Believe it or not, there used to be a racetrack in the middle of Los Angeles. In fact, Hollywood Park Racetrack was only three miles from LAX, the major airport in the city. It wasn’t just a place to go watch horses run around a track, either.
We are talking a full-on betting parlor, not to mention a poker room and casino that were added to the property in 1994. Talk about a gambling destination with amazing year-round weather – Hollywood Park Racetrack was that place.
Even though it was shut down in 2013, it is still deserving of being remembered and talked about. We plan on spending the next few sections detailing what went on at Hollywood Park. We, of course, will transition the conversation into what is happening next. First, though, it’s important to understand and appreciate the rich history and tradition behind Hollywood Park.
It may not be there anymore, but that most definitely doesn’t mean it has been forgotten.
Once Santa Anita Park had opened in nearby Arcadia, California, it was clear that racetracks were a booming business. The Hollywood Turf Club’s answer was opening the Hollywood Park Racetrack a few years later, during the summer of 1938. Hiring an acclaimed architect and Beverly Hills native Arthur Froehlich to design the track showed that the Turf Club was not messing around and wanted to create a lasting venue. Other than a couple bumps in the road, this is exactly what ensued.
Unfortunately, the park was forced to be closed for a few short years during World War II and again during 1949 due to a fire. It reopened the following year, and things seemed to be going well until rumors and threats about the park closing emerged in 1989. Thankfully, $20 million was spent in 1991 on upgrades, and boy, did it pay off.
Hollywood Park added a casino and poker room to the existing property in 1994, spending more than $100 million in the process. To show you how tough business can be in Los Angeles, the entire Hollywood Park corporation was sold to Churchill Downs Inc. in 1999 for $140 million. They were able to turn a nice profit when they flipped the complex to Bay Meadows Land Company in 2005 for $260 million.
Before we get into what happened next, we want to rewind a little bit. It is important we talk about some features of the racetrack and talk about some of the major events that were held there.
Hollywood Park Racetrack started out with a one-mile track on the outside. In preparation for the 1984 Breeders’ Cup, the track was lengthened to 1 1/8-miles. Inside the outer dirt track was the turf course, which measured one mile.
A Cushion Track was installed in 2006, with the idea that this surface was more appropriate for the horses and was easier to maintain. Made up of a combination of elastic and artificial fibers mixed with sand, this surface quickly became the standard for Thoroughbred racing in California.
The track at Hollywood Park was the site of countless races over the years. Let’s take a peek at the ones that really stand out.
Being that Hollywood Park Racetrack opened in 1938, we thought it was fitting to talk about two horse races that got started on the grounds in Inglewood that very same year. If you are an avid fan of the sport, surely you know all about the Breeders’ Cup and their culminating $6 million championship event.
Clearly, we couldn’t leave out the Breeders’ Cup, given that they have been hosted at Hollywood Park Racetrack on three separate occasions. Allow us to start with the first race that was run at Hollywood Park – the one that really put it on the map and helped launch the track into the upper echelon of horse racing venues in the United States.
Before any of our horse racing buffs get confused, this race is now called the Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes. Before the Hollywood Park closed and the race was moved to Santa Anita Park, this notable event was called the Hollywood Gold Cup. Its significance in terms of the history of Hollywood Park Racetrack cannot be overstated.
When the track opened in June of 1938, the Hollywood Turf Club wanted to start things off with a bang. Their answer came on July 16th when legendary horse Seabiscuit won the initial running of the Hollywood Gold Club and claimed the $50,000 prize.
That number has gone up quite a bit over the years – 10 times, to be exact. The current race sports a $500,000 purse and lasts 10 furlongs, the same length it has always been. The fastest time we ever saw run on the original dirt track came in 1972 at the hands of Quack. This wasn’t just a record at Hollywood Park, either.
Because any horse who is three years old or older is eligible to race in this event, we have seen few horses win this race multiple times. Native Driver astonishingly won this event for the third consecutive year in 1967 as an 8-year-old gelding. Most assumed we would never see a “three-peat” performance again, but then again, that’s why they run the races.
Lava Man captured the Hollywood Gold Cup from 2005-2007 under the direct training of Doug O’Neill. We must also note that in 2012 while riding Game On Dude, Del Mar Racetrack ambassador Chantal Sutherland became the first female jockey to win the Hollywood Gold Cup. This was after Chantal and Game On Dude narrowly finished second the year before.
While we have only seen one female jockey win in the history of the race, we have seen three female horses win, most recently Princessnesian in 1968.
Even though Hollywood Park Racetrack was shut down at the end of 2013, the Hollywood Gold Cup race decided to live on. It was moved to Santa Anita Park in 2014 and adopted the moniker “Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes.”
The race hasn’t lost any of its luster, and it remains one of the most prestigious races on the Thoroughbred calendar.
Since we are talking about the history of Hollywood Park Racetrack and the most admired events there, it seemed appropriate to bring up a race that was inaugurated the same year the Park opened: 1938.
The Hollywood Derby has been a Grade-I race ever since the grading system was put in place in 1974. There are 300,000 bucks on the line in this 122-pound handicapped event. Both male and female horses are eligible to run, so long as they are three years old.
Only four fillies have won the Hollywood Derby, and it hasn’t occurred since Royal Heroine dazzled the fans in 1983. This goes to show that it’s extremely tough for the fillies to outrace their male counterparts in the regulated races.
The length of the race has gone back and forth like a group of children playing musical chairs. It has been a 9-furlong race ever since 2014 and appears to be staying that way for the foreseeable future. The 1 1/8-mile race was run on the turf track at Hollywood Park, just like it is currently at its new home. There were years where the event was run on the dirt track, but this has predominantly been a turf-track race.
