Weekend Escape: Hollywood Park
by Jo Anne Disney
December 4, 2013 • 312 views
Legendary Hollywood Park located in Inglewood, will be closing its doors on December 22, 2013 after 75 years. This historical racetrack opened on June 10, 1938. At the time, many movie stars were frequent visitors to this exciting sport. History tells us that “the Hollywood Turf Club was formed under the chairmanship of Jack L. Warner (of the Warner Brothers film corporation). The 600 original shareholders included many stars, directors and producers of the film world.” Old timers included: Al Jolson and Raoul Walsh ; Joan Blondell; Ronald Colman; Walt Disney; Bing Crosby; Sam Goldwyn; Darryl Zanuck; George Jessel; Ralph Bellamy; Hal Wallis; Anatole Litvak; Hunt Stromberg; Wallace Beery; Irene Dunne, and Mervyn LeRoy (director of Hollywood Park from 1941 to1986).
In addition, many legendary horses ran at Hollywood Park. Among them, “Seabiscuit was victorious in 1938’s inaugural running of the Hollywood Gold Cup, which would be won 11 times by Thoroughbreds distinguished as Horse of the Year: 1938, Seabiscuit; 1940, Challedon; 1951, Citation; 1956, Swaps; 1957, Round Table; 1971, Ack Ack; 1979, Affirmed; 1987, Ferdinand; 1990, Criminal Type; 1995, Cigar; 1998, Skip Away.”
During WWII, racing was suspended. And history tells us that “Hollywood Park was used as a storage facility from 1942-44 in association with the war effort, opening only for a brief War Charities meeting in November, 1944.” Then in 1949, two weeks before the regular meet, the grandstand and clubhouse caught on fire. That summer, racing took place at Santa Anita and Hollywood park reopened the summer of 1950.
Racehorse fans will be interested to know that the first “triple dead heat for win at Hollywood Park occurred on July 3, 1957, when $5,000 claimers Joe’s Pleasure (George Taniguchi), Challenger Tom (Bill Shoemaker) and Leaful (William Harmatz) could not be separated.” Then on May 10, 1967, the turf course opened. Exacta Wagering began in 1971. Then, in 1972, Hollywood Park had a major expansion, doubling the size of the Turf club, adding the Winner’s Circle Dining Room and upgraded the stable area. In 1973, under Governor Ronald Reagan, Sunday racing was introduced to the public. Did people like Hollywood Park? People loved the giveaways. So on May 4, 1980, a record crowd of 80,348 people came for the tote bag giveaway. The crowd also enjoyed the Breeder’s Cup. Hollywood Park hosted the inaugural Breeder’s Cup on November 7, 1984 with a crowd of 64,625.
Hollywood Park has always been known as the track of the stars. Recently, attendance has been dropping. Rumors have been flying about its closure. Then, on March 13, 2012, the Hollywood Park Racing Association and Betfair US, “the L.A. based subsidiary of Betfair Group that also owns Television Games Network, completed a historic agreement intended to transform the customer experience for fans at the venue as well as online and on television.” This is when Hollywood Park was renamed “Betfair Hollywood Park.” Apparently, this merger didn’t help, because the legendary Hollywood Park will be closed forever. It is sad to think of all that history being lost forever. If you have never experienced Hollywood Park, take your camera and record some lasting memories.