Off to The Races

Ron Garrison/Lexington Herald-Leader/MCT

Kevin Vera

Golden Gate Fields Keeps Horse Racing Alive.

After 60 years of operation, Golden Gate Fields continues a strong sports tradition despite being the lone horse racetrack in Northern California, after the closing of Bay Meadows racetrack in 2008.

Generating approximately $1 million annually, Golden Gate Fields is one of the highest grossing attractions for the cities of Albany and Berkeley.

Located along the Albany/Berkeley city border, this hidden gem in the east bay seats approximately 8,000 and provides plenty of thrills for an ideal family evening at the track.

Golden Gate Fields first opened their doors on February 1, 1941 and due to World War II involvement racing was postponed for six years and the track became an amphibious landing craft base. In 1947, the racetrack reopened and had perhaps one of its finest seasons in track history.

It was during the ‘47 season that two world records were broken at the track, Fair Truckle finished six furlongs (3/4 mile) with a time of 1:08:2/5 and Count Speed finished 1 1/16 miles with a time 1:41:00. Both records were recorded in consecutive races and both were world records at the time.

Today Golden Gate Fields is visited by tourists, fans and gamblers, attracting a diverse group of individuals almost every day of operation.

Veterans like Berkeley resident John Hansen are occasional visitors at the track and keep coming back because of the environment, the excitement and the food.

“I love coming here on Sundays,” said Hansen. “These guys have the dollar Sundays and most of the food is just a buck, parking is a buck and the races are entertaining.

“To me it’s one of the most fun events to partake of on a Sunday afternoon. It’s not only affordable, but also worth the thrill.”

Although the fields seem to receive more visitors due to dollar Sundays, many people believe that the racetrack may face the possibility of being closed and replaced by UC Berkeley Lab Campus.

While there is no definitive verdict reached in regards to the future of the racetrack, the response by appreciative members of the community such as Hansen’s is predominantly negative.

“I think it would be a mistake to close this place down,” said Hansen. “I know many people love it here and many visitors appreciate the history and memories that have taken place in this racetrack. “I’d hate to see it go.”

Like Hansen, many supporters of the racetrack are opposed to the idea of Golden Gate Fields being closed. As Northern California’s last remaining racetrack, this location should be kept as a symbol of the horse racing tradition and forever remembered as an invaluable gem should it one day close its doors for good.