It was announced recently that Hollywood Park will face the same fate as Bay Meadows, facing the wrecking ball in order to build a new development on the renowned racetrack. While news of its closure may mean nothing in modern day harness racing, at one time Hollywood Park had a strong connection with harness racing. VFTRG contributor Joe F. looks back at some of the great harness racing moments at Hollywood Park.
|Standardbreds in the Hollywood Paddock (Archival Photo)|
In light of the impending demolition of Hollywood Park, here, in no particular order, are a few notable races that took place at that track. The powerful thoroughbred lobby saw to it that harness racing in California was confined to the daytime until mid-November of 1968, when the newly installed lights at Hollywood Park were finally fired up. The foggy nights and mile circumference of the track made for less than ideal viewing but that didn’t keep the venture from being very popular.
· In November, 1970, Laverne Hanover, the third choice on the board, kept the jinx on sophomore pacers in the APC alive as he beat three-year-old champ, Most Happy Fella. George Sholty drove the winner while Stanley Dancer drove MHF. Horton Hanover finished third.
· In October, 1960, Bye Bye Byrd, driven by Clint Hodgins, caught up to pacesetter Adios Butler in the American Pacing Classic. Triple B was the sports money king while The Butler was the fastest pacer ever off a :54.3 TT mark at Lexington. Three-year-old Bullet Hanover finished third, followed by Caduceus.
· In November, 1961, five-year-old Adios Butler set a WR for a mile and an eighth in the APC. He was barred from the betting. Owner Paige West drove AB. The previous week he set a new WR for a mile and a sixteenth. The Butler had one more start, the following week at Roosevelt Raceway, after which he was retired to an undistinguished career as a stallion.
· Four-year-old Dayan beat 4/5 favorite Fresh Yankee for the second time in two weeks in the $100,000 ATC at Hollywood Park in December, 1970. Dayan equaled the WR for a mile and an eighth for Billy Myer. Chiola Hanover and Dayan—the latter named for the famous Israeli general—were the two top sons of Hickory Smoke. The great race mare, Elma, the dam of Texas and Japa, was also by Hickory Smoke.
· In November, 1972, three-year-old Super Bowl took his 18 race win streak into the mile and an eighth ATC; it was his last start before taking up residence at Hanover. Dancer cut out the mile but his charge ran out of gas during the final eighth. Dayan won, followed by Flower Child and Oppy.
· In November, 1965, three-year-old filly Armbro Flight beat Harlan Dean and Speedy Rodney in the ATC. Elgin Armstrong labeled her the greatest horse bred in 100 years. She beat Noble Victory in the Kentucky Futurity five weeks prior to this race. The cantankerous mare disappointed as a broodmare, although her last foal, born when she was twenty-five, turned out to be Hambletonion winner, Armbro Goal.
· Four-year-old Albatross scored a five length win over Nansemond and Horton Hanover in the ATC on December 2, 1972. The 1/9 favorite generated a $228 minus place pool and a $7,600 minus show pool. He retired with $1.2 million in earnings. This was also the last race for Nansemond and Horton Hanover.
· In November, 1965, nine-year-old Cardigan Bay beat Adios Vic and Meadow Skipper in the APC. The win made Cardy three for four against Vic.
· Vic’s win against Cardigan Bay came in the $10,000 Huntington Pace in October, 1965. Three-year-old Vic set a WR for a mile and a sixteenth, breaking Adios Butler’s record.
· In 1974 three-year-old Handle With Care beat Sir Dalrae, Armbro Omaha and Armbro Nesbit in 1:54.4 in the Western Pace. No filly or mare had ever won in a faster time.
· Four-year-old Marlu Pride set a TR of 1:57.2 at Hollywood Park in beating Fresh Yankee a neck in the $50,000 Pacific Trot for John Chapman.
· Eight-year-old Fresh Yankee, the richest American bred harness horse to that point, won a rematch with Marlu Pride over a sloppy track in the ATC. The latter finished second, followed by Luther Hanover. Marlu Pride, a big black son of Hickory Pride, missed sixteen months with leg issues after this race. He was one of the most talented trotters ever, but he never really overcame his retinue of issues.
· Best Of All went out a loser as he finished second to Overcall in his last start before joining the stallion ranks at Hanover Shoe Farm. The 2/5 favorite fell a half-length short for Bobby Williams. Del Insko drove Overcall. The latter was an abject failure as a stallion. Shirley’s Beau was his best. BOA was also a failure in that area. Cane Pace winner Boyden Hanover was probably his best.
· In November, 1969, Overcall retired with twenty-two consecutive wins when he took the $100,000 APC by three lengths.
· Sir Dalrae had a great year in 1973 and was voted HOY, but Invincible Shadow beat him in the APC.
· Albatross capped his three-year-old campaign with four starts at HP. He beat Kentucky in an Invitational; won the $100,000 L. K. Shapiro over Winning Worthy and Nansemond; trounced the likes of Rum Customer, Kentucky, Isle of Wight and Horton Hanover in the $51,000 Western Pace; then finished up by beating the same group plus Nansemond in the $100,000 mile and an eighth American Pacing Classic.
· Adios Butler was barred in the betting in all of his 1961 starts at HP. No horse of any breed had ever been removed from the betting pool in California. When he swept the APC series that year, he broke the record for a mile and an eighth by three seconds, from the second tier.
· Grandpa Jim swept the classic series at Hollywood Park as the five-year-old won the Earl Laird. Both were mainstays at Hollywood Park in the fall, and they each earned about $500,000 the hard way. Lady B Fast was their trotting partner. She won the ATC and the Pacific Trot in 1968.
· Adios Vic beat Bret for the fourth time in the $20,000 Preview Pace at HP on October 30, 1966. As was his custom Jim Dennis sat off until the stretch with Vic. Bret lost for the fifth time in 67 starts. In none of those had he finished worse than second. There was a $12,000 minus show pool.
· Bob Farrington’s Easy Prom upset Romeo Hanover for the second time in two weeks in the 1967 edition of the mile and an eighth ATC. Easy Prom had beaten Romeo, driven by Stanley Dancer, the week before in the Preview Pace. Del Miller drove Romeo in the ATC. True Duane was second and Fashion Tip third.
· In 1965 HP carded a NB tune-up race for Cardigan Bay, Glad Rags and Adios Vic prior to the APC. Eddie Wheeler drove nine-year-old Cardigan Bay for Stanley Dancer. Vic made his patented late charge but Wheeler got Cardy home in :26.2 to hold the feared closer off.
· Almost 24,000 were on hand as Bret Hanover finished worse than second for the first time in his career, in his final start, the mile and an eighth APC. Bret led until the last sixteenth when 8/1 shot, True Duane, a three-year-old driven by Chris Boring, swallowed him up. Cardigan Bay finished second. Frank Ervin made the tactical error of taking the field to the mile mark in a speedy 1:54.3. Bret, the 6/5 favorite, ended his career with 62 wins in 68 starts, and earnings in excess of $922,000. This was only the second time in his career that he went off at a price more than even money. Adios Vic, Cardigan Bay and True Duane were the only three horses to beat him. True Duane wasn’t much of a sire. His best was the gelding, Mirror Image, the fastest two-year-old pacer of 1973.
· True Duane’s mile and an eighth record stood for 14 years, when Niatross broke it in 1980. That one also eclipsed Direct Scooter’s 1:54 race mile mark at HP with a mile in 1:52.1.