What can you say about a seventy-five-year-old racetrack that died?
That she was young and beautiful back when “Old Hollywood” was still just “Hollywood”; that she remained beautiful years later, even as the pictures got smaller and Cary Grant’s hair turned white; that for decades it was the place where Hollywood’s and racing’s biggest stars came out to play.
It is no secret that newspaper editors love both celebrities and these “end of an era” stories, and the upcoming closure of Hollywood Park gave license to run enough of those archived photos to fill a warm, nostalgic bath. The New York Times filled more than two pages in last Sunday’s Sports section with some tender memories of people who will sincerely miss the place. And while some of those great photos traded on the celebrity angle (the one of Shirley MacLaine, circa “Irma la Douce,” horsing around with her chestnut filly namesake is a classic), it was the great horses who got top billing.
Seabiscuit. Citation. Dr Fager. Affirmed. Spectacular Bid. If you were a great race horse from the golden days of the pari-mutuel era, chances are, you came to race at Hollywood Park. Even as Old Hollywood began to die off, and the crowds thinned out, and surrounding Inglewood went to seed, you could still count on horses like Cigar and Zenyatta to provide the missing star power.
Track management at Hollywood was quite inventive at its best. It was Hollywood that originated the Pick Six, and the track’s website claims they also originated the exacta (who knew?). But as Joe E. Brown could tell you, nobody’s perfect, and yes, mistakes were made. A Goose Girl would not have played at stolid old Belmont Park, but at the Track of the Lakes and Flowers she made sense. Sinking the Goose Girl and importing flamingos from Hialeah made no sense whatsoever, and moving the finish line farther down the stretch to improve the view for the high rent district at the expense of the grandstand patrons was downright hostile. By the time Churchill Downs flipped its fixer-upper to the Bay Meadows Land Company in the midst of the real estate bubble, the writing was on the wall, and on Sunday it becomes an epitaph.
In their advance obituary, the LA Weekly’s headline blared “Hollywood Park is Shutting Down. Will Horse Racing be Next?” Well, everything comes and goes, but to say that a track that got caught up in a land rush is somehow perfectly illustrative of racing’s future is, in a word, nuts. Those who show up on-track and supply 10% of Hollywood Park’s handle surely deserve better, and we hope they find a nice simulcast location, either at home or not far from it. But late Sunday afternoon, just south of Pincay Drive, a bell will ring one last time, an allowance field will take one last lap around the turf course, the “official” light will come on one more time, and that will be that.
The King Glorious Stakes, 7F, 2YO Ca-Bred, Synth
Scheduled post time 5:05pm PT
By Justin Finch
Jerry Hollendorfer has had quite a meet, and it looks as if he has a good chance to add a win in the King Glorious.
The TimeformUS Pace Projector puts Pray Hard on a clear early lead today, but he has proven that he doesn’t need one to run well.
He has strong speed figures. Hollendorfer gets Trainer Ratings of 100 when using Bejarano, 98 in two-year-old stakes races, and 94 when coming off a maiden victory.
We don’t love the way Pray Hard was lugging out in the stretch last time, but in other respects, he was visually impressive in his last two starts.
He is our selection.