When the Park in Inglewood shut down, the Hollywood Derby was moved to the turf course at Del Mar Racetrack located some 106 miles south of Los Angeles. The 2017 Hollywood Derby showcased Mo Town, who set a new record time of 1:46.36. The fastest time recorded in the 1 ¼-mile version was set by Showing Up in 2006. This is worth noting, as the race was run at that length for a number of years.
Hall of Fame jockey Bill Shoemaker won this event an astounding eight times from 1951-1986. Perhaps the most remarkable feat we ever saw at the Hollywood Derby came in 2014, the first year it moved to the track in Del Mar. California Chrome was a dominant horse that year, winning enormous dirt-track races such as the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
He showed he wasn’t a “one-trick pony” and captured the Hollywood Derby – the first time he ever ran a race on a turf track.
The Breeders’ Cup is a two-day festival of horse races generally run on the first weekend in November with…how shall we say…a whole bunch of dough up for grabs. The concluding championship event has a six-million-dollar purse. In fact, all 14 of the Breeders’ Cup events have a seven-figure prize-pool attached. In case you didn’t notice, the Breeders’ Cup is a big deal.
The first time was back in 1984. If you take a closer look at the history of the Breeders’ Cup, you will see that 1984 was also the first year this event took place. Choosing the racetrack in Hollywood as the site of the very first Breeders’ Cup is a prime example of where Hollywood Park Racetrack ranked as far as the most distinguished horse tracks in the country at that time.
Colorado native Pat Day rode Wild Again to victory in the initial Breeders’ Cup Classic, and it would only be a matter of three years until the Breeders’ Cup would return.
After successfully hosting the proceedings in 1987, Hollywood Park Racetrack would be named home of the Breeders’ Cup for the third time in 1997. Ridden by Mike E. Smith, four-year-old stallion Skip Away “skipped” away with the trophy in 1997, culminating a fantastic two days of racing.
What we know for sure is that there won’t be a fourth Breeders’ Cup at Hollywood Park. Thankfully, we have the first three to look back on.
Here is the cool thing about Hollywood Park. Yes, the racetrack closed in 2013. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t head to the old stomping grounds and find some horse races to bet on. To be fair, there is actually a whole lot more you can wager on when you get there, but more on that in a moment.
If you know you won’t be traveling to California and prefer to bet on horse races via the internet, we have you taken care of.
Now let’s say you do live in Southern California or are going to be visiting there soon. Here is what you should know.
Hollywood Park Racetrack might no longer be in business, but your options to gamble at the current property are greater than they have ever been before. If you are interested in betting horse races taking place at other properties, just check out Hollywood Park’s Off-Track Betting (OTB) facility located right on site.
Find out everything you need to . If you crave more action then that, you are going to love the 24-hour full-blown casino at Hollywood Park. From blackjack and baccarat to Pai Gow and Texas hold’em, you are going to have loads of chances to make some money.
The casino was completely remodeled and underwent a major facelift. When it reopened in 2016, it resembled a “Vegas-like” experience to guests. If you are looking for a fun and clean environment to bet on some horses and bluff some locals out of some big pots, head to 3883 W. Century Blvd in Inglewood, CA. You aren’t going to be disappointed.
As you have likely gathered from reading the sections above, the racetrack at Hollywood Park is no longer in commission. December 22, 2013, marked the final day of existence for horse racing at Hollywood Park as we had come to know it. As you have also come to find out, betting on the property and keeping men and women entertained has not gone anywhere.
The future plans for the grounds that were the site of three Breeders’ Cups include some massive intentions. We are not just talking about the major renovations to the casino and the OTB facility.
Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park is set to be unveiled to the public in 2020 and will indisputably be one of the more cutting-edge stadiums or ballparks that you will find anywhere in the world. This will be the home of two NFL franchises: the Los Angeles Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers.
The 2022 Super Bowl will be played at the new stadium at Hollywood Park, not to mention the NCAA Football National Championship Game. When we get to the 2028 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles, the opening ceremonies and multiple events will be held in – you guessed it – the new stadium.
It was sad to see the racetrack permanently close three days before Christmas in 2013. The memories created and records set on that dirt oval will forever be inked on horse racing history. However, it is nice to know that they will be making tremendous use out of the land and continuing to please Californians for a long time coming.
Hollywood Park Racetrack will go down in the books as one of the more renowned racetracks to ever have a presence in the US. It is important to understand the roots of how and why the racetrack was opened to begin with. The hotspot for Hollywood actors and actresses quickly made a name for itself and was soon hosting some of the biggest events in horse racing.
We mentioned the three Breeders’ Cups that were held at the Inglewood racetrack. That was after we detailed what the surface on the track consisted of. Going from a dirt to synthetic track in 2006 was a big change, one that was copied by many other tracks. This included all of the ones in the state of California.
Don’t be confused into thinking the Breeders’ Cup was the only big-name horse racing event at Hollywood Park. The Hollywood Gold Cup and Hollywood Derby were such big events that they were passed on to Santa Anita Park and Del Mar Racetrack respectively after the park was shut down.
If you thought closing the racetrack meant shutting off betting and gambling opportunities, you better think again. The Hollywood Park Off-Track Betting Parlor and full-service casino and poker room sit right on the grounds of the old racetrack. And what is coming next?
In 2020, folks in Los Angeles will be spoiled by the opening of a brand-new stadium that aims to be a one-of-a-kind sporting venue. Exactly what unfolds at the new site remains to be seen, but it sure has us on pins and needles.