Trainer, fans reflect on final horse racing season at Golden Gate Fields

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Wednesday, December 27, 2023
Trainer, fans reflect on Golden Gate Fields' final racing season
Horse trainer and fans are reflecting on the final racing season at Golden Gate Fields in Albany.

ALBANY, Calif. (KGO) -- It is the opening day of the winter/spring season at Golden Gate Fields. And likely, the last.

"It doesn't make me feel good. My first year in California, I started in Washington, my first year was in 1977," says Ed Moger. He is a trainer who raced at Golden Gate Fields every year since then. He recalls the first time he drove past it on Highway 80.

"I saw it and thought it was the biggest place in the world. It was the coolest thing in the world! And I was just sad that they are not going to be there anymore," says Moger.

With the closure of Bay Meadows racetrack in 2008, Golden Gate Fields has been the only major thoroughbred racetrack in Northern California. It held its first meet in 1941. In July, the owners announced they were closing, now tentatively set for June 2024.

RELATED: What's next for legendary 140-acre Golden Gate Fields horse racing track?

"I have been there a handful, maybe four or five times. Had some good times there, betting on horses. Eating nachos and cheap hot dogs," says Oakland native Paolo Pastori-Ng, with a laugh.

He says he never won big at the races. But adds, the racetrack has been an East Bay landmark for decades.

"It will be odd to not see it there anymore driving by. I have had some good time there. And our friends have had some good times there, a little Sunday activity," he says.

The current owners say they are moving races to Santa Anita in Southern California to consolidate operations.

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

But there have also been protests over animal cruelty with demands to shut down the racetrack. Just this year, 17 horses have died at Golden Gate Fields. Moger adds, the track is also losing money.

"If you are not making money at a place, they are going to close," he says.

Moger currently has 44 horses in training and will move 25 to compete at Santa Anita, where the level of racing is more competitive than that at Golden Gate Fields. But he says closing Golden Gate Fields will hurt California's horse racing industry.

"A lot of horses, when you breed them, a lot of them aren't good enough to run them in the south," explains Moger. "So, if they are not good enough to run there, you will be breeding horses with no place to run."

That he says, means many horses and trainers will likely leave California.

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