No one who has been in Hollywood can have failed to be startled by the horse-racing fever which possesses the movie colony.
A study of Hollywood which neglected to comment on the role of horses, gambling, and race tracks would be derelict in its duty and incomplete in its insights.
The offices, commissaries, stages, and dining-rooms of Hollywood echo with knowing tips and detailed genealogies, with debates, wagers, analyses, and grave references to a dozen dope sheets and racing forms.
The more devoted votaries of the turf place wagers all year round, on horses they do not know, running in places they have never visited, in races they never see.
So ‘natural’ has the cult of horses and the obsession with the race track become in Hollywood that the Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety regularly print racing charts and bulletins in their pages – as if these represented legitimate news about the motion picture industry.
It is difficult to imagine an oil or automobile trade journal giving unabashed space to items on the animal kingdom, but ‘Today’s Santa Anita Consensus ‘ is a customary feature in Hollywood’s trade papers during the racing season.
In one issue of Daily Variety, ‘Doc Baker’s Selections’ was featured in a box on page one, a column called ‘Stalling Around Santa Anita’ was on page two, the ‘Chatter’ column was full of racing items, and half of page eight was dedicated to racing dope and tips.
Even the movie reviews in trade papers occasionally bear testimony to the power of the equine: ‘Two entries from the Burbank celluloid stables ran in the money… Breezing home several lengths ahead of the field was Torrid Zone, followed by Flight Angels.’Some anonymous wit once summarized Hollywood’s daily life as a span from ‘track to Troc.’
No one knows the size of the toll which the ‘sport of kings’ takes from the movie makers each year. In the first nineteen days of a racing season in California, thirty-nine places were won by thirty horses owned by picture people.
In one Santa Anita Handicap, no less than twenty-seven of the 107 horses nominated belonged to members of the film colony. Movie stars, producers, directors, and agents are active in the business affairs and operation of the Santa Anita, Del Mar, and Inglewood race tracks.
They turn out in generous numbers for the races each day; they own stables and horse farms; they hire expert trainers, caretakers, and grooms; they send their thoroughbreds to perform on various tracks throughout the land.
They import stallions from England and South America; they go by special train and plan to such rites as the Kentucky Derby or the Saratoga Springs Handicap.
From there, they place sizable wagers from their offices or at the track; they follow the hardly cosmic contests of Santa Anita, Hialeah Park, Narragansett, and Churchill Downs with an intensity which transcends recreation and passes into fanaticism.
The time, attention, telephone bills, and sheer distraction-cost which go into Hollywood’s adoration of the nag represent a hidden drain on the exchequer and the process of movie making.