I was visiting family and friends in Los Angeles for the weekend and I noticed earlier in the week that Rookie Sensation was entered in the Hollywood Derby. A good friend of mine has been on this horse all year including the Twilight Derby on Breeders' Cup Friday and he suggested we should go see him run in person. I was all for it as I rarely turn down a visit to a race track.
It was certainly a nice day weather-wise, but there still was not a lot of people at the track. This day being the Hollywood Park Turf Festival and the vibe felt like it was a late December Thursday.
We arrived about 30 minutes before the Hollywood Derby and had no problem grabbing a good spot by the paddock.
Surprisingly, Rookie Sensation was 2/1 the first time I looked at the tote and while I would place some money on him to win, I did play some Exacta's with him in the second slot with a few horses on top.
He looked great in the paddock as he was snorting and feeling full of himself (I'm talking about Rookie Sensation here though the same could be said about my friend on the right!). He is also a pretty big horse and he looked to be sitting on a big effort.
My favorite jockey for a long time has been Corey Nakatani. He is especially at his best when riding on the turf and he was aboard the foreign import Seek Again who had a recent haircut as he still had some of his winter coat.
We took a spot just before the finish line on the grandstand apron and Rookie Sensation would drift up to 3/1 as the second choice when the odds finalized. As the field passed us to the first time, we could not believe our eyes as Rookie Sensation was on the lead! Both my friend and I looked at each other with bewilderment as this colt has been a deep closer in all of his turf routes.
As the field turned for home, Rookie Sensation was still going strong and it looked like he had a chance. However, there was a horse rallying along the rail and it was Seek Again. He proved best in deep stretch while Rookie Sensation tired a bit and finished 5th. What a disappointment especially for my friend as he wanted to see that big rally that Rookie Sensation has shown in the past.
My final wager at Hollywood Park turned out to be a winner. I bet $9 in the race and got back $12.40 for a net win of $3.40. We left a few minutes after that race after we each took a few last pictures.
While it is sad that another race track will be torn down, it really did feel like Hollywood Park was on its last legs. It is too bad that the race track still couldn't be remodeled to fit the current crowds while using the rest of the space for the future development of the land. I especially feel bad for those that were employed there as they will now have to look for another job/career.
2014 will certainly be a big change for California racing with the closing of Hollywood Park. It could be a big opportunity for Los Alamitos to be a major player and it will be interesting to see what the attendance will be like at the Del Mar Autumn meet in November. Will the Santa Anita turf course hold up for the upcoming six month meet? Can Golden Gate turn their business around after years of downsizing cards and races per day? It's all up in the air, but either way we will lose Hollywood Park forever.