AirTalk for May 10, 2013

Final stretch for 75-year-old Hollywood Park horse-racing track


Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Groomer Byron Vasquez of Cerin Racing Stables washes a racehorse after a run on Friday morning at Hollywood Park Race Track. Each season, the team moves their staffers and horses to a different track. Cerin Stables just transported their 35 racehorses from Santa Anita.


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Trainers and owners watch as exercise riders take each racehorse out for a two-mile run. Trainer Vladimir Cerin said races are as physically taxing for horses as marathons are for humans. "They put so much into it," he said.


Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Jesse Rodriguez, left, and his father, Jesse Marquez, are exercise riders for Cerin Racing Stables. Marquez has worked for Vladimir Cerin for 30 years. Every morning riders from all the racing stables at Hollywood Park take racehorses onto the track.


Maya Sugarman/KPCC

After a morning exercise, groomers bathe each racehorse. After a race, horses spend three days off to recover. Most of the Cerin Racing Stables horses are two-year-olds.


Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Cerin Stables staffers clean bridles at the end of the day. Vladimir Cerin and his staff start each day at Hollywood Park before 4 a.m.


Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Assistant Trainer Ramon Gonzales stands in a stall with Top Knot, who is preparing for an afternoon race. Gonzales has worked at Cerin Racing Stables for 25 years.


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Exercise rider Joe Vacca takes off his riding boots for the day. Each rider takes out around six horses each morning.


Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Farrier and horseshoer Wesley Champagne files down a horseshoe on Top Knot, hours before a race.


Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Cerin has a stable goat that calms the horses, and sometimes sleeps in a pen with one of the fillies.


Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Groomer Arsenio Hernandez fills buckets with feed. The horses have two meals in the morning, at 4 and 10 a.m. After exercises, each horse gets hay.

After 75 years of horse racing, Hollywood Park will have its last run on December 22 of this year. Track President Jack Liebau has told the California Horse Racing Board that Hollywood Park is not requesting 2014 racing dates and has notified current employees of the track’s closing.

Because of dropping profits, the land is going to be used for various new developments such as residential housing units, a park, a movie theater, offices and a hotel, according to the Associated Press.

"It had a neat history with the city's history and that's something that can't be replaced anywhere," said Steve Andersen, Southern California Correspondent for Daily Racing Form. "It's had a great role in horse racing as a vital venue in the spring and summer of each year...It really served well the people who lived on the Westside of town whether you were coming from Santa Monica or down to Torrance or Long Beach, so it was your local track for racing."

Hollywood Park opened in 1938 and once hosted Seabiscuit and the first Breeders' Cup in 1984. However, due to dwindling attendance at races, the rising cost of keeping horses and internet betting, the track has not been able to sustain itself. And it’s not alone—It’s the second horse racing track to close since 2008.

"I'm really surprised that it has gone all the way through to 2013," said Andersen. "In 2005, if you'd have said, 'OK lets have an answer how long will it go?' I would have said 2010. Of course that was before the recession hit, which made real estate and commercial and residential development almost impossible. Now they think they can develop this property in the next 12 months."

Can horse racing survive in California? What happened to the crowds that it once drew? What will happen to the more than 1,000 horses that the track houses?


Steve Andersen, Southern California Correspondent, Daily Racing Form

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