The Hollywood Turf Club was formed under the chairmanship of Jack L. Warner (of the Warner Brothers film corporation). The 600 original shareholders included many stars, directors and producers of the film world, such as Al Jolson and Raoul Walsh (two of the original directors of the board); Joan Blondell; Ronald Colman; Walt Disney; Bing Crosby; Sam Goldwyn; Darryl Zanuck; George Jessel; Ralph Bellamy; Hal Wallis; Anatole Litvak; Hunt Stromberg; Wallace Beery; Irene Dunne, and the late Mervyn LeRoy (director of Hollywood Park from 1941 until his death in 1986).
The legendary Seabiscuit was victorious in 1938’s inaugural running of the Hollywood Gold Cup, the track’s signature race which would be won 11 times by Thoroughbreds distinguished as Horse of the Year: 1938, Seabiscuit; 1940, Challedon; 1951, Citation; 1956, Swaps; 1957, Round Table; 1971, Ack Ack; 1979, Affirmed; 1987, Ferdinand; 1990, Criminal Type; 1995, Cigar; 1998, Skip Away.
The “binocular camera,” a lightweight movie camera attached to binoculars, was introduced in 1941. It was used by eight patrol judges, each recording a section of the race. The film was spliced and viewed by the stewards the following morning. This system was refined in 1945 when cameras were installed in towers.
Hollywood Park was used as a storage facility from 1942-44 in association with the war effort, opening only for a brief War Charities meeting in November, 1944.
Woolford Farm’s Historian traveled by air from Chicago to start in the 1946 Gold Cup — the first time a runner was shipped by air to compete in a specific race. He finished third, but later equaled the then-world record in winning the 1 5/8-mile Sunset Handicap.
Two weeks before the 1949 meeting the grandstand and clubhouse became a quarter-mile-long inferno. The 1949 summer meeting was conducted at Santa Anita, with Hollywood Park re-opening in the summer of 1950.
Citation became racing’s first million-dollar earner by winning the 1951 Hollywood Gold Cup under Steve Brooks while making his final start.
First triple dead heat for win at Hollywood Park occurred on July 3, 1957, when $5,000 claimers Joe’s Pleasure (George Taniguchi), Challenger Tom (Bill Shoemaker) and Leaful (William Harmatz) could not be separated.
The Lakeside Turf Course, featuring four chutes, opened on May 10, 1967. Old Mose, with Jerry Lambert up, won the first race on the course.
Hollywood Park pioneered the exacta in 1971.
A $3-million expansion project in 1972 doubled the size of the Turf Club, added the Winner’s Circle Dining Room to the Clubhouse and renovated the stable area.
Glen Hill Farm’s Convenience, trained by Willard Proctor and ridden by Jerry Lambert, defeated Westerly Stud’s favored Typecast (Bill Shoemaker up) in 1972 match race which drew 53,575 to Hollywood Park. Convenience won the $250,000 winner-take-all-purse by a head, covering 1 1/8 miles in 1:47 3/5.
Sunday racing was introduced to Californians at Hollywood Park on April 15, 1973. (The legislation was introduced under Gov. Ronald Reagan’s administration.)
Hollywood Park became the first track to average more than $4 million in daily handle in 1977.
Amtote’s TM 300 wagering system revolutionized wagering habits in 1979 with multiple bet tickets and betting and cashing at the same window. Early Bird Wagering was also introduced.
Harbor View Farm’s Affirmed became racing’s first $2-million winner with a victory in 1979 Hollywood Gold Cup under jockey Laffit Pincay Jr.
Hollywood Park, a trendsetter in giveaway premiums, attracted a record crowd of 80,348 with a tote bag giveaway on May 4, 1980.
The Pick Six, an exciting and successful innovation in California and a forerunner to the Perfect Six, was introduced at Hollywood Park by Vernon O. Underwood on June 7, 1980.
Carl Rosen’s eastern star Chris Evert, ridden by Jorge Velasquez, defeated Aaron U. Jones’ western standout Miss Musket, with Laffit Pincay Jr. up, by 50 lengths in 1974 match race. Each owner put up $100,000 and track added $150,000 for record purse of $350,000. Chris Evert, the second choice, ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.
Hollywood Park became the first track to average more than $5 million in mutuel handle in 1980.
The Perfect Six was introduced to the U.S. on June 24, 1983. The bet, now known as the Pick Six, introduced the popular carryover provision.
