Hollywood Park Closes, Delaware Decreases Racing Days: A Real “Win” for Race Horses

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

Those who have fought for an end to the cruelty to horses condoned in the name of a “sport,” called horse racing, can celebrate their efforts having a material impact as the iconic race track, Hollywood Park, closes. On the practical side, of course the declining economy also has helped. But victories for the humane treatment of animals come through exposing the realities of industries that disregard the abnormal and painful demands they impose on creatures helpless to fight back and most progress is made through the relentless voices of those who speak for them. So, whatever happens to change motivation and bring about better treatment of animals is lauded.

Hollywood Park president Jack Liebau confirmed in a May 9 letter to the California Horse Racing Board that the historical horse racing track will not seek 2014 racing dates and will close at the end of its fall meet on December 22. Liebau states that, "From an economic point of view, the land now simply has a higher and better use, so, unfortunately, racing will not continue here once the 2013 autumn meet is completed.” Hopefully this also signals also a new awareness and public rejection of the inhumane treatment of the animals that has led to a decline in profits at horse racing events.

Realistically, that is not the only factor though. There are easier ways to wager money now over the internet and in the more luxurious and cool casinos that are now conveniently located near major thoroughfares throughout California.

Also, it has became much more expensive to own a racehorse and during the recent economic recession it became obvious that the odds are against owners winning back even their investment, let alone becoming rich on the back of an animal that is drugged and pushed to its limits in competitions that often result in costly injuries and careers ended at the first starting gate.

Hollywood Park is currently in its 75th season of racing. It hosted the inaugural Breeders' Cup World Championships in 1984 and again in 1987 and 1997, in eras where eager racing enthusiasts waited anxiously for the season to start and celebrities filled the front row seats in exclusive seating boxes. It is the second major racetrack in California to close in California in recent times. Bay Meadows shut its gates in 2008.

Both tracks are/were owned by Hollywood Park Land Co., a subsidiary of the Bay Meadows Land Cmpany, which claims Hollywood Park has been slated for closure and redevelopment for years. A casino on the property will continue to operate, and is expected to be renovated as part of the new development, Liebau said.

"When Hollywood Park was purchased in 2005 from Churchill Downs Inc., the Land Company stated that racing would continue for a minimum of three years, and promised that during the three-year period, a concerted effort would be made to improve racing's business model," Liebau said in the letter. "Without success, [the company] spent millions on two statewide initiatives that would have brought slot machines to Hollywood Park, and thereby assured the continuation of racing.

"In the absence of a favorable change in racing's business model, the ultimate development of the Hollywood property was inevitable. Sadly for we who love racing and Hollywood Park, it was simply a matter of time," Liebau wrote, “It is expected the stable area will close by the end of this year.

The CHRB and horsemen in the state are still scrambling to save face publicly and drain any remaining profit from the pockets of those who believe that having a horse burst across a finish line makes them a “winner.” They are focusing attention of the diminishing number of horse-racing enthusiasts/gamblers on a “contingency plan,” which will send them to Santa Anita Park and Del Mar in Southern California and are announcing an interest in creating a year-round off-track training facility.


However, the closure of Hollywood Park is mirrored by another significant development--a pending reduction in the number of racing days at Delaware’s horse racing tracks. The bill in the Delaware legislature faces a vote on Thursday. It would permit a racetrack licensee to reduce the number of racing days from 100 days, as currently required. The purpose is to allow tracks to offer purses that are competitive with other racetracks in the mid-Atlantic region, according to the Washington Post. Lawmakers say the Delaware Racing Association recently entered a written agreement that calls for 81 days of live racing.


“The thoroughbred race horse is a genetic mistake. It runs too fast, its frame is too large, and its legs are far too small. As long as mankind demands that it run at high speeds under stressful conditions, horses will die at racetracks, Bill Finley wrote in the New York Daily News.” Racehorses are the victims of a multibillion-dollar industry that is rife with drug abuse, injuries, and race fixing, and many horses’ careers end in slaughterhouses.”

On November 18, 2011, the ban on the slaughter of horses for meat was lifted by President Barack Obama when he signed the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2012, paving the way for horse slaughter in the U.S. to resume. In the meantime, there is still a multimillion-dollar horsemeat export industry that sends tens of thousands of horses—many of them race horses--every year to Canada, Mexico, and Japan for slaughter

Let’s hope the closing of Hollywood Park and other indications of diminishing public support for in this inhumane industry signal its end and a “real” win for horses.

Read also: Horse Slaughter in Oklahoma Legal under New Law

Sources: ESPN, Washington Post, PETA