This is the year for the Californians: for Silver Spoon and Bug Brush; for Tomy Lee and Royal Orbit; for Hillsdale and Round Table; for Willie the Shoe. And, on the evening of July 22 when the figures are tabulated at Hollywood Park in Ingle-wood, this track, which eastern critics once considered merely a hopeless interloper in Thoroughbred racing, will have led all U.S. racing in attendance for eight of the last nine years.
Starting this Saturday with the running of the $135,000 Gold Cup, Hollywood ends its 20th racing season by distributing $420,000 in stakes money in a period of only nine racing days. Not only has Hollywood Park managed to lure some of the most powerful racing stables out of the East in the past few years but it has become a shining example of top-drawer racetrack management in the U.S. and, for that matter, anywhere in the world.
Nostalgic oldtimers often bemoan the fact that racing has lost a lot of the sporting element which was once such a vital part of its character, but it must be remembered that the millions of dollars passing through the mutuel machines each day have turned racing into big business.
To illustrate this point the nearly 1,900 men and women pictured on the following two pages posed for the first group photograph ever taken at a major track. These people take their orders from a 54-year-old, wavy-gray-haired man named James D. Stewart. Since becoming top man at Hollywood in 1953, he has labored under an assortment of titles including vice-president, general manager and director of racing. He also served a two-year hitch as the best president the Thoroughbred Racing Association ever had. While the 1,900 employees (plus another 300 whose official duties kept them out of this picture) will always regard Stewart as a pleasant fellow to work for, there is equally sincere admiration for him among top racing executives at other tracks and throughout all the ranks of owners, trainers, jockeys and stable hands. In fact, today James D. Stewart would be an almost unanimous choice as America's leading race-track manager. For he is the personification of the southern California approach to racing, in which the customer comes first and the sport as a whole is viewed as a form of entertainment which a great number of people can gain pleasure from. In the quarter of a century since Santa Anita opened its gates to a skeptical public, enterprising Californians have taken enormous strides. They have made the deluxe routine instead of the exception and have improved the quality of horses, both homebreds and those purchased out of state or abroad. This year California-based horses won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness; in fact, four of the first six Derby finishers came from there.
July 12, 1959
The key to the whole southern California approach is that racing has gained the respect—and therefore the support—of the southern California community. Last year, for example, the seven Los Angeles businessmen who serve on the Hollywood Turf Club Associated Charities, Inc. distributed $554,615 to local and national charity funds, and the race track is so solidly behind the gesture that they turn over all profits from their entire final week of racing to charity. Hollywood Park's own board of directors, headed by Movie Producer Mervyn LeRoy, contains an impressive list of other business names, among them Terrell C. Drinkwater, president of Western Air Lines, and Donald W. Douglas Jr., president of Douglas Aircraft Company.
THE FRIENDLY SPIRIT
Jim Stewart's typical working day involves 12 hours of decision-making, public-relations work and far more personal contact with his employees than any other general manager I have ever seen. He starts with a 6 o'clock call at his Palos Verdes ocean-front house. After a half-hour drive to the track, Stewart checks in at the stable area about 7:30. He climbs aboard his 18-year-old gray Thoroughbred, Burley, for a ride through the area and chats with anyone who wants to talk. "One of the most important things about race-track management," said Stewart the other morning as we rode out from the racing secretary's office toward the main track, "is always to remember that public relations begins at home. If you have esprit de corps among the people working at a track, that friendly spirit must rub off on the customers."
As Stewart rode around the track, pausing now and then to observe the maintenance crew operating its harrows and water trucks, he spoke some more about his job. "Always keep in mind," he said, "that it takes more than a good plant to make a successful operation. You have to have an attraction and then put it over with a show that maintains a high degree of taste and dignity." Stewart reined up to a walk by the clubhouse to watch a garbage detail at work and then proceeded. "I believe final authority must go to one person because in the end only one person can really be responsible to his board of directors, who in turn have a strong responsibility to the track's shareholders."
Through the rest of the morning Jim Stewart marched briskly along on his rounds, greeting at every turn someone whose name he may not have known but whose job he most certainly did know. First a drop-in at the print shop to make sure a certain program change had been made. Then a look in the wardrobe room, where hundreds of uniforms for ushers and special track police—uniforms paid for by the track and cleaned at the track's expense—were awaiting the day's first morning shift. In the Operations Department Stewart authorized the requisitioning of a new $8,000 air-conditioning unit, and just down the hall dropped in to see the track's special police officers, including agents of the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau. "We're having trouble," said one agent, "with kids coming in after the seventh race unaccompanied by adults."
"We're also having trouble," interrupted Stewart, "with kids who are already inside with their parents but who break away and annoy others. You better tell the ushers to watch for this, and tonight stick a few extra guards on the gates—even if it means paying them overtime-so we can check this late-crashing stuff."
