01/22/2014 4:22PM

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.”

Forego137 More than 1 year ago
Just sicking to see this happen. Just can't believe that no-one stepped up to save the track. Oh well, this is a sign of what is to come in the future for racing in the state.
Sean Sands More than 1 year ago
took my wife to hollywood park for her 50th birthday Jay the bugler played happy birthday for her and O Canada lol and had our picture taken with him may/2012
Kevin More than 1 year ago
My kids and I met Julie after a race at MTH long ago. She was pissed as hell for having come in 2nd. My impression, watching her stalk, stomp and holler across the walking ring on her way to the jockeys' room, was a compact bundle of incredible muscle, strength, athletic energy and volatility... I still hold her as the model of what an achievement it is to be in the top tier of her profession.
Richard More than 1 year ago
Bruce Epstein More than 1 year ago
Major value items are from 1st BC held there
not impressed More than 1 year ago
I'd love to find a way to get the synthetic surface on the track for my riding arena but there's no way I could afford for that to happen.
Bob More than 1 year ago
$10 general admission to get into Hollywood Park?...No wonder the place closed down!
Ferd Berful More than 1 year ago
$10 included general parking and a program.
Mike R More than 1 year ago
I looked at the list of items being auctioned and was particularly intrigued by the John Deere 1445 Snow Blower.
Jock More than 1 year ago
How can people on the east coast bid on items and get a catalog.
Jack More than 1 year ago
Keep Thinking the PUBLIC is totally STUPID and Santa Anita will be joining Bay Meadows and Hollywood Park. Management is OUT OF TOUCH...