan, 49, is officially the supervisor of production operations for the track’s television department, a job that will soon end. Unofficially, he has become the curator of the track’s great races and moments.

Hannan has unearthed boxes of discarded film and reel-to-reel audio tape – previously locked in abandoned rooms and closets at the track – which contain some of the track’s greatest races. He has worked with an expert on film restoration to salvage footage that otherwise might have been lost. He’s found acetate records – the forerunner to audio tape – of significant Hollywood Park races, like Swaps winning the 1956 Gold Cup, and was able to meld the call with the silent film footage of the same race. His small office, down a hallway in the television department, is teeming with film, tapes, and newspaper clips.

“You walk in this room, you’re kind of overwhelmed,” he said.

And, as of this week, nothing has been definitively decided by track management on where the material will go.

Hannan has worked at Hollywood Park for 27 years. He was co-winner of an Eclipse Award for radio achievement in 2003. He’s the go-to guy when media outlets need video footage.

“The most requested race is the Swaps with J. O. Tobin and Seattle Slew,” Hannan said. “My favorite race is the Gold Cup in 2007 with Lava Man. I get chills watching that.”

An avid record collector – he has about 5,000 albums, more than 3,000 45s, and more than 15,000 CDs at his home – Hannan brought the same passion for music to trying to preserve Hollywood Park’s history.

“It’s in my blood,” he said.

Hannan took on the Hollywood Park project on his own, when it was apparent, after the track’s purchase by the Bay Meadows Land Company, that Hollywood Park’s days were numbered.

“I didn’t tell anyone I was doing it at first, but I’m glad I did,” he said. “Look where we are now.”

Indeed, though there are still boxes of material to be processed, Hannan already has made significant strides in cataloging and preserving precious footage. During a recent interview, he punched up several items on his editing machine that are priceless.

He has video of two races from the inaugural 1938 meeting, the Gold Cup which was won by Seabiscuit, as well as the opening-day Premiere Handicap. Using multiple sources, Hannan took what was originally just 18 seconds of Gold Cup footage, found other footage of Seabiscuit from that day, plus still photos, and turned it into a 3-minute piece.

He found film of Citation on a reel, uncovered in a closet and open to the elements, and with the help of Richard Perris, a film restoration expert, now has 15 minutes related to Citation’s 1951 Gold Cup, including the entire race, Citation’s career finale.

He’s put together complete footage of all three of Native Diver’s Gold Cup wins.

But it’s not just race footage that Hannan has compiled. Hannan unearthed film of Native Diver parading at Hollywood Park after his 1967 Gold Cup win, and it’s a gorgeous piece of film, in color.

When local television station KNBC in 2009 did a retrospective of the 60th anniversary of its newscast, the station showed a snippet of Hollywood Park’s grandstand as it burned in 1949.

“It was one of their first big news stories,” Hannan said.

He has 10 seconds of that clip, plus another 10 seconds KNBC aired of that year’s Goose Girl competition, with the incongruous scene of contestants parading in front of the burned out shell of the grandstand.

One of his greatest finds came about by both persistence and chance. Hannan owned a video compilation of three racing movies, including “The Story of Seabiscuit,” which included a brief added bonus of footage from Hollywood Park in 1945.

“I wondered if there was a longer, original version,” Hannan said.

Years later, after the death of Bob Benoit, the track’s former general manager and then owner of the track’s photography business, Hannan was presented with cans of film that Benoit had stored. He went through it, and serendipitously came across the original 20-minute source material used for “The Story of Seabiscuit” bonus footage.

It was restored by Perris, and the rich, colorful footage is both spectacular and historically significant. It includes shots of the original, indoor paddock, which was destroyed in the 1949 fire; jockeys, including John Longden, weighing in; a longer tour of the jockeys’ room; a visit to the silks room; and overhead shots of the course that show off its magnificent lakes and flowers.

Hannan has taken great care to properly catalog the material on his editing machine, with a slate card for each item that lists the total running time, the content, and all the sources used to cobble together the piece.

Some of the footage was used in an historical video that Hannan produced and the track distributed during the summer meet. But there’s so much more.

“It would take years to do it right,” Hannan said.

And, quite soon, it will need a home.