Dotsam Stable’s seven-time Eclipse Award winner John Henry became the first horse to surpass $4 million in career earnings with a win in the 1983 Hollywood Turf Cup under jockey Chris McCarron.
With a purse of $1,049,725, the 1983 Hollywood Futurity was not only the first million-dollar race for Thoroughbred 2-year-olds, it was the richest race staged for Thoroughbreds at the time. Sandy Hawley rode Gary Jones trainee Fali Time to victory for owners James L. Mamakos and Dr. Marc Stubrin.
The 1 1/8-mile main track, incorporating a 1,321-foot stretch, was opened on Nov. 7, 1984. The extended chute permits one-mile races around one turn.
Before a crowd of 64,625 and an estimated 50 million viewers, Hollywood Park was host to the inaugural Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 7, 1984, handling a then-record $11,466,941.
Hollywood Park blazed the trail for off-track wagering in Southern California with outlets at Del Mar, San Bernardino and Ventura during the 1987 Autumn Meet. The three outlets handled $143,218,724 during the 27-day stand, an average of $855,881.
Hollywood Park became the first track to host a second Breeders’ Cup, setting a handle record of $14,352,515 on Nov. 21, 1987. The national handle of $36,398,366 was also a single-day standard.
Tejano won the 1987 Hollywood Futurity to become racing’s first juvenile millionaire.
R.D. Hubbard gained control of Hollywood Park in February, 1991, following a lengthy proxy battle. Phase One of a massive facelift to restore the track’s “Lakes and Flowers” image began the next day. During his first meeting as Chairman of the Board and CEO, attendance increased 11.3% and handle rose 7.3%.
The European style Garden Paddock was constructed during Phase One of a $20-million reconstruction project prior to the 1991 Spring/Summer Meet. A second major change, moving the finish line to its original location, helped put the general public closer to the action. Other improvements included the introduction of the Players’ Club and Study Hall; refurbishing of the admission areas, the clubhouse and grandstand; new signage at the corner of Prairie and Century, and a jogging track on the perimeter of the Hollywood Park property.
The success of six Friday night cards at the 1991 Spring/Summer Meet led to 12 Fridays in the summer of 1993, and a full slate of Fridays through the 1998 Spring/Summer Meet.
Phase Two of the reconstruction project took place after the 1991 Spring/Summer Meet with the dredging of new infield lakes, the construction of the swank Hollywood Bar and six new barns; the addition of the North Park for families, and the refurbishment of the Turf Club and Directors’ Room.
The Turf Festival, a series of six grass races which attracts turf stars from across the country and Europe, was introduced at the 1991 Autumn Meet.
The Quarantine Barn, with four, six-stall sections, was constructed adjacent to the main stable gate for the 1992 Autumn Meet. This facility permits international shippers to come directly to Hollywood Park upon arrival at Los Angeles International Airport.
The 3,000-square foot Noble Threewitt/Charlie Whittingham Horsemen’s Lounge opened in December, 1993.
Bet-A-Buck, a win-place Pick Nine, was added to the wagering format in 1992. Also added were the $1 Trifecta, $2 Late Double and $1 wagers at self-service machines.
The $1 Superfecta — picking the first four finishers in order — was introduced before the 1993 Spring/Summer Meet. Rolling Pick 3s were added during the 1993 stand.
The introduction of full card simulcasting from Northern California at the 1994 Spring/Summer Meet and the success of Friday nights contributed to a record average handle of $8.1 million. The trend continued at the 1994 Autumn Meet and into 1995.
The $20-million Hollywood Park-Casino was opened on Friday, July 1, 1994. Previously known as the Pavilion, the state-of-the-art card club/casino features California games and poker. It became an inter-track hit with simulcasts from within the State, throughout the U.S., and from Hong Kong. (It is operated by Pinnacle Entertainment).
For the first time, Hollywood Park imported and exported races to Canada. The continuing simulcasts from Northern California and Hong Kong throughout their season, plus the introduction of inter-track wagering from New York State contributed to a record daily average handle of $10.3 million during the 1995 Hollywood Park Spring/Summer Meet.
A Hollywood Park record $21,287,723 was wagered on 1995 Kentucky Derby Day. The mutuel pool on the first leg of the Triple Crown Classic of $4,621,694 was a state record as were the exacta and trifecta pools.
