It felt more like a wake than a victory as Woodmans Luck and jockey Corey Nakatani headed to the winner’s circle after the11th race Sunday, the last pair to ever do so as the rich history of Hollywood Park came to a close after 75 years.
“It’s sad,” he said minutes later in the jockeys’ room. “It’s hard to say. It’s been a great place to be. To see it go, it’s hard.”
Known for its pink flamingoes in the infield lake, Hollywood Park opened for business on June 10, 1938, by the Hollywood Turf Club, with Jack L.Warner of Warner Brothers, serving as its chairman and its 600 original shareholders including Al Jolson and Raoul Walsh (two of the original directors of the board); 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 the late Mervyn LeRoy (director of Hollywood Park from 1941 until his death in 1986).
Also known as Betfair hollywood Park, the track was where Seabiscuit won the first Gold Cup* in 1938; and where Citation became the first million-dollar winning horse with his final race (the Hollywood Gold Cup) in 1951. It was also the site where Laffit Pincay Jr. surpassed Willie Shoemaker as the all-time winning jockey on December 10, 1999; where Seattle Slew suffered his first defeat (coming in 4th) after capturing the Triple Crown in 1977; where Affirmed became racing’s first $2-million winner with a victory in 1979 Hollywood Gold Cup under jockey Laffit Pincay Jr, and where Zenyatta won her 19th race in a row in 2010, to name but a few of its many highlights.
It also served as host to the inaugural running of the Breeders’ Cup in 1984.
Churchill Downs, Inc. bought the facility for $140 million in 1999, then sold it the Bay Land Company for $250 million in cash in 2005.
Yet, despite its rich history, Hollywood Park has continued to bleed money as enthusiasm for the sport has waned in recent years, until it could no longer sustain itself.
The city of Inglewood has approved a plan to demolish Hollywood Park, and build nearly 3,000 homes along with retail outlets, offices, and a park on the 238 acre site. However, the casino adjacent to the track will be renovated and will remain.
In the meantime, it is expected that Hollywood Park's racing dates from 2014 will be transferred to Santa Anita Park, Los Alamitos Race Course and Del Mar Racetrack.
*The Hollywood Gold Cup, was won by 11 Thoroughbreds named as Horse of the Year: Seabiscuit, 1938; Challedon 1940; Citation; 1957; Swaps; 1956; Round Table; 1958; Ack Ack; 1971;, Affirmed; 1979, Ferdinand, 1987; Criminal Type 1990; Cigar, 1995; and Skip Away 1998.