Mixed reactions from fans, animal activists as Golden Gate Fields racetrack faces upcoming closure

J.R. Stone Image
Monday, July 17, 2023
Mixed reactions from fans, activists on Golden Gate Fields closure
There are mixed reactions from loyal fans and animal rights activists as Golden Gate Fields horse track faces its upcoming closure at the end of 2023.

ALBANY, Calif. (KGO) -- Huge news making waves across the country in the horse racing world.

Golden Gate Fields, located in both Berkeley and Albany, will close its horse racing operation by the end of the year. The track has been in operation since 1941.

RELATED: Golden Gate Fields set to close by the end of this year, owners say

Golden Gate Fields racetrack in the East Bay is set to close by the end of this year, owners say.

"It's a bummer, it's a bummer. Pretty sad. It's always been a place that I've loved going," Lee Siegel said.

Siegel is a horse racing fan -- no ifs, ands, or buts about that -- and he's reacting to news that Golden Gate Fields will close by the end of 2023.

"They used to say that the bathroom at Golden Gate Fields had the best view in the Bay Area 'cause it was spectacular," Siegel said.

Yes, million-dollar views along the San Francisco Bay with the city and both bridges in sight.

Animal activists though, have been calling for a shutdown of Golden Gate Fields for some time now and are taking credit for the soon-to-be closure.

"Today I'm thinking about the horses. I'm thinking about all the horses that went through the confinement at Golden Gate Fields that we were actively trying to eliminate. I'm thinking about all of the horses that died at Golden Gate Fields before we were able to shut this place down," said Samantha Faye of StopBloodSports.org.

RELATED: Bay Area animal activists call for Golden Gate Fields to shut down after horse deaths

Bay Area animal activists call for Golden Gate Fields to shut down after eight race horse died this year.

But those who eat, sleep, and live horse racing believe that this closure happened for another reason. Here's Howard Kravets of the HHH Racing Podcast.

"I want to push back a little bit on people that think this is a score so to speak for the animal rights groups. I don't think this has anything to do with this whatsoever. This is solely about foal crop size right now in the country and that's of course the number of horses that are being born it's been down for quite a while," Kravets said.

The group that owns Golden Gate Fields didn't give a reason behind the closure but said, "The Stronach Group today announced it will double down on its prestigious racing and training venues at Santa Anita Park and San Luis Rey Downs by closing Golden Gate Fields at the end of the 2023 racing meet."

MORE: 36 racehorses forced to leave Golden Gate Fields following 30th horse death in Santa Anita

While eight horses have died at the Golden Gate Fields track this year, ownership says horse fatalities across the state are down more than 50% over the last five years, making California among the safest states for thoroughbred racing.

"The public no longer cares if the death rate is decreasing. The public has shown on multiple occasions that we care when each individual horse dies because we see horses as individuals," Faye said.

It's unclear what will happen to the stables and horse handlers that live in the buildings at Golden Gate Fields. It is unknown if all of them will be able to transfer to Southern California.

"Large community of people that live out there and I don't know, but it sounds like they're going to be displaced, and that's kind of sad because really there's a large community there," Siegel said.

"I just hope the powers that be, J.R., come together and figure this out because closing tracks is not the overall solution to horse racing," Kravets said.

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