Jul 1st 2013 08:30 pm |
On July 14th, Hollywood Park will run its final day of summer racing ever. At the end of the year, 75 years after opening, all racing operations will cease at the California track. The racing oval at Hollywood is marked by a slew of legendary runners including Seabiscuit, Citation, and Affirmed. It hosted the first ever Breeders’ Cup in 1984 and has carded a plethora of important stakes races over the years. None more significant than the Hollywood Gold Cup which has been on the race calendar since the inaugural season of 1938. All of this means little to the Bay Meadows Land Company that bought the track in 2005. Hollywood Park is worth more for the development of strip malls, houses, and a hotel then it is as a race track. So, its days are numbered.
As the final days of Hollywood countdown, I thought it would be interesting and go back to the beginning, when the track in Inglewood opened for business in 1938. Below are excerpts from a the Turf and Sport Digest and the Los Angeles Times reporting on the opening of Hollywood Park.
In June 1938, in an article titled “America’s Newest Racetrack,” author Colonel Walter Moriarty wrote this in the Turf and Sport about “Inglewood Park”:
“Hollywood’s motion picture tycoons are about to release the greatest and most colossal epic of their long and interesting career. A real feature, a true ‘gigantic,’ a production without equal, unusual, colorful, and one keenly awaited by an anxious public….The latest effusion of the Hollywood barons is none other than Inglewood Park, America’s newest racing emporium, scheduled for opening ceremonies June 10, 1938.
“And truly enough Inglewood Park is the product of the money in Hollywood, for ninety per cent of the stockholders lay claim to some connection with the movie metropolis. And in the creation, erection and operation of this fine new racecourse we find much that smacks of the real Hollywood — and very little of the trashy chatter so often connected with the celluloid industry. Solid business principles have ruled the preliminary work over the two years during which Inglewood Park has grown from a dream to a reality.”
The Los Angeles Times covered opening day in great detail including a list of attendees published June 11, 1938 in an article titled “Film Stars Attend the Races” that opened with this from writer Read Kendall:
“[The] wheels of the motion-picture industry came to a virtual stand-still yesterday when Southern California welcomed back horse racing at the inaugural meeting at Hollywood Park in Inglewood….The saddest gent in Hollywood yesterday was Bing Crosby, who operates the Del Mar track. His studio refused to allow him the day off but Bing issued an ultimatum. If he couldn’t attend the opening day, nothing will stop him from being there today.”
Other ‘stars’ in attendance at the opener were Howard Hawks, Milton Berle, Bob Hope, Claudette Colbert, Al Jolson, George Burns, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford, Zeppo Marx, and many others whose names have been obscured over the years. The article offered little details about individual attendees but did point out the conservative betting of legendary silent film actor Harry Lloyd who, according to the article, never bet more than $2 on a race.
In a report on opening day in the same edition of the L.A. Times, reporter Paul Lowry wrote:
“It was a day given over to superlatives, in spite of weather that was more wintry than summery. It rained in the morning. It drizzled intermittently in the afternoon.
“But in spite of the elements the opening was a terrific success. A crowd officially estimated by General Manager Jack Mackenzie at 40,000 strong stormed the gates…
“…An opening day’s crowd is always a curious one. Many come just to look. The real wagering fraternity wait until the form is established, until the track is pronounced a fast or a slow one.
“But there was plenty of activity in the vicinity of the parimutuel windows yesterday as the gates of the beautiful plant were thrown open for the music that will beat from thoroughbred hoofs for thirty-three days this summer.”
The L.A. Times’, Braven Dyer had this perspective of the opening day scene in “The Sport Parade” column:
“‘And now, ladies and gentlemen,’ said the voice of Joe Hernandez, ‘Hollywood Park belongs to you.’ With this courteous announcement, inaugural ceremonies at the spacious $2,000,000 Inglewood track were concluded yesterday and everybody sat back to await the running of the first race. The brief statement typified the attitude of 1500 employees who did their level best to make everybody feel at home during the opening day — a time when the patience of human beings is apt to be put to a severe test because of the newness of everything. Money, spent lavishly by officials by officials of the Hollywood Turf Club, had been wisely put to good use. The spaciousness of the plant exceeds expectations and the jostling and bumping which go with tremendous crowds were strangely absent yesterday, although attendance must have been above anticipation.”
And, lastly, two months after the inaugural opening day, Turf and Sport wrote this about the Inglewood track in an article about California racing:
“Hollywood Park has done much to add the final touch of authority to West Coast racing. A couple of months ago we told you of this great new track and its prospects. And let us repeat this much: It is the best built racetrack in America…”
In the grand scheme of things, Hollywood Park has had a good life as a race track. However, considering the history made there, its hard to accept its loss.
SOURCES, NEWS, AND NOTES
“Film Stars Attend Races,” Los Angeles Times, 11 June 1938
“Inaugural Lures 40,000,” Los Angeles Times, 11 June 1938
“The Sports Parade,” Los Angeles Times, 11 June 1938
“American Newest Racetrack,” Turf and Sport Digest, June 1938
“California Looks East,” Turf and Sport Digest, August 1938
I found this interesting offering for sale at Amazon: Hollywood Park’s Greatest Hits.
After an unexpected slow June here at Colin’s Ghost headquarters, I look forward to getting back on track with a post a week up until Breeders’ Cup. Thanks for reading and good luck!