Storied Hollywood Park Closing After 75 Years of Horse Racing Magic

The iconic racetrack that brought us Seabiscuit in the first Breeders' Cup in 1984 is being let out to pasture. The famous showcase for such Triple Crown winners as as Citation, Seattle Slew and Affirmed will run its last race schedule on Sunday, December 22. The Betfair Hollywood Park was a West Coast legal horse betting mecca for decades, hosting some of the most important races the world has ever seen. But time moves on, and the famous track will soon be home to a retail and housing development which will begin construction in 2014.

The 260 acre tract is located in Inglewood California, and is the second major California racetrack to close since 2008. That was the year that Bay Meadows, located just outside San Francisco, was shut down after 74 years to make way for, oddly enough, a similar retail development. Way back in 1938 Hollywood Park opened thanks to the influence and significant cash flow provided by Jack and Harry Warner of Warner Brothers Hollywood movie fame. 2010 horse of the year and champion mare Zenyatta was housed at Hollywood Park, as was the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner from 2012, I'll Have Another.

Sunday racing, which is now common across the nation and throughout the horse racing industry, debuted back in 1973 at Hollywood Park, along with fan giveaways. The track was home to several ground breaking industry features and events, including the first $1 million race for two year olds in the history of the sport. That took place in 1983 during the Hollywood Futurity, which was won by Fali Time and actually delivered a total purse of $1,049,725 by post-time.

But the park really began to make its name when it hosted the inaugural Breeders' Cup series the following year. A 1,321 foot home stretch had to be included with an extended chute to allow one-mile races around a single turn, so the track could be home to every one of the Breeders' Cup races. An estimated 50 million viewers and nearly 65,000 live attendees saw that initial Breeders' Cup race, and the three day race card handled a total of $11,466,941, which was a record at the time. And one of the most popular long-odds, high-payout horse bets that gamblers still make today was introduced during the 1993 Spring/Summer meet at Hollywood Park, the $1 Superfecta (picking the winning four horses in exact order).

In case you were having a bad day at the track with the horses, you could extend your betting options to the $20 million Hollywood Park Casino, which opened on Friday, July 1, 1994. Aside from table games and poker, the indoor casino became a huge hit with the legal horse betting simulcast option, allowing California residents and visitors to place wagers on horse races as far away as Hong Kong and across the United States. Further Hollywood Park history was made in 1995 during the Hollywood Gold Cup. The public wagered $377,880 to win, and an additional $524,348 across the board, on two-time horse of the year Cigar. He won the race by an easy 3 1/2 lengths to return $3.80. Hollywood Park, thanks for the memories; gone but certainly not forgotten.

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