That’s a Wrap!

by | 12.22.2013 | 10:52pm
The final race at Hollywood Park came down to a close photo finish, with Woodmans Luck ending a 17-race losing streak to get the win over Depreciable

It's over. The long, sad goodbye finally has come. Betfair Hollywood Park ran its last race ever Sunday evening after 75 years of showcasing the best the sport has to offer.

The Inglewood, Calif., track, destined for development for the last eight years, was alive like it hadn't been in a long time. A crowd of 13,283 paid their way in and thousands more came in for free after the track stopped charging admission following the fourth race. Fans, young and old, cheered as the starting gates opened for the final time and a field of 12 charged down the infield chute and onto the main turf oval for the last of 11 races.

If they were able to hear track announcer Vic Stauffer on the public address system, they would have learned about some of the all-time greats who stabled at Hollywood Park as he called that last race.

The field made its way around the far turn, “for the final time past the lakes and flowers,” Stauffer said. “They straighten away, 1938 to 2013. A final eighth of a mile – 75 years down to 12 seconds.”

Depreciable was the hunch bet in the Auld Lang Syne race for those who felt betrayed by the accountants and bean counters when Churchill Downs Inc. sold Hollywood Park to a land development company in 2005. Joe Talamo, aboard Depreciable, opened up down the stretch on what looked like an insurmountable advantage for the Jeff Mullins-trained gelding.

But along came Corey Nakatani on Woodmans Luck, a horse who'd lost 17 straight, his last victory coming in October 2010. Somehow, the 5-year-old California-bred gelding closed just like Zenyatta did in the 2010 Vanity Handicap, when she snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in the final strides to beat St Trinians.

Well, it wasn't quite like Zenyatta in the Vanity – “Stamp this day in your minds and your hearts,” Stauffer said that glorious afternoon when Jerry and Ann Moss's champion mare registered her 17th consecutive victory without a defeat.

So, it wasn't Zenyatta; it was Woodmans Luck with a 1-for-23 record – but it was historical just the same.

The two horses hit the wire together. Woodmans Luck was closing fastest on the outside, but Depreciable looked to have his head down at the right time.

“A photo finish in the final race,” Stauffer called. “It comes down to a camera close-up. Seventy-five great years at Hollywood Park. That's a wrap.”

Woodmans Luck won the photo by a nose, the bean counters be damned.

Hollywood Park's final race winner, Woodmans Luck and jockey Corey Nakatani

Hollywood Park's final race winner, Woodmans Luck and jockey Corey Nakatani

The son of Lucky Pulpit (who also sired the penultimate race winner, California Chrome, in the King Glorious Stakes) is trained by Vladimir Cerin and owned by Holly and David Wilson.

“I almost would have taken a four-horse dead heat there and let everyone have a piece of the last race,” Cerin told Hollywood Park publicists. “When they were coming down the stretch, all I could think of is how sad that it was over. I didn't think he could win from where he was.

“Oddly enough,” Cerin added, “Gary Stevens won a race for me here on Christmas Eve (Dec. 24, 2000) on a horse named Jingle Bell Hop and that was the last race on the card.  It's almost hard to enjoy the win when you think this is the last race at this racetrack.  When I started training here, I think it took me a year to win my first race and to have it end like this just seems surreal.”

“That was really emotional,'' said Nakatani. “It's hard to really say that much. This has always been such a great place to be. After winning a bunch of races here, it's hard to see it go. It's pretty sad.''

Racing moves to Santa Anita Park in Arcadia for its traditional opening day on Dec. 26. Santa Anita will run its longest meeting ever, taking over many of the spring and summer dates formerly held by Hollywood Park. Los Alamitos will run a brief meeting in July late in the year, and Del Mar will hold a fall meeting in November, to help fill the void left by Hollywood's demise.

The owner of Hollywood Park, Bay Meadows Land Company, said it will keep the stable area open for another month, until the end of January. That's when reality sets in for horsemen and the stable hands based at Hollywood Park as they are forced to relocate their horses to Santa Anita, San Luis Rey Downs in Bonsall, Los Alamitos in Orange County, or Barretts Sales & Racing in Pomona.

For fans of Hollywood Park, and the employees who have toiled for years at a racetrack they knew was doomed, it's over.

It was fun while it lasted.

  • hadrianmarcus

    Hollywood Park pulls 13,000 for its final day in existence, The Nakayama pulls 125,000 for the Arima Kinen on the same weekend. Nothing sums up the state of American horse racing more than that disparity. But as long as the developers, the track owners, the breeders, and the state governments all get their piece of the pie…everything will be the normal spiraling downward status quo. Goodbye Hollywood Park, you deserved better stewardship and far better owners. Next up….Aqueduct and Calder….

    • Patrick Hagan

      There were over 30,000+ here today. I’ve been coming here for 34 years and this place (and the parking lots) was large…… were parked on the Forum side of the parking lot……I haven’t seen that in years.

    • sold

      Comparing Japan and its closed system to Hollywood Park is so patently ridiculous even you know it

      • khambat

        The only thing I found ridiculous was your reply to the original poster. He compared to race crowds on the same weekend. I would add the Arima Kinen crowd was more than America’s combined attendence for Breeders Cup Weekend (95,000). Horse racing looks like a niche-sport on television and it’s remaining hardcore audience shrinks each year as a result of apathy, customer dissatisfaction, and death by natural causes. As someone recently said, Horse Racing seems to be the only sport that punishes you for loving it.

        • sold

          You are a bigger fool than the OP. Japan and the US racing scene cannot be compared fairly. Wake up

  • BobF

    13,000 people and there were long lines and they couldn’t handle it I heard. They ran out of programs and I heard the lines were a mile long to make a bet or get a drink,
    13,000……that many people used to be the attendance for a Wednesday.

    It’s very sad but racing needs to bury Hollywood Park and work on the future out here.

    • Hoops and Horses

      They obviously were not expecting anything close to 13,000, especially on an NFL Sunday given the NFL is now the 800-pound gorilla of sports.

  • Beach

    I thought the final race was thrilling but I find the whole thing SO sad. I wish it didn’t come to things like this. Can’t it be better?

    • 4Bellwether666

      Sure it can…If the “Magic Man ” shows up…

      • Beach

        Jeez…Wish I could think you were wrong. :/

  • Hoops and Horses

    As mentioned in a number of places concerning this:

    Hollywood Park would likely have been gone
    earlier were it not for the financial crisis of the late 2000s that saw
    real estate values tumble considerably. We all knew this was coming for

    The real problem was, why didn’t anyone step
    up in the meantime to buy Hollywood Park? If it were me and I had
    Comcast, I’d be looking to buy Hollywood with the idea of continuing
    racing there but also converting most of the grandstand into the west
    coast version of Xfinity Live, the complex built on the site of the
    former Spectrum in Philadelphia. The idea would be free grandstand
    admission at all times for live racing and simulcasting since this would
    be a multi-use facility that would be designed to be used year-round
    whether there is live racing or not. That to me could have worked,
    especially if Hollywood Park in the process had become a year-round
    destination that was not just for live racing or simulcasting.

    • Roger

      Why didn’t anyone step up and buy HPark? I believe that the control the TOC has over CA track owner policies is certainly a major factor…….when a track owner can’t even set his own Takeout Rate to grow his/her business is problematic to say the least. The latest example…. TOC let Santa Anita offer doubles at 18% takeout rate but with an attachment….you have to drop rolling doubles and only offer 3 a day figuring the P-3 pools will increase while raking in the 23.68% P-3 takeout rate.
      The loss of HPark has several expected consequences…..So Cal fan base will continue to decline just like Nor Cal Racing when BM Land Company closed Bay Meadows. This So Cal fan base decline will also negatively impact NY,FLA, KY,LA tracks as well because they benefit from So Cal’s horseplayers betting their cards too.
      I would expect at some point a bar/restaurant in the South Bay or Marina Del Rey will
      fill out the necessary forms to carry the Racing Signal and offer wagering to their patrons now that HPark can’t claim the 25 mile racetrack restriction even though HPark officials say they’ll continue as a satellite facility but that shouldn’t give them any special advantages.

  • derbydannyk

    The 13k attendance being reported is an absolute joke. Track was letting people in for free by 2PM, around the same time they ran out of programs. Anything to make it look like people just didn’t care. Would love to see a little digging into that figure.

    • Patrick Hagan

      117% FACT

    • Mimi Hunter

      Ray said in the article that there were 13,283 paid attendance and that they opened the gates and stopped charging admission after the 4th race.

  • Vickie

    There were far more than 13,000 people there – 20,000 at least – probably more – they opened the gates after they ran out the 10,000 programs they ordered – lines were unbelievable and the stand were full – was good to see but the track was not prepared for so many folks – that said the races – the presentation – Mr Stauffer’s calls were superb – a Travesty this track is no more

    • Hoops and Horses

      I suspect they were expecting around 9-10,000 tops, especially given this was an NFL Sunday (NFL is the 800-pound gorilla of sports).

  • Geoff Shackelford

    A few fond memories from otherwise sad day:

    – Knowing that Jack Liebau and friends left hundreds of thousands of dollars on the table by not having enough staff, food, programs, etc… to handle a not-unreasonable crowd of about 20,000. Saturday’s announced attendance of 6000 or so was also a strangely low number. There were twice as many this Saturday compared to the previous when just over 6000 was also the announced number.

    – Walking on the track after the lights went down, only to have the current anda former H. Park leading rider in Bejarano and Maldonado come out for a last walk to see if they could find a souvenir since every possible keepsake in the jock’s room had already been removed by the lowly management (including their names on their stalls).

    – Hearing Vic Stauffer absolutely nail the final call. What a pro. And great work by Jay Cohen as always, with a brilliant Hooray For Hollywood/Auld Lang Syne melding. This more than offset the highly questionable call to close out each day’s card with depressing songs.

    – Seeing schlubby David Israel in schlubby jeans and pullover, going out in no-style as the lowly CHRB chairman that he is. Thanks David for giving the Hollywood Park folks a simulcast signal. Nothing like rewarding the destructive behavior of corrupt hooligans such as yourself.

    -Seeing the Hollywood Park Land Company represented after the 4th race in the winner’s circle by Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Inglewood Councilmans Dotson, Padilla, and Franklin, along with State Senator Rod Wright. Oddly, for the first time ever, a group sponsoring a race was not introduced and the lowly politicos didn’t get to hear Vic say their names. I guess loud booing might have taken place and whatever souls you might have could have been damaged. But nice to see the politicians not hiding who they work for: the so-called “developers” of the so-called housing project that can’t even update its website to reflect the supposedly imminent development.

    – All of the fans taking photos, stealing them off the walls and in general, taking one last look at a great old place. And all of the adults who brought their kids out to show them a national historic treasure. Too bad you didn’t come out sooner.

    • Don Reed

      Good thing Bejarano and Maldonado had valets, otherwise, the management would have swiped their wallets.

    • Patrick Hagan

      There was well over 30K on track today…….and I’ve been coming to Hollywood since the late 70’s

  • Don Reed

    Superb video. Thanks.

  • 4Bellwether666

    They will be talking about Hollywood Park as long as there are two humans left in North America that truly love “The Game”…

  • Evelyn Waugh

    Thank you for writing this series, Mr. Paulick. It’s another indicator of the end…of an era (a time when even law professors of civil procedure hurried out of their classrooms…& down the 405 to get to Hollywood Park). Perhaps Don McLean will write a song about it.

  • David Feinberg

    Can we please now, officially, refer to it as just Hollywood Park. The track’s greatest moments all occurred under that moniker. Those responsible for the new name have done more damage to racing than good. They are no longer involved in the sport. Using that awful name does a disservice to the memory of one of the most influential and important tracks in our history.

    • Karen Tracy

      For those of us that loved and knew it well for so very long, it will ALWAYS be Hollywood Park, much like BSR/FPX will always be Pomona.

    • Alexa Pilcher

      Thank you David Feinberg !!… sheesh, … couldn’t agree with you more. Made my skin crawl every time I heard that ‘B’ word, sounded so corporate, and forced … all the little minions playing into their hands, .. pyugh !!!

      • Sharon

        Good grief people, if it wasn’t for Betfair sponsoring the track this year there would not have been a meet at all.

