End of era: Golden Gate Fields closes after 83 years

A general view of the starting gates at during Summer Races at Golden Gate Fields on Sunday September 2, 2018 in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Cody Glenn/Getty Images)

After 83 years, Golden Gate Fields in Berkeley has ended its long run, leaving behind a rich history and a flood of memories, as well as some controversy in its wake.

The scheduled closure was marked on Sunday with eight races and a horse named Adelie crossing the finish line at the track for the final time.

On Monday, on Facebook, the track thanked its fans for their support over the decades and invited them to share their memories.

People recalled their favorite moments, many of them intertwined with memories of family and friends.   

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Some posted touching photos with family or alongside a horse at the track.

Susan Perry recalled how she was a small horse owner and trainer and needed money. She said that before synthetic tracks were used, her horse loved running on a wet, dirt, "slop" track.  

"My only chance was a mare I had entered," Perry recounted. "Of course on race day, there was no rain forecast and chances were slim of doing any good at all. Somehow the skies opened up awhile before her race, and it started coming down in buckets. I will never forget seeing her splashing through the stretch to save the day. Wonderful memories at a track I will miss forever."

The closure of Golden Gate Fields came as the California horse racing industry has struggled to survive.

The track has also faced pressure from animal advocacy groups which have protested the sport.

Just two days before closing, the track reported the deaths of two horses. 

One was named J D's Rude Boy, which the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) determined suffered musculoskeletal injuries, a type of injury sustained while racing or training, according to the agency.

The death of another horse, Sam Spade, was reported that same day. This one died from a non-musculoskeletal issue, such as illness, according to CHRB.   

The two fatalities came less than a month after another horse, Lilly's Journey, died during training. Her death was deemed as musculoskeletal-related.

In the past year, 13 horses died at Golden Gate Fields because of an injury sustained while racing or training, according to data from the horse racing board.  

"The industry of horse racing is not worth a single moment of cruelty," horse rider and training Samantha Faye Faye told KTVU last week. "These horses, while they're still babies, are overworked, they’re stabled for nearly 24 hours a day, and they are coming off the track traumatized." 

Golden Gate Fields itself has been on a steady decline and has faced financial challenges. Track general manager David Duggan told KTVU Golden Gate Fields is consolidating with Santa Anita Park, a racetrack in Southern California. 

An auction has been set for August 1 to sell off equipment from the Berkeley track.

The items being auctioned range from tractors, commercial vehicles, boats and all terrain vehicles to tools and mowers. 

Running up to the finale, the racecourse looked back on the history it created in the Bay Area.

"Since 1941, Golden Gate Fields has served as a stage for legendary performances from some of the sport's top athletes. We watched Willie Shoemaker skyrocket to fame, Noor defeat Triple Crown champion Citation, and Russell Baze become the first jockey to hit 10,000 wins," the track recounted on social media.

It also thanked all those who were a part of the unforgettable moments and the memories over the decades.

"Together we've watched Thoroughbreds become champions, jockeys become icons, and meets become memories," Golden Gate Fields shared, adding. "Thank you to the fans who supported us, our hardworking staff, and the athletes who gave us so many incredible memories."