Golden Gate Fields Runs Its Last Race Sunday


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Historic San Francisco Bay area racetrack Golden Gate Fields will run its last race today, June 9. The track’s closing weekend will involve live music, DJs, and a “Belmont Stakes Watch” party.

Golden Gate Fields, Stronach Group, Chase the Chaos
End of an era: Chase the Chaos wins the 2023 El Camino Derby at Golden Gate Fields. The 80-year-old track will run its last race Sunday, as the popularity of horse racing continues to dwindle in California. (Image: Vasser Photography)

Meanwhile, outside, Berkeley-based animal rights group Direct Action will be holding a mock funeral for the estimated 2,000 horses they claim have died at the track since it opened. The vigil will feature a symbolic coffin and flowers, Piedmont Exedra reports.

The group has protested against horse deaths at the track for several years, and in 2022 was sued by owner, the Stronach Group, after demonstrators disrupted races by scaling a perimeter fence and lying down on the track.

Glory Years

Golden Gate Fields was built on the site of a former dynamite and nitroglycerine plant that blew up twice in the late 19th century. It first opened its doors in 1941, eight years after California legalized betting on horses as a way to stimulate the economy after the Great Depression.

When the US entered the war, the track was repurposed by the US Navy as an equipment depot, with races resuming in 1945.

Over the years, the track played host some of the 20th century’s most famous racehorses. In 1950, Noor defeated Triple Crown winner Citation at the Golden Gate Handicap.

The legendary closer Silky Sullivan was buried infield. Silky’s body will be interred and reburied in Kentucky, the LA Times reports.

In 1974, the racetrack was the first in Northern California to host a $2 million day. How times have changed.

Racing Goes South

California’s racing industry is not subsidized by revenues from other forms of gambling, such as casinos, as is the case in several other states. As such, the sport has suffered from dwindling prize pools and popularity for decades.

Golden Gate’s owner, the Stronach Group, wants to consolidate racing to its two racetracks in Southern California, Santa Anita and San Luis Rey.

It hopes that a bill wending its way through the state legislature will allow it to divert simulcast money from Northern California to Southern California in the event there is no racing in the North.

However, the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) recently threw a monkey wrench in the works by granting racing dates for a 10-week meeting at the Alameda County Fair this fall. They did this despite Stronach’s threat to close the Santa Anita racetrack should racing be allowed to continue in the north.

Golden Gate was originally earmarked for closure at the end of last year. But Stronach consented to keep it open until June if stakeholders agreed not to oppose the simulcast legislation.

Stronach has been criticized by the LA Times for initially failing to tell stakeholders of its plans to close Golden Gate.

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