        • Alexa Pilcher

          Sure, .. suppose they were doing it out of the goodness of their hearts.

  • Alvan0124

    Too bad, it is a model of the business plan for the United States these days. Disregard history, and the product that is delivered for a cheaper product, and higher returns for the CEO’s. They did something similar local to me by selling and auctioning everything on the property of USA International Speedway. They said they were going to develop it, and stripped the land, and did nothing with the now vacant land. I hope that true racing fans don’t have to drive by the closed BHP when the housing units are boarded up and become run down and no longer have the shine of new paint and polished rails. I think this may be an indicator of the state of horse racing and why there needs to be a governing body that has jurisdiction throughout the country. Regulate drug use, safety of the animals and suspend the violators. Yeah, it’s gambling, but going to the track and the experience of the stretch call, the rumble of the horses into the stretch, and the atmosphere is so much more. It could continue to be a place where families can go for an afternoon of fun and excitement, or apartments and a shopping mall. How much sense does that make?

  • swiss305

    The final years of Hollywood Park raise a lot of questions and make one wonder: who was responsible the last few years for not promoting the track AT ALL, for not proposing and promoting alternatives to demolition and re-use, for the questionable plans for housing and upscale retail in a community obviously suffering socially and economically, for just giving up before all had to be lost. The politicians and developers on track yesterday should have been booed and then escorted off the property–criminals proudly returning to the scene of the crime and gloating over the body. The people who showed up for the first time in 10 or 20 years weren’t much better but the “dignitaries” had their plans and their deals signed and sealed even if track attendance had been double or triple or more what it was every day. They leave Inglewood in in the throws of poverty, crime and dysfunction and blithely destroy it’s unique, irreplaceable venue. That’s where crowds will rush to pay big bucks to live, to eat, to shop? It’s beyond comprehension to anyone who has more in mind than blowing up the past and building his own future vision, however foolishly, out of nothing but figures on paper detatched from reality.

    • Richard C

      Operating to fail – and profiting from selling off the assets to the highest bidder – is a fine art perfected on Wall Street.

  • dispute92

    Many of us were hoping for that “offer they couldn’t refuse”…right out of a Hollywood movie would come. It didn’t.
    How sad to see an end of an era where movie stars, movies, famous racehorses from Seabiscut to Zenyatta, the first Breeders Cup, a thrilling BC race with two Derby winners not disappointing their fans, all took palce. Yet, CA poitics entered in and being the fans of racing they are, sold it down the drain. Churchill started it and it’s own state sped it along.
    Vic and crew gave us all some great moments from the past along with the last bugle of “Welcome to Hollywood” was played. RIP Hollywood Park.

  • Lanie Wright Johnson

    Well….it was a shameful day in the history of racing…not the races or the fans…the fact.The fact that no one in the industry stepped up to preserve some of it for the ages. No one who got rich there even lifted a hand. I’m still not sure it will ever sink in for me. Yes, we knew it was headed in this direction…we had FB pages supporting saving the track…fans hands were tied..little could be done. Churchill sold it…no back bone and I “live” in Ky. I can’t imagine the numbers of fans in the future who will just sit and wonder how in the world such a treasure was shoveled under. I don’t care about progress..California’s always had it’s share…besides look what “progress” has gotten all of the long run. At least a part of it should be seen by fans now and forever. It is a disgrace to the legends who made their mark in history there…it is even more of a disgrace to the countless horses who weren’t legends,,,who gave all they had when asked….every one of them was loved…by somebody. I never thought I’d live to see a time when I could click a link and if I could provide transport I could have a horse for “free”. Ultimately, greed is killing racing…greed is killing thoroughbreds…and the latter deserves far far better. It’s been happening for decades. One by one we see the history of this sport falling off the face of the earth…no one steps up. Well…at least at this point in time there is “discussion” about breeding and not breeding just for the sake of an almighty dollar. But will that save the sport in the end? I fear it will not. Right now..out there are some fine babies that could hold the key to this next decade of racing…when and if the industry turns back the clock to revisit the time the “horses” were what mattered. If I’d been the last person to leave HP last night..I would have sat in a seat in the grand stand….all night instead…hoping that just maybe I would hear the hooves of past ghosts…..who won’t ever…”move on.”

