Seventy-five years of rich Hollywood and racing history finally come to a permanent close this weekend, with the 2 day auction of all that was Hollywood Park. Today and tomorrow you can bid on everything from pony pins & jerseys to pictures and portraits of all the famous horses and jockeys who achieved immortality on those hallowed grounds. They are even selling railings to the track, the starting gate, and items that are now becoming even more scarce than racetracks, incandescent light bulbs.
Hollywood Park mixed celebrity with the sport of kings for 75 years. Founded by two of the famous Warner Brothers in 1938, they always knew they could find their stars there. Track photos of Cary Grant, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Walter Matthau and even Carol Burnett are up for bid. Still recovering from the surreal experience of attending the very last day of racing there in December, I went back yesterday to preview all the gems coming up for auction this weekend. I saw a street sign for Seabiscuit, large photos of famous jockeys including Johnny Longden, Willie Shoemaker, & Laffit Pincay. Three memorable Triple Crown winners ran at Hollywood Park including Seattle Slew, Citation, and Affirmed. Other famous champions John Henry, Cigar and Swaps tore up the track also, as did Zenyatta just a short time ago. Three other famous horses are actually buried there, including Native Diver, who will soon be moved to Del Mar.
Hollywood Park has survived much peril in it’s 75 years. It was closed for two years in WW2 and used for government storage. It survived a major fire in 1949 , that completely destroyed the grandstand. However, today’s economic times, declining revenue, and California not willing to grant slot machine licenses to the owners, have sadly sealed the fate of Hollywood Park. The beautiful track, and pond formerly full of Pink Flamingoes will soon be bulldozed for what we call today “development”. Bugler Jay Cohen closed the final day with “Hooray For Hollywood.” Speakers at the park also played Billy Joel’s prophetic “Say Goodbye To Hollywood,” Etta James’ “At Last” before the final race, and “Happy Trails” as we hit the parking lot.
I picked four winners that day, and failed to bet on any of them. As we left the track for the final time yesterday, (a month later), one lone Pink Flamingo remained in the pond. He will soon be relocated. Hollywood Park won’t be. Get a souvenir at www.gaauction.com.