Dates, many dates stick out to people for various reasons such as August 3, 1933, the 1st opening day at Longacres and September 21, 1992 the closing date of the 59-year-old jewel of the Northwest. Then of course June 20, 1996 the return of racing at Emerald Downs.

Picture credit Golden Gate facebook

For those in Northern California, February 1, 1941 is the date Golden Gate Fields opened and now June 9, 2024 will be forever bured into the memories of those fans with the final races being run at Golden Gate.

Golden Gate featured big names in racing from Citation to Silky Sullivan to Lost in the Fog and John Henry. Willie Shoemaker, Laffit Pincay Jr and of course Russell Baze were just a few of the riders who made history at the oval next to San Francisco bay. 

The Stronach group who owns Golden Gate along with several other tracks including Santa Anita decided to close down Golden Gate for good and consolidate their operations at Santa Anita leaving no permanent racing track open in Northern California. 

There are plans to run a Fall meet at Pleasanton after the Summer Fair circuit but the long term health of racing in Northern California is certainly up in the air at this point.

At one point these tracks were all open and operating on the West Coast, Del Mar, Santa Anita, Los Alimitos, Bay Meadows, Golden Gate Fields, Portland Meadows, Grants Pass, Yakima Meadows, Playfair, Boise and Longacres then Emerald Downs. Along with many fair meets in California, Oregon, Idaho and Washington. We’re now down to Del Mar, Santa Anita, Los Alimitos, Grants Pass and Emerald Downs. Grants Pass on a short schedule and a few fair meets in California and Oregon.

We talked with jockey Kevin Orozco and trainer Frank Lucarelli about the closure of Golden Gate. Orozco got his start at GG with his brother Irving who is still riding in Northern California. Kevin gave us some insight on the closure from a rider’s perspective.

ESN talks with Kevin Orozco

We also chatted with longtime trainer Frank Lucarelli and although he hadn’t been at Golden Gate on a regular basis for some time he knows any closure is not good for the sport.

ESN talks with Frank Lucarelli

There is one good piece of news and that is Turf Paradise in Phoenix is committed to staying open for at least 3 more years. With Turf Paradise remaining open and operating the opposite schedule of Emerald Downs creates a little stability for those wanting to stay in the business and stay on the West Coast. 

With hopes that some kind of new version of Northern Cal racing can be created out of the mess they are currently in is the hope of keeping opportunities alive to run. 

It is a sad day for thoroughbred racing and one can hope that at some point a legitimate group of people can come together to start reversing this trend of doom and gloom. Meantime at Emerald Downs the crowds keep showing up and we still love our summer racing in the Northwest.


By paulb

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