Hollywood Park's Spring/Summer Meet-Closing Day 2013

July 14, 2013. For Hollywood Park, it was a day repeated many times over, yet it was also a day unlike any other.

After its nearly three-month session, the venue prepared for closing day of its spring/summer meet. It had been a ritual quite familiar to racing fans going back to the track's inaugural season in 1938. But unlike that first year and the others that followed it, this closing day held an entirely different meaning.

This was closing day for Hollywood Park's last spring/summer meet.

Weeks earlier, the announcement that the Home of Champions would no longer host racing after the 2013 season concluded reverberated through the sport. Many had feared it would come to fruition, and that is exactly the scenario that played out.

Not long after an historic Hollywood Gold Cup that saw Game On Dude join Native Diver and Lava Man as multiple winners of the track’s most prestigious race, Hollypark brought forth closing day of the season eight days later.

The program that day offered quite an interesting mix. Favorites found the wire first, as did some middle-priced horses and a couple of longshots (and Cal-breds had their day, as some beat open company). Among the top choices that won were Brandon’s Princess in the second race, Unseen Visitor in the third, and Tribal Peace in the fourth. Ethnic Dance would have the distinction of being the shortest priced winner on the day after taking the seventh at 3-5.

But other horses would surprise. Charlie’sboywins lived up to his name in the eighth, getting to the wire at 6-1 with a terrific rally in the closing seconds. Luckarack followed suit in the tenth, rocketing on the outside to capture the contest at 8-1 by a narrow margin.

And then there was Alberts Hope in the ninth. Ridden by Alonso Quinonez, Alberts Hope turned out to be the biggest surprise of the day. The longest shot in the field at more than 33-1, he graduated at a venue that hosted the likes of Seabiscuit, Swaps, Native Diver, Affirmed and Zenyatta.

And the featured race on the card? That would be the Sunset Handicap, the traditional race on closing day. The occasion featured another odds-on favorite appearing in the winners’ photo. In the last Sunset Handicap, Gary Stevens piloted Marketing Mix to the victory as she held off a determined Dhammer on the turf. In what turned out to be the last iteration of the Sunset Handicap, the mare beat the boys.

Fittingly, it could be said that the moment called back to the old days as Stevens had won at Hollywood Park over a thousand times in his career. The same could be said for John Sadler, a Southland native who accumulated hundreds of wins at Hollywood Park. Sadler captured two races on the day and finished first in the trainers’ standings. With Stevens the owner of multiple riding titles at Hollywood Park and Sadler capturing the last spring/summer training championship (he had also won some training titles at previous Hollywood Park meets), it can be said yesteryear arrived in full force that afternoon.

And in true Hollywood fashion, the closing day program had an edge of your seat showdown for the riding crown. Rafael Bejarano, Edwin Maldonado and Joe Talamo were all in the running for top honors, with just a handful of wins separating them. The day belonged to Bejarano and Maldonado, for they each won twice to finish even in the standings with 51 wins apiece. That was the first time since 1946 that two jockeys were co-winners of the spring/summer meet training title. The first pair that did so? Ralph Neves and Jack Westrope.

Once more, Hollywood Park made history at its flagship meet. It just would not tolerate a quiet day. It still announced its presence as a legendary track and would not go gently into that good night. Not with horses winning at different odds. Or with a down to the wire race for the riding title. Or horses winning by wide margins (see Ethnic Dance in the seventh for example), or by small margins (see Ghost N Your Heart in the opener).

More than 5,000 fans were on hand for the program, and they were part of something truly historic. Though the autumn meet was still to come, there is no denying that the curtain call began that summer afternoon for the Track of the Lakes and Flowers.

Published by Support California Horse Racing on July 14, 2023.