California records of $377,880 to win and $524,348 across the board were wagered on Cigar in the 1995 Hollywood Gold Cup. The two-time Horse of the Year rewarded his backers by winning the race by 3 1/2 lengths to return $3.80.
Hollywood Park was host to the Breeders’ Cup Championship for third time — first during R.D. Hubbard’s reign — and established a Southern California record handle (all sources) of $79,741,030. The on-track crowd of 51,161 was the largest in 10 years, but the day was flawless with smooth traffic flow into the track and championship racing on the track. Five winners clinched Eclipse Awards, including undefeated Favorite Trick, the first 2-year-old to be crowned Horse of the Year since Secretariat in 1972.
A day unmatched in racing lore came Sunday, Dec. 7, 1997, when a walkover in the Bayakoa Stakes was followed three races later by a triple dead heat. Sharp Cat participated in the first walkover in Hollywood Park history and the first at a major track since Spectacular Bid in the 1980 Woodward at Belmont Park. Just 90 minutes later, Tina Celesta, Chans Pearl and Cool Miss Ann finished in a dead heat for first in the day’s fourth race — the second triple dead heat in track history.
Introduced guaranteed $1-million Pick Six at 1998 Spring/Summer Meet. A record $3,869,771 was wagered on Hollywood Park’s guaranteed $1.5-million Pick Six on July 18, shattering the mark of $3,342,371 set June 14, when the track unveiled the popular promotion by guaranteeing a minimum Pick Six pool of $1 million. The record $3.8-million Pick Six pool on July 18 helped generate total handle of $18,994,274, highest in track history with the exception of Breeders’ Cup and Triple Crown events. The day’s handle was up 74%.
A slight increase in on-track attendance helped the 1998 Autumn Meet attain a daily average handle of $9.1 million — a record for a non-Breeders’ Cup meeting. Highest single handle came when a Hollywood Turf Cup/Hollywood Futurity card generated wagering of $15.5 million — an Autumn Meet record (excluding Breeders’ Cup).
Real Quiet rallied late under Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey to win the 1999 Hollywood Gold Cup, the first Kentucky Derby champion to capture Hollywood’s premier race since Ferdinand in 1987. Real Quiet, owned by Mike Pegram and trained by Bob Baffert, is the lone horse to win the Hollywood Futurity, Kentucky Derby and Gold Cup.
Churchill Downs Incorporated closed a $140-million transaction to acquire Hollywood Park on Sept. 10, 1999. The deal included the Hollywood Park-Casino, which was leased back to Hollywood Park Inc. (now Pinnacle Entertainment Inc.) for 10 years at an annual rate of $3 million, with one 10-year renewal option.
Laffit Pincay Jr. reached racing’s summit at Hollywood Park on Dec. 10, 1999, riding Irish Nip to victory in the sixth race. It was career win No. 8,834, one more than Bill Shoemaker, who retired with 8,883 wins in 1990. Pincay tied Shoemaker’s mark on Dec. 9, rallying I Be Casual to victory in the fourth race. In addition to becoming the world’s winningest rider, Pincay rode 32 winners at the 1999 Autumn Meet to earn his first riding title since the 1991 Spring/Summer Meet. He finished four wins ahead of Patrick Valenzuela while claiming his 38th riding championship.
Became the first California track to offer the $1 Pick Four at 2000 Autumn Meet, a single wager encompassing the day’s final four races.
The Ron Anson-owned entrymates of Gomezmerize and Onepowerful Bullet finished in a dead heat for first in the fourth race on Nov. 18, 2000, the first time entrymates finished in a dead heat for first in track history. As a surprise birthday gift, the race had been named the “Ron Anson” in celebration of the owner’s 58th birthday.
In deference to California’s energy crises during 2001, Hollywood Park shifted its traditional Friday night racing cards to twilight hours following the Spring/Summer Meet’s opening. Racing on 12 remaining Fridays began at 3:30 p.m.
Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron concluded his brilliant 28-year career with a two-length victory aboard Came Home in the $107,500 Affirmed Handicap on June 23, 2002. McCarron exited the sport with 7,141 career victories, sixth on the all-time list, and record earnings of $264,351,579.
