California: Hollywood Park Set for Record Meet; Tax Threat Turfs Only Major Problem; Stress Sports Entertainment Values, Daily Racing Form, 1959-05-08


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— — r California By Oscar Oth Hollywood Park Set for Record Meet Tax Threat Turfs Only Major Problem Stress Sports Entertainment Values HOLLYWOOD PARK, Inglewood, Calif., May 7.— Hollywood Park, whose officers dub it the "track of lakes and flowers," opens for its 20th season of thor with with oughbred racing here Friday the firm notion that it will set new records in attendance, play, and purse distribution. This estimate is bolstered by the strong upward trend shown this year in all Southern California racing, Santa Anita starting the year with a 4 per cent uppage, the Western Harness which followed and the just concluded quarter horse meet at Los Alamitos both shattering all of their previous records. Hollywood Park has led the nation seven out of the last eight years in daily average attendance last year it was 30,906 paid per day and for the last five years has led the roster of tracks in total prize money awarded the horsemen, last years distribution averaging out at 4,923 per diem of its usual 55-day run. We rather look for both these figures to be broken this summer even though Hollywood will have one serious disadvantage, i.e., two of its big holidays falling on Saturdays. And whether it remains at the top of the list when 1960 rolls around depends upon how successful the new Aqueduct proves with New York metropolitan fans. Hollywood opens with only one black cloud on the horizon, that being the probability of the state upping the take out of the pari-mutuel pools which could slow the steady gains shown by Southern California racing in recent years. In fact, some economists say the new tax, at the moment 2 per cent, although this could be revised downward before final legislation is enacted, might even reverse the plus trend to a minus one. While the effect of the tax cannot be accurately predicted, almost every one agrees that the smaller tracks in the state will be hurt the most. Expect More Class Competition All this is in the future, however, and Hollywood opens under the same pari-mutuel structure that has prevailed in recent years, a sensible one which ■has permitted tracks to pay out substantial purses and still leave the association enough money to make worthwhile and needed capital improvements year in and year out. On the technical side, summer racing here will *be the finest ever offered because the track is stronger than ever before in quantity of high class three-year-olds, high class sprinters, and high class allowance horses. The stakes, 33 of them with an advertised value of approximately ,241,300, take care of themselves as they have for the last five years. Moreover, the fans in this area have come to accept at face value the two-year-old racing program and the debut of new equine faces, potential stars of the future, will provide one of the most exciting aspects of the entire season. As most Californians know, Santa Anita de-emphasizes two-year-old racing and allsuch dashes across town were for maidens. While it was fashionable to give a youngster of promise an educational race there, the real time of decision is only now at hand. Southern Californians didnt invent racing, but they are firm in the thought that this area and, in the days before legalized racing down at Caliente, did develop one facet of racing that has played a major role in the sport changing from the so-called "sport of kings" to "the pastime of millions." This facet can best be explained by emphasizing the entertainment value of racing, and the exploitation as such. This is all right as long as you have a foundation of intrinsically sound racing upon which to build, and the West always has had that. So far as our memory and personal observation goes, Joe Schenck when he had the Caliente track, was the first to realize the undeveloped potential of presentation of racing from a showmans standpoint. A tiny example: When Schenck was looking for a presiding steward, the instructed his lieutenants to find* one who "looked like a Russian grand duke." They found the man who answered the bill, Chris Fitzgerald, a man with a noble, regal bearing and who also happened to be an outstanding steward. "Fitz" later went to Santa Anita where in the early days before film patrol, a Hollywood Park development, by the way, his very appearance inspired confidence in a generally novice racing public. LeRoy Blends Necessary Ingredients Hollywoods president, Mervyn LeRoy, also clearly recognizes the principle that the atmosphere in which racing is presented has a direct bearing on public acceptance and to that end, he has created one of the most beautiful tracks in all the world and superimposed a genuinely friendly, courteous staff. The place is quite informal, yet manages to retain that tinge of class which i3 the hallmark of any great race course. It is a subtle blend of sort of having your cake and eating it, too. And LeRoy, while a showman in the true Hollywood tradition and one of the great director-producers of all time, is also a purist-thinker when it comes to racing itself and thoroughbred breeding. Hollywood is blessed by ideal weather and is located not too far from the*"ocean, near enough, in fact, that it usually is 10 degrees cooler of an afternoon than it is in downtown Los Angeles, just 10 miles away, and 15 to 20 degrees cooler than in Arcadia, where the summers can get * pretty stuffy.

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