This Friday and Saturday, many of the pieces of Hollywood Park will be up for auction—artwork, memorabilia, machinery—but at least one item won't be on the list. After the track closed its doors for the last time in December, Lori Harmon and her family were left wondering what happened to the artwork from the Turf Club. That's where a painting of Harmon's sister, Cheri Iozzia Von Platen, former exercise rider at the historic track, once hung.
Harmon said her sister was a lifelong horse lover who used to sneak out of their parents' Lompoc, Calif. house to groom horses and clean stalls at a barn until she could convince the barn owner to teach her to ride.
“We didn't grow up with horses because my parents had five kids, so horses weren't in the budget,” said Harmon.
Von Platen eventually began breaking colts and showing horses at several area ranches. At 16, Von Platen fell in love with Thoroughbreds, and the day she turned 18, left home to become an exercise rider. She rode at several different tracks, but Hollywood was her favorite base.
Harmon said that one day, her sister told the family she had been asked to pose for a painting of the track but never learned who the artist was or how they came across Von Platen. Harmon said her sister was a very good rider but never became a jockey and wasn't exactly famous. The resulting artwork hung in the Turf Club until Dec. 22.
Sadly, Von Platen was involved in a riding accident on the track that left her with overwhelming back pain and vertigo. Against doctor's orders, she continued to ride until the pain became too much. She retired and began rescuing and rehabilitating Thoroughbreds in San Juan when she got into a serious car accident, exacerbating her injuries from the track.
Von Platen committed suicide in 2011, telling family that “she could take the pain but not being able to ride was unbearable.”
“Her death broke our family's hearts, especially our mother and father,” said Harmon, whose parents are now in their eighties.
Harmon is the executive director of the Equine Alliance Youth Foundation—a job she said she took in honor of her sister's efforts to rescue horses. The foundation pairs rescue horses with children and teens for equine-assisted therapy.
It was a point of pride for her parents that the painting of Von Platen hung in the Turf Club alongside legendary horses and riders, and Harmon is hoping that former Hollywood patrons can help her track it down. Hollywood Park officials told her that the painting was among several that walked off on the track's last night.
“I'm sure somebody else loved Hollywood Park as much as my sister and probably didn't want to see the items go to auction,” said Harmon. “If my sister was alive, she probably would have done the same thing, too. Maybe if the person who has the picture hears about the story they would find it in their heart to give it back. I would be happy to pay a reward.”
Harmon asks anyone with information to call her at 805-835-5104 or email [email protected]
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