LA Weekly: Chronicling the Last Days of Hollywood Park

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As the storied track prepares to close its doors for good Dec. 22, LA Weekly devotes a lengthy piece to the nostalgia, repercussions, and symbolism regarding the end of Betfair Hollywood Park.

Author Mike Seely takes in the racetrack from every possible viewpoint, incorporating comments from bettors, trainers, owners, backstretch workers, and turf writers among others.

“So many people live on the backstretch; a lot of families are going to be disrupted. It’s not just a racetrack. It’s a home,” laments backstretch worker Lisa Mayer.

“It’s sad that it’s going away, but it’s not a death grip for California racing,” says trainer John Sadler.

Seely also broadens the context to take a look at the sport in general.  He writes:

“In baseball, the equivalent would be if Fenway Park ceased operating, with no replacement planned. But while America’s pastime faces fixable challenges, many have diagnosed horse racing with terminal cancer: The sport is in need of a miracle cure to survive at anything but its most elite level. As the clock ticks, there’s no tenable consensus about how to save it.”

Read the entire piece at LA Weekly

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  • Richard C

    The comments by Mike Mitchell sum everything up. Essentially, the track was doomed by evil vultures that Upton Sinclair could not dream up for a muckraking novel.

    • Karen Tracy

      Love the reference to Upton Sinclair.

  • greg

    Everything from this week forward, parking, admission, programs, seats, should ALL be free, how much difference will the $1mm they bring in for the next 2 weeks truly make. On the last day they should allow fans onto the infield to remove flowers, plants, etc. rather than let them die (they did this at Santa Anita several years when the meet ended) these are all nickle & dime stuff but is a nice way to say THANKS

    • MA

      They’ve been mailing it in for years, but every good corporation knows to milk it to the last.

  • hadrianmarcus

    “It’s sad that it’s going away, but it’s not a death grip for California racing,” says trainer John Sadler.
    California racing has been limping along, resting on its laurels of eras past…for years now. I was raised on California Horse Racing but the continuence of six horse fields, a future with either an overused Santa Anita turf course or a limited Cali turf schedule, and running anything called the Los Alamitos Turf Cup or Santa Anita Gold Cup…motivates this 35 year better to say he will end all his business with California racing the day HP closes. (Excepting the Breeders Cups, of course). May the ghosts of Hollywood Park long haunt those who played a role in the track’s demise.

  • tata

    Flying in from Nocal to say goodbye, you can wave to me in the winners circle after the 7th, I will be wearing a black sweater

  • Francis Bush

    Huge loss. The track was accessible to city travel. Looked okay.Nice place to wager easily. Had some pretty good horses. Bettered most places chosen for Breeders’ Cups. Facilities reasonable. What more does the horse player ask for?

  • Don Reed

    Sadly, with the theme of HP dying being discussed of and on for the past decade, now that it’s happening, the parade has passed by and so has the interest of most of the onlookers.

  • Flag Is Up

    No one can argue the fact that racetracks located in run down undesirable areas are going to have a more difficult time drawing fans, Hollywood Park, Pimlico, and Aqueduct are prime examples. However, the fact remains that small fields, high takeout rates, questions regarding horse doping & dying horses are plaguing this sport. Would any of you here call bull fighting a sport? Well many people I know think horse racing is no different than bull fighting or boxing. They read about horses being doped they go to the track or watch on TV and see a horse snap off a leg and have no desire to be a part of the game. And since there are no admission cost to playing the lottery or going to the casino and playing cards or slot machine they see more value in that.

    Like many here I’m a fan of horse racing and like few here I do not gamble. The problems that infect this sport will likely not be repaired in my lifetime!

  • David

    Pretty heavy piece. Certainly not the end of CA racing but simply can’t be good however it
    got to this point. History says area can go through renaissance but I’m familiar with Inglewood and, I too wonder how high-end residential is going to be received. As to the ‘do as Ireland does . . .’ thing, the US is pretty big and I’m not sure Finland or France’s social systems apply here any more than promoting racing like the Emerald Isle does it. And, for those who feel Churchill Downs has hastened HP’s demise, wake up and look in the (CA) mirror.

  • Bottlecap44

    Hmm so maybe this helps explain the East coast vs West coast animosity that seems to exist in the world of horse racing. People at BFHW are mad that Churchill sold them out to a developer. But I don’t think it means the death of horse racing everywhere. Other tracks have had increases in wagering & attendance so maybe for BFHW it was more bad location or maybe even higher labor costs/workers comp/taxes etc in CA?

    The article makes some great points about how the Triple Crown races should be open to 3 yr olds & up, something I’ve wished forever! It would help avoid pushing young 2 yr old horses too hard before their leg joints mature & would probably reduce the breakdowns that turn off new fans. It’s also right about how online wagering should be opened up to more states (I think there are what, six or seven states where people still can’t bet horse racing online?)

    • Tonto

      More damage done to 3 year old since they started running against the 4 and ups.. They need to stay with their own age group at least thru high school not go play college ball with the big kids… I had more sound older horses (up racing thru age10) that raced at 2 than the ones that had to tackle the ‘big’ guys at 3 .

  • Tonto

    we loose the beauty of HP for ‘basic government ugly’ of Los Alimitos.. the ‘sport’ of racing has lost it’s sportsmen replaced by businessmen.. After the bitter fight between Marg Evertt and the stockholders-everyone lost

  • Tonto

    PS Like a dead fish-racing in California is rotting from the head down (CHRB)

  • we’re watching

    While Sadler’s comments may seem to be benign or self-serving as hoping for a future, it seems to me horsemen like him give nothing back. They did not say a word to try to sway opinion or save this track. At the best, they should have forwarded the idea to have it saved as a Historic National Treasure as so many landmarks have been deemed. These guys just take the purses and do not give back.

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