Having broken his neck in a spill at Santa Anita Park on March 1, 2003, Laffit Pincay Jr., at 56, announced his retirement on April 29 after winning an unparalleled 9,530 races. Pincay, who broke Bill Shoemaker’s record of 8,833 wins at Hollywood Park on Dec. 10, 1999, was honored at a retirement ceremony on Hollywood Gold Cup Day, July 13, 2003. He ended a 39-year career with Hollywood Park records for most victories (3,049) and stakes wins (288). His last mount at Hollywood Park was a victorious ride aboard Piensa Sonando in the Native Diver Handicap on Dec. 14, 2002.
The Laffit Pincay Jr. Award, presented annually to a person who has served the sport with integrity, extraordinary dedication, determination and distinction, was established in 2004. The first recipient was Bob Benoit, whose 51-year connection with Hollywood Park included service as publicity director, general manager, chief operating officer and track photography provided by a company he formed.
The sale of Hollywood Park by Churchill Downs Inc. for $260 million to Bay Meadows Land Company was announced on July 6, 2005, sandwiched between dominating performances by Japanese filly Cesario in the American Oaks and by California-bred Lava Man in the 66th running of the Hollywood Gold Cup. Cesario, the first Japanese-bred to win a Grade I race in North America, cruised to a four-length victory in stakes record time under jockey Yuichi Fukunaga, while Lava Man won the Gold Cup by a record 8 3/4 lengths with Patrick Valenzuela up. The sale of Hollywood Park was completed Sept. 23 with F. Jack Liebau being named president of the Hollywood Park Racing Association.
Lava Man held on to beat Ace Blue by a nose in the 2006 Gold Cup, joining Native Diver as the only multiple winner of the 1 1/4-mile classic in the 67th running. The Diver won three consecutive Gold Cups (1965-67).
Cushion Track was installed following the 2006 Spring/Summer Meet, opening for training on Sept. 13, 2006. Purchased from Equestrian Surfaces of Burnley, England, and installed at a cost of more than $8 million, Cushion Track consists of synthetic fibers, elastic fiber and granulated rubber — all coated with a specially formulated blend of wax and mixed with silica.
Lava Man, showing his grit as he conceded eight pounds to the runner-up, caught pacesetter A.P. Xcellent in the stretch and prevailed by a nose under high weight of 124 pounds to equal California great Native Diver with his third consecutive victory in the Gold Cup as the classic was staged on a synthetic surface for the first time in 2007.
The biggest non-holiday weekday handle in track history came Monday, July 2, 2007, when a record four-day Pick Six carryover of $3,274,505.48 generated a single-day record Pick Six handle of $7,596,347.12 and a record Pick Six pool of $10,870,852.60. Total handle was $18.6 million. Thirteen perfect tickets were worth $576,064.40 each, while 807 consolation tickets with five winners each were worth $2,240.40. A single winning ticket would have paid a record $7.4 million.
Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel became the first person to breed, own and train a Hollywood Gold Cup winner as Mast Track scored a front-running, 10-1 upset under jockey Tyler Baze in the 69th running. The victory was the third in the Gold Cup for Frankel. Unbeaten Zenyatta, however, was named Horse of the Meet as she won the Milady and Vanity en route to a perfect seven-for-seven campaign and an Eclipse Award as Older Female champion.
Zenyatta was named Horse of the Meet for the second straight year in 2009 as she remained unbeaten in 14 starts with repeat victories in the Milady and Vanity.
Zenyatta won the Vanity for an unprecedented third time and was voted Horse of the Meet for a third consecutive year in 2010. The Vanity victory over a courageous St Trinians was the 17th in a row for the brilliant mare, who was ultimately honored as Horse of the Year.
The Player’s Pick 5, a 50-cent minimum wager which has a 14% takeout rate, debuted opening day (April 21, 2011) and proved to be extremely popular and has since become a fixture at the other major tracks in Southern California. First Dude edged stablemate Game On Dude and favored Twirling Candy to win the $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup for owner-breeder Donald Dizney and Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
The Hollywood Park Racing Association and Betfair US, the Los Angeles based subsidiary of Betfair Group that also owns Television Games Network, completed a historic agreement March 13, 2012 intended to transform the customer experience for fans at the venue as well as online and on television. Under terms of the five year deal, Hollywood Park was renamed “Betfair Hollywood Park’’ in what is the first naming rights agreement for a horse racing venue in the United States.
Jockey Chantal Sutherland became the first female rider to win the Hollywood Gold Cup, directing favored Game On Dude to the victory over Richard’s Kid. The 1-2 finish in the Grade I Gold Cup was the second in a row for Gall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert after First Dude and Game On Dude were exacta partners in 2011.
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