Hollywood Park will return to a four-day week with live racing Thursday through Sunday for the remaining two weeks of its Autumn meet, the track announced Dec. 2. The decision came just after Hollywood Park expanded the schedule to include Wednesdays a day earlier.
The Dec. 1 program, the first Wednesday live racing card of the meet, had 47 horses competing in eight races. The track had planned to race five days a week for the remainder of the meet, which ends Dec. 19, but entries so far for the remainder of the week were only slightly better. Eual Wyatt Jr., Hollywood Park's general manager, said it was apparent by the lack of entries that it would be difficult to maintain a five-day week.
He said a persistent horse inventory shortage, complicated by an inability to replace horses that are injured or no longer racing in Southern California due to economic factors, was the primary cause of the cutback.
"First of all, we decided we would run four-day weeks in November and would go to five days in December," Wyatt noted. "It's clear that was sort of an ambitious direction to take."
He said the upcoming Santa Anita meet, beginning Dec. 26 and featuring a new dirt track and a projected 25% increase in purses thanks to a takeout hike on wagers, was also a likely factor in the lack of entries. Even without those considerations, the final days of the Hollywood fall meet often experience such a decline as horsemen hold back in favor of the later meet.
"Common sense would tell you that human nature is such that it is likely (horsemen are waiting), although no one has said that me," Wyatt said. "The grass is always greener.
"We'll have better days without the Wednesday cards than we would have had if they had not been canceled," he added. "That's the bright side."
There are 50 entries on an eight-race program Dec. 2 after early scratches were announced. The Dec. 3 card has 56 entered over eight races. There are 68 entered to start in the nine races Dec. 4.
The decision to eliminate the two Wednesday programs, Dec. 8 and 15, was approved by the California Horse Racing Board, according to a statement from the track. It reduces the overall meet to a total of 29 days. The track will remain open for simulcasting on the canceled days.
Shortly after Hollywood Park's decision was announced, Golden Gate Fields received permission from the CHRB to cancel its live Dec. 8 and 15 programs as well. The fall Golden Gate meet also ends Dec. 19.
The cancellations will have no effect on Hollywood Park's upcoming main events, including an appreciation day for Zenyatta Dec. 5.
After the sixth race that day, Zenyatta, who won 19 of 20 races and earned more than $7.3 million, will make a final visit to the Hollywood Park paddock, then will parade on the track in front of both the grandstand and clubhouse area.
There are two grade I events, both for 2-year-olds, to be decided as well. Fillies clash in the $250,000 Hollywood Starlet Dec. 11, while colts and geldings meet in the $750,000 CashCall Futurity Dec. 18.