Back in the days before Thoroughbred racing earned its present badge of respectability, race-track patrons across the nation could usually expect to be served with as many of the luxuries of life as they would come upon within the confines of a state penitentiary. With the recent tremendous growth of the sport, however, came a gradual awareness on the part of management that a horse player, rich or poor, a regular or a once-a-year bettor, is not a mysterious creature running around (with blinkers on) seeking only a place to bet and a view of the finish. He was, it emerged, at least as appreciative of the joys of living as anyone else. Thus began the trend toward better race tracks and better facilities. New York, years behind almost every other state in the matter of track modernization, is readying plans for a so-called dream track. Well, the state of California, which traditionally does things big or not at all, already has one. Known as the "track of the lakes and flowers" (no misnomer, as evidenced by the photographs on the opposite and following pages), Hollywood Park qualifies as America's foremost example of first-class efficiency coupled with first-class racing. "To be big time and to stay that way," said the track's vice-president and general manager James D. Stewart last week, "a track has got to keep moving. Look ahead and keep improving." Statistics show that Stewart practices what he preaches, for last year Hollywood Park topped the nation in so many categories (even the gardening bill, $200,000 in 1955, is probably tops) that it is hard to realize that most of these records are in the process of being shattered during 1956. For example, the daily average attendance is over the 30,000 mark, and the world's record gross purse distribution of $3,412,925, set a year ago, is certain to be surpassed. Hollywood Park has scheduled 28 stakes this season: four at $100,000, two at $75,000, two at $50,000,two at $35,000, 11 at $25,000, three at $20,000 and four at $15,000. Thus the enterprising horseman is tempted, while the discerning fan is delighted by the beauty of the one-mile track and the quarter-of-a-mile-long structure containing more than 26,000 seats in the grandstand, clubhouse and Turf Club. Swift-moving escalators are everywhere, as are spacious bars and more than 45 refreshment stands. Over from 47 barns, with stall space for 2,000 horses, come the daily fields to be saddled in a paddock directly in front of the stands, and even here the student of conformation gets a break: he can press into a special amphitheatre, with a capacity for 3,000 standees (see following page), in order to make his observations at the closest possible range.
While Hollywood Park shows the way in track progress, some of its resident horses mount a withering assault on world records over a sandy loam surface which is clearly the fastest ever seen, led by a golden chestnut named Swaps, who will pack more than 60,000 fans into the track this Saturday as he goes after the $100,000 added Hollywood Gold Cup. The eyes of the racing world will be on the "track of the lakes and flowers" for still another reason. A few days ago New York racing officials announced that a Mr. Arthur Froehlich had been engaged as the architect of the new eastern dream track. Dreamer Froehlich was the architect of the Hollywood Park dream track.
Members of Hollywood Park's Turf Club pass colorful tuberous begonias on the way to their private entrance
Spacious Hollywood Park stands afford wide panoramic view of 38-acre infield complete with goose-inhabited lakes and backdrop of petunias
From high atop the grandstand turf writers in the press box observe the finish
Horses for each race are saddled and paraded In full view of all track patrons
For news of Swaps, the hero of Hollywood Park, and a report on California's booming racing empire, turn to Whitney Tower's on-the-spot dispatch on page 44.