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  No Hollywood Ending!     

Hollywood ParkHollywood Park Logo

It was 1984, Hollywood Park was averaging 22,000 people a day, only surpassed by Santa Anita and Saratoga. The track was about to host the first running of the prestigious Breeders Cup, I can remember pictures of full fields thundering down the stretch with the Fabulous Forum as a backdrop. Fast forward to 2015 and Little Bo Peep(or whoever she was supposed to be) isn't t greeting anyone in the winners circle, hell there is no winners circle, the track  is gone. Even the Fabulous Forum isn't so fabulous anymore, reduced to a second tier venue, as the Lakers and Kings, have long moved on. What a difference thirty years makes.

Hollywood ParkFabulous Forum

Hollywood Park was from a different era, a time when horseracing was pretty much the only game in town in the sports world. It was located in Inglewood, three miles from LAX, ten mile from Los Angeles and eight miles from it's namesake Hollywood. Originally built on 340 acres it was an extension of Tinsel Town with strong entertainent roots. After a devastating fire in 1949, that leveled the facility, it was rebuilt. When finished the grandstand and clubhouse area stretched over a quarter mile, with seating for around 30,000. The Turf Club area accommodated another 2,200 patrons. The original one mile dirt oval, was expanded at some point to one mile and one eight, with a seven and one half furlong turf course, which enclosed the infield lakes and lush vegetation, that was part of the charm of Hollywood Park. Over the years the track shrunk to 240 acres, but that was enough to be it's undoing, as it became more valuable for real estate than racing. At the time of it's demise the track could house around 2,500 horses, with ample parking lots for cars.

Rich in tradition Hollywood Park has been around since 1936. It has the honor of hosting the first Breeders Cup Day in 1984 it's first of three. The track has survived WWII, a fire that leveled the grandstand and clubhouse and has been the home to many Hall of Fame horses, jockeys and trainers. It can also boast that it had the first film patrol back in 1941 when cameras were fixed to binoculars and film was taken by eight patrol judges. Hollywood Park has also featured harness racing over the years and was the backdrop for a 1975 made for TV movie Winner Take All staring Shirley Jones about a housewife addicted to gambling.

Hollywood ParkNew Turf Course

A new era begin at the track with the opening of the Hollywood Park Casino in 1994. During this period many upgrades have been made to the facility and racing surface.

Hollywood Park which has a purse index of 47 making it one of the premier tracks in the country. It also was the only major track that could run under the lights until Churchill Downs Corp. installed lighting at Churchill and the Fair Grounds.

At the close of the 2011 season Hollywood Park saw an increase in handle and number of horses per race. This may seem like a good omen but more than likely the track like others in the country may only be in existence by a twist of fate. The downfall of many tracks was that their land was more valuable to develop than race on. With the downturn of the economy the reverse seems true and owners have no choice but to keep running. In 2012 there was a rare dead heat in the jockey standings. Martin Garcia beat Joel Rosario by one win in the spring meet, then Rosario came back to beat Garcia by one in the fall meet giving them each 66 wins for the year.

Hollywood ParkHarness Racing Monday

In 2012 Hollywood Park was renamed Betfair Hollywood Park but the name change doesn't take away the fact that the track faces the same fate as Golden Gate. It too seems headed for a mall or housing project.

On December 22, 2013 around 6:13 p.m. Corey Nakatani finished a furious drive to get Woodman's Luck up by a nose, bringing the curtain down on one of America's storied racing facility's. The track that once hosted the first running of the Breeders Cup, has a date with the wrecking ball, not your happy Hollywood ending.

Things being what they were back in the thirties and forty's many top horses stayed on the east coast but Hollywood Park did get a few top horses to run there. Starting in 1938, when Seabiscuit made his only Hollywood start capturing the initial running of the Hollywood Gold Cup. West coast based horses, Citation, Swaps, Native Diver, Cougar II, J O Tobin, were regulars at the Inglewood oval. Starting in the sixties, east coast horses like Kelso and Dr Fager showed up. Into the seventies and beyond, travel was not that big a deal and more east coast horse ventured west, Affirmed, John Henry, Sunday Silence, Cigar, Seattle Slew and Spectacular Bid were some of those who made the journey.

It is worth noting that Kelso who only finished off the board ten times in sixty three races, failed to hit the board in his two Hollywood Park starts. Likewise Seattle Slew, who won fourteen of seventeen starts, finished second in two others, failed to hit the board only once in his career, guess where?

As for myself I only made it to Hollywood Park once, way back in 1968. I was only in Inglewood for a night waiting for a flight back east the next day, realizing the proximity between the hotel, track and airport I was able to squeeze in a few races. Up to that point I had never experienced a place like Hollywood Park and  always thought I would make it back. That ain't happening !