    • sold

      “greed” isn’t applicable. The best (most profitable) use of an asset is what capitalism in this country is based on. Should we bring back payphones and Sheriff Taylor too?

      • Lanie Wright Johnson

        What has been done to the breeding of thoroughbreds is not the best use of an asset…..I have no problem with progress…in this instance however..all I hoped would come out of it at the very least…was a museum….that much of this track would be preserved.

        • sold

          Oh please-live racing failed and you want to build a museum there instead?

  • Marie Jost

    As a lover of Monmouth Park and it’s history, i would hope the NJ TBOA will take notice of what has happened to Hollywood Park and see to it that Monmouth will not fail and succumb to a similiar demise.

    • Don Reed

      You’re whistling into the wind.

  • David

    Everyone that has the chance should read Osterman’s piece on the end of Hollywood. Quoting briefly

    “It’s not a coincidence that the decline of the game in this state accelerated as
    owners and trainers gained more power. Horsemen, you see, always want “more”, even when “more” is actually “less”. Any owner/trainer would rather be 3/5 in a five-horse field than 6/1 in a 12-horse lineup. They don’t care that the public has little interest in short fields and short prices. They don’t care that people don’t come to the track as long as they get theirs. The successful ones are willing to block any sensible change if that means they might have to leave the comfort of their local estates. They are willing to ride this dead horse until it drops and,once the gravy train comes off the rails for good, they’ll just pack up and find more fertile territory.”

    Well put. Baffert, Pegram, Mitchell, O’neill, Sadler etc. all are more reposnible for the demise of racing in California than anyone else. As long as they got theirs all was good. You reap what you so. I fell bad for the backstretch people, the small time outfits, etc. that it will be harder for them to make a living going forward but those in charge got the lump of coal in their stocking that they deserved.

    • 4Bellwether666

      They should have gotten a LUMP of HORSE DO DO in their stockings!!!…

  • Big Red

    For those of you that actually think racing is alive and well and “deserves” the slot money hand out, otherwise known as an entitlement, just remember that sick feeling we all had at post time last night for the last race at HP. Sooner or later the slot $$$ WILL disappear.
    Does anyone really think this will be the last major track to close this decade?

  • Hoops and Horses

    What the closing of Hollywood Park should have also meant was the end of year-round racing in Northern and Southern California, with the two circuits consolidated into a single circuit as follows:

    Santa Anita: Dec. 26-May 3 (Derby Day)
    Golden Gate: May 2 (Oaks Day)-July 6

    No. Cal Fairs: July 9-Sept. 7*
    Del Mar: July 16-Sept. 6
    (Only time No. Cal and So. Cal would be operating at same time as Del Mar gets enough shippers for their meet)

    *- Fairs that normally run after this date would still run as they do now

    Fairplex: Sept. 7-28
    Santa Anita (Autumn): Oct. 3-Nov. 1 (BC Sat.)
    Golden Gate: Oct. 31 (BC Fri.)-Dec. 20
    Del Mar (Thanksgiving): Nov. 27-30

    This would require some of the No. Cal Fairs to move to late August-early Sept. to accommodate Golden Gate running into July and if necessary, even start the school year a little later than at present to accommodate such. Del Mar would run a four-day Thanksgiving meet designed specifically to host the Autumn Turf Festival Stakes that Hollywood Park had. Otherwise, with some exceptions the overwhelming majority of now-former Hollywood Park stakes would be run at Golden Gate during their two meets.

    That’s how I would do it.

    • Chris Lowe

      So you would have California schools change their schedule for……horse racing? smh

      • Hoops and Horses

        It was noted to me that when Santa Rosa had concerns about the start of the school year interfering with proposed fair dates for 2014 next summer, it was because the school year in No. Cal for some begins in mid-August due to some families taking long vacations in January. To make a single circuit (for most of the year) work in So. Cal. that requires Golden Gate to go to early July, meaning some of the fairs that go in June would need to be pushed back to accommodate a later finish at Golden Gate. The real problem is horse shortage may very well force this anyway.

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