Goodbye, Hollywood Park

Founded by the Hollywood elite, Hollywood Park’s first race was run on June 10, 1938.

 

Race Horses

Jack Warner, who owned a thoroughbred farm in the San Fernando Valley, was the Park’s first chairman. His shareholders included Harry Warner, Walt Disney, Bing Crosby, Samuel Goldwyn and other powerful players in movie land.

The Los Angeles Times published the memoirs of Richard Warren, who’s worked at the Park since 1948, in The long goodbye for Hollywood Park, through knowing eyes 

“‘I remember Fred Astaire, sitting in these boxes,” he says. “Then, there’d be Lucy and Desi Arnaz and they’d be arguing about something and they’d be with Jimmy Durante and he’d be just sitting there, smoking a big cigar, and ignoring them.’

“Most of the greatest thoroughbreds in history ran at Hollywood Park, and Warren says, to him, one was the most impressive.

“‘I saw Citation in the post parade and I really remember it because he just stood out,” Warren says. “I don’t remember the year, or the race, or even if he won, but you looked at him and you knew he was special.’

“Citation, the eighth of 11 Triple Crown champions, won the Hollywood Gold Cup in 1951. It was his last race and, with that victory, he became the first horse to top $1 million in winnings.

“Warren recalls movie mogul Louis B. Mayer, arriving with groups of 15 to 20 people. He remembers track owner Marje Everett “walking around like a peacock” on the arm of Cary Grant.”

Lucy and Desi also owned a Thoroughbred ranch in the San Fernando Valley not far from where I grew up. Liz Taylor Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant were also frequently seen among the crowds at Hollywood Park.

Hollywood Park hosted more important elites. Zenyatta, champion mare and 2010 Horse of the Year, and I’ll Have Another, the 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, lived in the stables. Seabiscuit, Swaps and Triple Crown winners Citation, Seattle Slew and Affirmed hustled across the finish line. Hall of Fame jockeys Bill Shoemaker, Laffit Pincay Jr., Eddie Delahoussaye, Gary Stevens, and Mike Smith were among those who graced the winner’s circle.

The San Diego Union remembered the fans concern for three great horses who galloped on years ago but still live in the memories who cheered them on as they dashed toward victory.

“Three champion horses are buried here. Their remains and memorials must be moved. Del Mar has dibs on Native Diver. Landaluce is returning to Spendthrift Farm in Lexington, Ky., where she was bred. Trainer Thad Ackel will relocate Great Communicator.”

Matt Gardner at The Atlantic Journal summarized a few of the greats who walked the 260 acre grounds.

“In 1984, Hollywood Park hosted the inaugural Breeders’ Cup, a day of racing featuring seven championship level events topped by the Breeders’ Cup Classic and its $3 million purse. Wild Again won the first Classic, with horses such as Lashkari (GB), Royal Heroine (IRE), Chief’s Crown, and Princess Rooney among the winners in Inglewood. Pat Day and Eddie Delahoussaye were some of the winning riders, while Roger Laurin, Neil Drysdale and John Gosden picked up wins on the trainer side. 68,000 fans packed the Hollywood Park grandstand that day. I doubt few in attendance that day could imagine what would become of the track just 30 years later….Part of our sport is gone for good after Hollywood closes…”

The $200,000 King Glorious Stakes for 2-year-olds was the last race Sunday, December 22, 2012. When the starting gate left the track for the last time, a piece of my heart went with tit. I spent many happy hours there, mingling with the stars I loved best: the horses who pranced to the starting line and raced past me, just one more fan in the stands.

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