Historical Race Track Closes Down
Most of the prominent faces associated with the glory days of Hollywood Park racetrack since it opened in 1938 are white, but the desperate bettors who tried to keep the antiquated landmark open were Black like me.
We didn’t see the roaring crowds when the grandstands were flush and we couldn’t afford the extra 10 bucks to sit in the Turf Club that offers dining and a birds eye view of the finish line.
So, when the final weekend unfolds on Friday Dec. 20 with a Pick Six carryover of $79,599 to mark the beginning of the end of Hollywood Park’s history, the reviews will be mixed.
The racetrack was doomed when late Raiders owner Al Davis declined a last minute offer to transform the track into a state of the art football stadium and then moved his team back to Oakland.
It was certainly going to be crushed down to rubble when in 2005; Bay Meadows Land Company bought Hollywood Park from Churchill Downs for $260 million.
The same company closed Bay Meadows Racecourse in San Mateo, near San Francisco, in favor of a major mixed-use redevelopment project.
So, last spring, the announcement became official that the 2013 fall meet would be the final season at Hollywood Park.
Buildings, including the mammoth grandstand and the acres of concrete backstretch stables 1,900 horse stalls and currently house an estimated 600 workers and their families will be replaced with a development complex that is to include housing and retail outlets.
Many of the 215 full-time employees will secure work at Santa Anita in Arcadia which will extend its meet and is the beneficiary of the closure, the booming Del Mar racetrack near San Diego will add a Fall Meet and nearby Los Alamitos will expand thoroughbred racing at its track in Cerritos.
Meanwhile, the last weekend in the history of Hollywood Park will resemble the first one in 1938 when the biggest film stars during the era such as Al Jolson, Joan Crawford, Milton Berle, Claudette Colbert, Bob Hope and Barbara Stanwyck, Cary Grant, John Wayne and Alfred Hitchcock, Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor flocked to the Inglewood venue.
Regulars to the Turf Club that frequently occupied only a hand full of bettors will be flush, while those loyal customers will be pushed to the side for the historical closure.
It’s a shame, but it is one of the reasons why the racetrack will not get any salutes from those I sat next too and endured the small fields, the poor Turf Club service and employees catering to those that offered them the largest tips.
There are some that I will surely miss such as Joe and many of the tellers who always greeted me kindly and made a welcome experience for my losing ways.
But, for the most part the racetrack did not have any friends in the political arena that refused to allow Snoop Dogg to perform during one of the Friday nightly concerts.
It was those Friday night racing that offered concerts after the races that could have revolutionized the industry. It attracted young and new bettors to the track, thus making betting on a horse one of the many options they had.
Just as Hollywood Park is shutting down for good after 75 years, introducing us to the likes of racing supers stars Seabiscuit, JO Tobin, Lava Man and Zenyatta, nearby, The Forum where the Lakers once dazzled is reopening after being renovated and looks quite pretty with a fresh new red coat.
Thus the racetrack that birthed the Breeders Cup and introduced new ways to wager is dead.
So, let’s say goodbye to a dear old friend, Hollywood Park has run a helluva race, but in the end like most of the two dollar and 10 cent super bettors, it has lost.