Also on the morning agenda was a visit to Jack L. Speyer, labor relations director (Hollywood Park employees belong to some 16 different unions and over 40 locals); the ambulance crew (who the very next day retrieved a fallen jock in a near-record 23 seconds); Mutuel Manager George Haines to announce the probable terms of a new pension plan for the 750 men who work the track's machines or act as cashiers and money men; and even a stop in the American Tote Company headquarters to ask why so many people insist on putting their hand over a mutuel machine when asking for a ticket—with the result that the ticket often jams up inside and gums up the whole machine. Answer: they think they're being tricky by not letting the man behind them see their ticket number.
Interrupting his rounds in mid-morning Stewart held a half-hour conference with his plant superintendent Tony Hansen, traffic director Jack Wiechman and his personal management assistant Donald Voorhees to discuss ways and means of getting distant parking lot clients transported to the stands and back again to their cars. Meanwhile, Stewart was on his phone four times: there was a call from President Mervyn LeRoy who phoned to say he would not be out to lunch; a return call from Presiding Steward Wendell P. Cassidy in which Stewart politely requested that a stable area pass be denied to an oddball publicity-seeker; a report from the track veterinarian to announce that Mrs. Halina Braun-stein's Preakness winner Royal Orbit had bowed and would be out of action for a year; and finally a call from Lou Smith, Stewart's counterpart at New Hampshire's Rockingham Park, to request reservations for the following day.
The greatest misconception among the racing public about track finances is the widespread belief that enormous mutuel handles automatically mean that the track makes millions of dollars daily. Take-out percentages vary from state to state, but the tax bite is usually stiff in every state. In California, where the law says that 40% of the track's total on the parimutuel take and breakage must go back into purses, it is apparent that any money to be made must come from such sources as admissions, concession income, program sales and parking fees. At Hollywood Park Jim Stewart figures his net income after taxes will be equal to about two-thirds of the admissions income. Last year's admission income was $2,052,126 and the net income finally rounded out to $1,388,801, of which $1,199,880 then went out as stockholders' dividends. At the same time Hollywood Park in 1958 paid out a total of $10,537,961 in taxes, with the state of California alone raking in $7,710,614.
Today, as Hollywood Park nears the end of its 20th racing season, Jim Stewart, his 11-man board of directors and his two dozen smoothly synchronized department heads find themselves in an enviable position. The sporting population of southern California is growing at a tremendous rate, and despite competition from major league baseball, racing is still the No. 1 drawing card. And it will continue in the No. 1 slot just as long as Jim Stewart and Santa Anita's Gwynn Wilson and Carleton Burke continue to charm the Greater Los Angeles population by presenting the best racing possible with dignity and good taste.
WHAT IT TAKES TO SELL A $2 PARI-MUTUEL TICKET
Army of 1,900 Hollywood Park employees lines up on track, showing vast numbers needed to conduct Saturday afternoon program.
1 Goose Girl adds colorful touch while busying herself with 500 geese and swans in infield.
2 Top management: Don Voorhees, Thore Brekke, General Manager James D. Stewart.
3 Executive secretaries and track stewards.
4 Racing Department: starter, bugler, jockeys, valets, patrol judges, veterinarians, clerk of scales, clockers, morning-line maker, photo-finish camera crew, etc.
5 Administrative officers: publicists, accountants, personnel director, turf club manager, warehouse manager, coach drivers.
6 Operations Department: parking lot attendants, ushers, security guards, first aid and ambulance crew, doctor, admissions sellers.
7 Gardeners, maintenance crew and janitors.
8 Mutuel Department.
9 Printing crew.
10 American Tote crew. 11 Members of Inglewood police department. 12 Caterers: waitresses, bartenders, busboys, chefs. 13 Mutuel Department has fixed lights to indicate date picture was specially taken for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.
WHERE THE HOLLYWOOD BETTING DOLLAR REALLY GOES
$3,514,241 mutuel handle at Hollywood on typical Saturday (June 20) saw $3,029,395 going back to winning ticket holders. Tax of 6‚Öî% sent $238,849 to state of California. Track commission of 7% amounted to $245,997, went to Hollywood Park racing association less expenses and overhead.
$343,431 constituted total track income for day. Major portion of money (71.7%) was accrued from Hollywood's commission of betting dollar. Other sources of income were admissions, $65,654 (19%); fees from parking lot, $6,070 (1.8%); program sales, $9,316 (2.7%); concessions, $16,394 (4.8%).
$36,120.84 (11.1% of income) was net profit for Hollywood Park for typical Saturday. Of track expenditure dollar, most (29.3%) went to purses, stakes. Then 25.8% went to salaries and wages, 17.3% to federal income and other taxes, and 16.5% was allocated to depreciation, advertising, etc.