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Oct 11, 2013

Up the Backstretch: Hollywood Park's demise nearing

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

Philadelphia, PA ( - The month of November will be an historic time in the thoroughbred racing history of California.

San Anita Park will host the Breeders' Cup World Championships on Nov. 1 and 2 for a second straight year and seventh overall. The first, fourth and 14th Breeders' Cups were held at Hollywood Park. Those will be the only World Championships to ever be conducted at the Inglewood facility.

However, the truly historic, but sad, occasion during the month will be the start of the last thoroughbred meet at Hollywood.

The 29-day meeting begins Thursday, Nov. 7 and concludes Sunday, Dec. 22.

"We're looking forward to an exciting final season," Martin Panza, Hollywood Park's vice president-racing and racing secretary, said earlier.

This will be the denouement for the track near The Forum, former home of the Los Angeles Lakers and Kings.

Hollywood Park opened on June 10, 1938, and the inaugural Hollywood Gold Cup, the track's premier stakes, was won that year by Seabiscuit. Winning jockey George Woolf won the first three Gold Cups with three different mounts.

This year's Gold Cup was won by future Hall of Fame horse Game On Dude for the second straight running.

History abounds at Hollywood Park. In addition to Seabiscuit and Game On Dude, other winners of the Gold Cup include Citation, Swaps, Native Diver (1965-67), Ack Ack, Best Pal and Lava Man (2005-07).

Movie mogul Jack Warner as the initial chairman and director/producer Mervyn LeRoy was president from 1952 through 1986. A stakes was named for LeRoy.

The day of Hollywood Park's closing had been reported for several years after Churchill Downs sold the track to Bay Meadows Land Co.

The closing of Hollywood Park comes while thoroughbred racing continues what some would say is a fast decline. Fewer people are interested in the sport as gambling becomes more plentiful and easier to access.

Southern California will be left with two major tracks, Santa Anita and Del Mar. How they and the rest of the racing industry absorbs the absence of Hollywood Park has yet to be determined.

Look for some open dates to appear on the calendar in southern California racing. One doubts that all of Hollywood's racing schedule will be taken over by Santa Anita or Del Mar.

The Sunday closing program will probably have an unusually large crowd. People love to gawk at tragedy.

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