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Dec 27, 2013

Up the Backstretch: It was Hollywood Park's final bow

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

 Philadelphia, PA ( - Another historic racetrack has been sent off never to be heard from again. Hollywood Park conducted its last day of thoroughbred racing Sunday and the occasion brought the people out to watch.

The paid attendance was 13,283, with thousands more entering the 75-year-old facility after admission became free shortly before the fourth race was made official.

The last of the 11 races was decided in a photo-finish as Woodmans Luck got the nod over Depreciable in the Auld Lang Syne Starter Allowance.

"Well, I made history," jockey Corey Nakatani noted after winning the final Hollywood Park race. "I won the last race and got the last set of days (he received a three-day suspension from the stewards earlier Sunday) at Hollywood Park. Kind of bittersweet. That was really emotional. It's hard to really say that much. This has always been such a great place to be. After winning a bunch of races here, it's hard to see it go. It's pretty sad."

Woodmans Luck's trainer Vladimir Cerin expressed his emotion about the closing of the site of the first Breeders' Cup in 1984.

"When they were coming down the stretch, all I could think of is how sad that it was over," Cerin said. "It's almost hard to enjoy the win when you think this is the last race at this racetrack. When I started training here, I think it took me a year to win my first race and to have it end like this just seems surreal."

Jockey Victor Espinoza and trainer Art Sherman combined to capture the King Glorious Stakes, the last stakes at the track built by movie mogul Jack Warner.

"It's fun to win the last stakes here. One extra memory of Hollywood Park," Espinoza expressed. "I've had a lot of ups and downs here, but this is where I started. When I moved to California, this is where I won my first race. I've won a lot of big races at this track. In a way it's sad, but you have to move on in life."

"It brings back a lot of memories for me. It's a special thing to be able to win here at Hollywood Park," Sherman said. "I started here as a young kid. Rode my first race here when I was 18 (in 1955). Going back through the years, we had a lot of fun here with the big crowds and great horses. It's fitting for me, but I feel very sad."

The last meeting at Hollywood Park was highlighted by the emergence of 2-year- old Shared Belief. The gelding, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, won the CashCall Futurity and was voted Horse of the Meet in the annual media poll.

Rafael Bejarano won his sixth riding title at Hollywood Park with 37 victories, four coming in stakes races.

"It feels great to win the title," said Bejarano. "It means a lot to me. When I came back to the winner's circle (after winning the 9th with Ashley's Bambino), I could hear everyone cheering and I was just so happy."

It was Hollendorfer who was voted top trainer as he set an Autumn record with seven stakes wins, eclipsing the mark of six originally set by Hall of Famer Charlie Whittingham in 1984. The Hall of Fame trainer was also tops in earnings with $1,402,270.

Another Hall of Fame trainer, Bob Baffert, finished atop the standings with 16 wins, edging out John Sadler.

Gonzalo Nicolas was chosen the meeting's top apprentice jockey with nine wins.

"With the conclusion of the final meet, we'd like to express our thanks and gratitude to all employees, horsemen, jockeys, owners - past and present - and, most of all, our loyal customers who have helped make Hollywood Park an extremely special place," said Hollywood Park president Jack Liebau.

Southern California and the nation has lost another venue for the great sport of Thoroughbred Racing.

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