Hollywood Park horse racing track enters final stretch

Sat Dec 21, 2013 11:27pm EST
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By Brandon Lowrey

INGLEWOOD, California (Reuters) - Hollywood Park is giving horse racing fans a run for their money one last time this weekend, as the 75-year-old track near Los Angeles that was once the playground of movie industry elites closes down amid declining U.S. popularity for the sport.

The Inglewood track, which is known for its pink flamingos in the infield lake and frequent flyovers by jumbo jets descending on Los Angeles International Airport, is set to close on Sunday after a long and steady decline in attendance.

The end of the line for the track, which is officially called Betfair Hollywood Park, underscores the challenges facing the horse racing industry, which has seen its popularity erode as casinos and online gambling have proliferated.

At Hollywood Park on Saturday, as the bugle sounded to announce each new lineup of thoroughbreds taking the track, groups of mostly gray-haired men placed bets indoors between glances at television monitors.

Outside in the sun, people filled only a few of the trackside seats in an area where crowds once roared.

Roy Morris, 65, watched the races from a shaded spot, away from the sparse crowd.

"I would say it's at its worst right now," said Morris, who has been a regular at the track since he moved to Los Angeles in 1981. "Back in the day, you couldn't even stand out here."

Hollywood Park opened on June 10, 1938, with Jack L. Warner, the co-founder of film studio Warner Bros. as the park's chairman and Hollywood power figures Walt Disney, Bing Crosby and Sam Goldwyn among its founding shareholders.   Continued...

A man handicaps the 10th race at Betfair Hollywood Park, which is closing down at the conclusion of tomorrow's race card after operating for 75 years, in Inglewood, California December 21, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn