Hollywood Park to close after 75 years

May 9 2013 - 3:43pm

Images

FILE - In this July 3, 2005, file photo, Horses leave the gate during the Vanity Handicap horse race at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif. Splendid Blended ridden by Jerry Bailey, far right, won the race. Betfair Hollywood Park will close by year's end and the 75-year-old racetrack property will be developed by its owner. The track announced on Thursday, May 9, 2013, what had been anticipated since Churchill Downs sold it to Hollywood Park Land Co. in 2005. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)
FILE - In this July 3, 2005, file photo, Horses leave the gate during the Vanity Handicap horse race at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif. Splendid Blended ridden by Jerry Bailey, far right, won the race. Betfair Hollywood Park will close by year's end and the 75-year-old racetrack property will be developed by its owner. The track announced on Thursday, May 9, 2013, what had been anticipated since Churchill Downs sold it to Hollywood Park Land Co. in 2005. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)

LOS ANGELES -- Betfair Hollywood Park will close by year's end and the 75-year-old racetrack property in Inglewood that hosted Seabiscuit and the first Breeders' Cup in 1984 will be developed by its owner.

The track announced on Thursday that it won't apply to the California Horse Racing Board for 2014 dates, signaling the end of the line for a property whose future had been in question since Churchill Downs sold it to Hollywood Park Land Co. in 2005.

At the time, the new owner said racing would continue for a minimum of three years while an effort was made to revitalize the sport's business model. But the track had little luck in stemming declines in wagering and attendance, problems that plague the racing industry nationwide.

"From an economic point of view, the land now simply has a higher and better use, so, unfortunately, racing will not continue here once the 2013 autumn meet is completed," track President Jack Liebau said.

The owner spent more than $8 million to replace the track's dirt surface with synthetic Cushion Track in 2006 as part of a then-statewide mandate for such surfaces.

The current summer meet runs through July 14. The fall meet opens Nov. 7 and ends on Dec. 22.

The stable area is expected to close by the end of the year.

The closure is expected to set in motion a scramble by Southern California's other tracks to acquire Hollywood Park's racing dates. Santa Anita, located across town in Arcadia, may be in line to pick up the bulk of the dates. That track currently has live racing from late December to early April, and again in early fall.

The region's other tracks are Del Mar, located north of San Diego; and in the Los Angeles area, Los Alamitos and Fairplex.

Hollywood Park opened in 1938 under the direction of movie moguls Jack and Harry Warner. Celebrities regularly attended the races.

Among the star horses that ran at Hollywood Park were Seabiscuit, and Triple Crown winners Citation, Seattle Slew and Affirmed.

Champion mare and 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta was based at Hollywood Park, and so was I'll Have Another, last year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner.

The Breeders' Cup began at the track in 1984, and was held there again in 1987 and 1997.

Some of the sport's fixtures began at Hollywood Park and spread throughout the industry, including Sunday racing, which debuted in 1973, and fan giveaways.

The Pick Six, a wager in which bettors must pick the winners of six consecutive races, was launched at the track in 1998. Other exotic wagers that originated there include the superfecta, which involves picking the first four finishers in the correct order.

"Our fans and all of the employees who have worked at Hollywood Park, both past and present, deserve our thanks and gratitude," Liebau said. "They have been the backbone of this historic venue."

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