An enthusiastic crowd helped send Hollywood Park into the sunset as the historic track, which opened June 10, 1938, offered its final day of live racing Sunday.
The paid on-track attendance was 13,283, but thousands more made their way into the legendary facility after admission became free shortly before the fourth race was made official.
Before the 11-race card was completed some 5 ½ hours after it began, California Chrome, the 2-1 favorite, became the last stakes winner in Hollywood Park history, rolling to a 6 ¼-length victory in the $200,500 King Glorious Stakes, which was restricted to 2-year-olds bred or sired in California.
Owned by breeders Steve Coburn and Martin Perry, the son of Lucky Pulpit and the Not for Love mare Love the Chase is trained by Art Sherman, who has spent nearly 60 years at Hollywood Park as an exercise rider, jockey and trainer.
Sherman often galloped Swaps, considered the greatest California bred of all and immortalized in a statue that has stood at Hollywood Park, where the son of Khaled earned 10 of his 19 wins, since 1958.
“It brings back a lot of memories for me,’’ said Sherman, 76. “It’s a special thing for me to be able to win here at Hollywood Park. I started here as a young kid and rode my first race when I was 18 in 1955.
“Going back through the years we had a lot of fun with the big crowds and the great horses. It’s fitting for me, but I feel very sad..
“This horse was training excellent for this race and he loves this track. He’s a nice colt, he just needs to grow up now. I think you’ll see his best races as a 3-year-old.’’
In winning for the third time in seven starts, California Chrome, who was ridden by Victor Espinoza, completed the seven furlongs over Cushion Track in 1:22.12. He paid $6.40, $4 and $3 while increasing his earnings to $214,850.
It was the fourth stakes win of the Autumn meet for Espinoza, tying him with Rafael Bejarano and Corey Nakatani for the lead among riders.
Life Is a Joy, the 9-2 fourth choice in the field of 10 – reduced by the scratch of Mass Transit – finished second, a half-length in front of 5-2 third choice Pray Hard.
Both the runner-up and the third place finisher are trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, who set an Autumn meet record Saturday when Swiss Lake Yodeler gave him a seventh stakes win with a victory in the Soviet Problem. Life Is a Joy paid $5.60 and $3.40 while the show price on Pray Hard was $3.
Although he had to settle for third in the King Glorious, Bejarano won four times Sunday, clinching his sixth local riding title and second at an Autumn meet. He finished with 37 wins, three more than runner-up Joe Talamo, who doubled on the final day.
“It feels great to win the title,’’ said Bejarano. “It means a lot to me. When I came back to the winner’s circle (after winning the 9th with Ashley’s Bambino), I could hear everyone cheering and I was just so happy.’’
Hall of Famer Bob Baffert won his second consecutive Autumn training title – and fourth overall – finishing with 16 wins, one more than John Sadler, who led the 2013 Spring/Summer season.