May 22, 2015


Horse Racing

L.A. says goodbye to legendary race track

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Fans waited in a long line to get into Betfair Hollywood Park for the last time.

The track closed for good Sunday, ending 75 years of racing that featured such thoroughbred stars as Seabiscuit, Triple Crown winners Citation, Seattle Slew and Affirmed, and superstar mare Zenyatta. The first Breeders' Cup in 1984 was run here. The track will be turned into a residential and retail development starting next year.

For its last day, though, the track came alive again, with jammed parking lots, lines at the betting windows and fans and employees swapping stories about the Track of the Lakes and Flowers.

Dick Van Patten, the 85-year-old actor who starred in TV's Eight is Enough, was a longtime patron of the track. He walked away a winner, when his horse Tanquerray won the $50,000 third race.

Amid the sadness was some bitterness as well.

Jack Van Berg, the 77-year-old hall-of-fame trainer, blamed the cities of Inglewood and Los Angeles and the state of California for the track's closure.

"I just think it's a pathetic thing," he said near the paddock. "It's ridiculous to let something like this that so many people love and thrive on close. They did everything they could to kill racing."

Van Berg, who has raced in California for 41 years, said he's moving his operations to Oaklawn Park in Arkansas.

"I've had enough," he said. "I don't like California racing anymore. I don't like the way they run it and what they do."

Betfair Hollywood Park is the second major California racetrack to close since 2008, when Bay Meadows near San Francisco was shuttered after 74 years to make way for a similar development.

The track's future had been in question since Churchill Downs sold it to Hollywood Park Land Co. in 2005.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 23, 2013 C4

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