Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times recently (May 11, 2013) wrote a column in which he contends that the pending closing of Hollywood Park calls into question the future of racing in Southern California. In the op-ed disguised as an analysis, he made this remarkable statement: “With its announcement Thursday, Hollywood Park did little to refute the theory that horse racing is a sport in need of a hospice.”


One could argue that Hollywood Park’s closing may not bode well for racing in Southern California. But how does one leap from the fact that Hollywood Park is to be razed to the sweeping conclusion that “horse racing is a sport in need of a hospice.” What Mr. Dwyre has done is make an unwarranted generalization from a sample size of one racetrack.

A more plausible and simple explanation for the closure of Hollywood Park is that it is following an established pattern of industrialization. When a business becomes too valuable for the land it resides on, the business closes and is replaced by something else. This is also true for some of the old and exclusive urban residential neighborhoods that ultimately yielded to commercial development…and it is true for racetracks as well.

For instance, Euclid Avenue in Cleveland Ohio, was in the 19th century called “Millionaires’ Row” and was home to mansions of John D. Rockefeller and other industrial giants. As commerce grew in importance, Euclid Avenue became an industrial and retail sector and the people living on Millionaires’ Row moved to estates in the suburbs. Similarly, reflect on the closing of prominent racetracks in New York City in the 19th century to make way for an expanding population. The tracks at Coney Island and Brighton Beach were not shuttered because racing was dying (the opposite was true), but rather, because the racetracks took up too much acreage in the city.

This same pattern was seen throughout the 20th century and holds true today. In 2013, if a major golf course were to be developed into housing and office buildings, the conclusion would not be draw that “golf is a sport in need of a hospice.”

By Mr. Dwyre’s thinking, one might actually (falsely) believe that horse racing is in a high-growth mode because so many people recently went to Churchill Downs to watch the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby and television ratings soared?

Beware of drawing conclusions from small samples.

Copyright © 2013 Horse Racing Business


  1. Andy Asaro says

    It’s about not having a turf course for part of the year in So. California. It’s also about stabling and being able to work out over an oval of one mile or more.

    Hollywood’s closing is a disaster for California Racing.

  2. Nancy Taylor says

    Sadly for California, Mr Dwyre is right on. The industry’s current business model there is a disaster and Hollywood Park’s closing only makes the situation go from bad to worse.

  3. Dwrye is not right on. Why is racing in the USA ready for the hospice because one racetrack closes? Dwyre wrote an emotional and factless piece.

  4. In my opinion, horseracing is not in hospice yet but it is definitely a niche sport. Now take out the welfare checks from its biggest competitor (casinos) and it would be in life-support. The truth is at the highest level it is a breeding industry. The real racing is at the mid and low tier where most scrapes for getting a piece of the purse. The million dollar purses should be at the allowance and claiming ranks.

    Top this off with high takeout rates and decades of kicking the drug can down the road and I wouldn’t be surpirse if the Kentucky Derby is the only race left in another decade.

    Might as well, most who attend the Kentucky Derby believes it is the only horserace in America today.

  5. Every racetrack in California is on land that’s worth more than the track itself is. The likelihood that Hollywood Park, Bay Meadows or Tanforan will ever be replaced by newer tracks….is zero. It’s a slow death, but a death all the same.

  6. Dwyre says that the end of Hollywood Park means that racing (nationwide) is dying. Read the LA Times article for yourself and you will see that this is so.

  7. Santa Anita is located in the city of Arcadia. The city of Arcadia DOES have some of the most expensive home and land prices in Southern California. Land is in demand there, and with the racetrack also located right next to a developed mall, it would make sense to close this track in favor of better land use. However, this does not hold true for Hollywood Park.

    Hollywood Park is located in the city of Inglewood. Inglewood is one of the most destitute areas of Southern California with some of the highest crime rates, lowest educational attainment rates, and is surrounded by a neighbourhood that is in itself in desperate need of re-development. Putting it bluntly, the land is comparatively cheap, especially when compared to Arcadia. It makes no sense to try and create a master-planned community in an area where no one could afford to buy/shop the re-developed land if they wanted to. The racetrack and its surrounding “old, urban residential neighbourhood” has not yet come close to needing to “yield to commercial development” (as claimed by Shanklin). If that were the case, they’d close Santa Anita instead.

    Mr. Shanklin is grossly uninformed. The pattern of development does not hold true in this case at all.

    Don’t believe me? Do a Google Streetview and compare it to the area around Santa Anita. For general comparison data on Inglewood vs. Arcadia, I cite the LA Times’ neighbourhood comparison list, which is based on Census data.

  8. GoldenState says

    If you are correctK then Hollywood Park is closing because customers won’t go to a blighted area. The LA Times article said the track’s demise showed that horse racing is nearly dead. He did not mention that while Santa Anita is in a good section of town, Hollywood is not. So let’s see, we are to believe that the sport is in the hospice due to the fact that customers won’t go to an unsafe part of town. Sure, nice, sound thinking

  9. Bill Shanklin says

    Regardless of the reason or reasons why Hollywood Park is closing, Mr. Dwyre cannot use this sample size of one to make the following inference: “With its announcement Thursday, Hollywood Park did little to refute the theory that horse racing is a sport in need of hospice.” What happens at Hollywood Park has little or nothing to do with other locations across the USA and globally.

    In fact, racing is vastly improved in New York, two new racetracks are opening in Ohio, and racing in Asia is in excellent shape. I know from pari-mutuel handle figures that horse racing has been hit hard by competitive forms of gaming, but that still does not mean that racing is dying. It is downsizing, but that is not synonymous with dying.

  10. GoldenState, my post had nothing to do with reason why the sport may or may not be in hospice. My point is that closing Hollywood Park has nothing to do with the need for the track to “yield to commercial development.”

    With that in mind, Mr. Shanklin has not presented any solid reasons why Hollywood Park’s closure is not a good representative of racetracks across the USA. Drawing comparisons between NY’s racetracks closing in the 19th century and Golf courses in the 20th century do nothing to counter the inference of Mr. Dwyre’s article. Historical data does nothing to refute Mr. Dwyre’s claim that “Hollywood Park isn’t alone in the age of 1,500 weekday racing attendance figures, but in recent years, it has led the way in making it the norm.”

  11. What happen in Hollywood is predominantly what is happening nationwide. You get slot/casino money and you are OK and maybe even have a little spike in horseracing business but that is a mirage because is it only temporary.
    IMO, Ohio is not getting new racetracks. They are getting more casinos. The racing part is just a inconvenient part of doing business for the casinos to proliferate. Once the political clout for the casinos gets stronger, those racetracks will be converted to house more slots machines and table games.

    Yes, some parts of the world like Asia is doing quite well. Japan has 2 triple crown winners still racing globally at 4 and 5 years old at the highest level.
    Coincidence! I don’t think so.

    What does the west have? potential stars that races half a dozen races for whatever reason(s) and retired. Not enough exposure to attract publicity, that then attracts fans to the racetrack. Those fans in turn becomes customers that gambles. The handle from those gamblers use to finance the track operations and purses. Now it is a handout from the casinos.

    I know this is a very unpopular topic and most would just like to bury their heads in the sand but imo unless the industry start showcasing the thoroughbreds and entice new fans to the racetracks, and deal with the drug problems and racehorse retirements, once they pull their heads out of the sand all they are going to see are slot machines!!

    These fragmented industry only chance to survive is to work with each other and have a comprehensive plan for the future. Those on top that have the resources and abiity to make a difference forgot that this is about thoroughbred racing, NOT BREEDING.

  12. I live in LA and have been a huge racing fan since I was very young. I think growing up in Arcadia and my father owning horses had something to do with that.

    A couple of things, Arcadia would never change the zoning where Santa Anita sits so the land is really worth that much even though it sits in a town where the average home price is $600k.

    I have been thinking long and hard about it and have come to the conclusion that Hollywood closing is no big deal. I never went there anymore and over the last 5 years you could tell the ownership didn’t care about the place. It had it’s day in the sun and it was over. Time to move on.

    I feel bad for the trainers who live in that area but they’ll get over it. Horse racing needs a new model in California and maybe this is what it is going to take. We need to give Northern California some help and have a short but good meet up there with good horses and top jockeys.

    Things change and the powers that be have to actually get together and come up with some good ideas to make the best of this and make racing in California viable for years to come.