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Published on July 17, 2023
Berkeley's Beloved Golden Gate Fields Set to Gallop Off into the SunsetJeff Griffith on Unsplash

As Northern California's beloved horse racing venue prepares to close later this year, the announcement by The Stronach Group, owners of the iconic Golden Gate Fields, has left many in the racing community and local workers scrambling to adapt, according to AP News. This development deals a significant blow to the Bay Area's sporting scene, leaving the region without a major racetrack for the first time in decades.

After its final meet scheduled for December, the track, which opened back in 1941, will permanently cease operations. In light of this closure, The Stronach Group plans to shift its focus to Southern California tracks like Santa Anita and training facilities at San Luis Rey Downs, aiming to bolster the region's racing circuit and meet the company's ambitious goals.

The legendary racetrack has a captivating history, attracting such notable competitors as 1948 Triple Crown winner Citation and come-from-behind specialist Silky Sullivan. It has also been immortalized in literature and film, adding a layer of cultural significance.

The decision to close the racetrack has already raised concerns regarding the future of California's horse racing industry. Scott Chaney, Executive Director of the California Horse Racing Board, acknowledged the human impact of this closure on employees and pledged to seek opportunities and solutions, as per Mercury News.

The Stronach Group, which acquired the track in 2011, announced plans to "double down" on its racing efforts in Southern California, focusing on expanding Santa Anita facilities and racing days, beginning in January. However, this strategic move is not without controversy as it has been met with disapproval from those working in the industry.

Alan Balch, Executive Director of the California Thoroughbred Trainers, expressed concerns over the far-reaching and long-lasting implications of this decision and its potential impact on racing and thoroughbred breeding in California and the West, including Southern California, according to Mercury News.

As employees and racing enthusiasts grapple with the impending closure of Golden Gate Fields, questions arise over the fate of the land that straddles Albany and Berkeley. Proposals include transforming the area into a state park or open green space, with other possibilities not yet ruled out.