01/22/2014 3:22PM

Jay Hovdey: At Hollywood Park, history is priced to sell


One month after its going-out-of-business, final day of Thoroughbred racing, a call was placed to the main number at Hollywood Park. The cheery, recorded message imparted the following information: “Watch and wager on exciting live racing from Betfair Hollywood Park now through Sunday, Dec. 22 . . . general admission is $10, and Turf Club admission is $20 . . .

Okay, so the message hadn’t been updated. Never mind. Who hasn’t called the home of a good friend, recently passed, and gotten goose bumps from the sound of his voice on the answering machine?

Anyway, the call to Hollywood was being placed to nail down a couple of details about the online auction of assorted stuff scheduled for Friday and Saturday. Presumably, the switchboard would be the last to go.

The auction is being conducted by GA Global Partners, an international firm with a long track record of such organized dismantlings. GA Global handled the auction of physical assets after the closing of Bay Meadows, owned by the same developers who will be leveling Hollywood Park.

Any auction of physical assets comes with an emotional component, and despite the cold-hearted commerce that doomed the track, Hollywood Park is no different. It is, however, a little hard to get choked up over the sale of a Garland double-stack oven from the fourth-floor kitchen, a Traulson two-door aluminum cooler from the Park Deli on the third floor, or an Ingersoll-Rand 175 portable air compressor with just 959 hours logged.

Still, no one could be blamed if he listened to his heart and bid on the Crystal Tips ice machine from the Charlie Whittingham bar, or one of the heavy-duty park benches that dotted the paddock grounds, or a genuine Hollywood Park metal turnstile.

Among the more sentimental offerings will be the 25-foot Turf Club bar, the latticed wooden gazebo from the Turf Club gardens, pieces of winner’s circle railing, and the collection of sixteenth-, eighth-, and quarter-mile poles from both the main track and turf course.

I say sentimental only because the eighth pole on the turf course is just about where Eddie Delahoussaye squeaked through with Political Ambition to win the 1988 Hollywood Turf Invitational in a six-horse photo finish. These things you remember.

“A married man’s not supposed to go through a hole like that,” Delahoussaye said afterward.

The big machinery auction hounds will be out in force. The development company apparently has no use for a Toro Sand Pro 20/20 infield groomer with bunker rake attachment, or the four Kverneland Group power rotary harrows, or the five hardworking, broad-shouldered John Deere tractors, or the GMC water truck with an odometer reading of 258,750 miles.

But someone with a sense of history surely will want to snag the 1984 white Chevy pickup that was around at the same time as John Henry, Desert Wine, Princess Rooney, and Royal Heroine, or the 1989 Jeep Cherokee that was brand new in the days of Sunday Silence, Bayakoa, and Great Communicator.

Most of the almost 1,500 items cataloged over the two auction sessions are in the industrial equipment category. But there are a surprising number of lots that no one but racing fans or hard-core memorabilliacs would want, including photos galore, prints, posters, and paintings, numbered saddle towels, Zenyatta merchandise, and Hollywood Park’s original-issue bobbleheads of Mike Smith, Bob Baffert, and – what’s this? – Julie Krone.

“When they showed me the model for the bobblehead, I asked if they could maybe give me just a little more up top, if you know what I mean,” Krone said. “So, they did.”

Fortunately, we still have a few of those around the house.

The jockeys’ room has an inventory rife with historic significance. Imagine the money Iggy Puglisi took from everyone who tried to beat him at pool. And only a glutton for punishment would ever play Bill Shoemaker at ping-pong. Both tables are for sale, along with an assortment of scales, saunas, whirlpools, exercise equipment, bunk beds and couches. If furniture could talk . . .

It is pretty easy to predict which items will generate the most action. Any one of the lawn jockeys surrounding the winner’s circle would be a catch, although some need repair. Pony pens and hotwalking machines lead the list from the stable area. Then there’s the famous Hollywood Park Swan Boat, in which Goose Girls from a bygone era paddled across the infield lakes, feeding Hollywood’s menagerie of water fowl.

Among those items not cataloged is the prize of the Hollywood Park artwork – Albert Stewart’s free-floating bronze of Swaps and Shoemaker attached to the side of the marble Gold Cup monument just inside the clubhouse entrance. Speculation has been rampant as to the disposition of the bronze, which was installed in 1958, but according to a track spokesman, it will find a home in a local Inglewood park.

As for other souvenirs missing in auction action, this collector was ready to bid serious bucks for the arrangement of white rocks that could be found in the infield, visibile from a considerable distance and organized to spell out the abandoned “Go Baby Go” advertising catch phrase of the NTRA. Add a few more rocks and you’ve got the track’s lasting message: “Gone Baby Gone.”