Golden Gate Fields
Berkeley, California 94710
Golden Gate Fields is an American horse racing track straddling both Albany, California and Berkeley, California along the shoreline of San Francisco Bay adjacent to the Eastshore Freeway in the San Francisco Bay Area. With the closing of the Bay Meadows racetrack on May 11, 2008, it became the only such racetrack in Northern California.
The track is set on approximately 154 acres (0.62 km2) of land in the cities of Albany and Berkeley; Golden Gate Fields' facilities currently include a one-mile (1,609 m) dirt track and a turf course measuring 9/10 of a mile, or 7 furlongs plus 132 feet (1,448 m), stalls for more than 1,350 horses, a main grandstand with seating for approximately 9,000 customers, a clubhouse with seating for approximately 4,500 customers, a Turf Club with seating for approximately 1,200 customers and parking for over 8,500 cars.
Owned and managed for 25 years by the last owner of Silky Sullivan, the foreign car importer and horseman Kjell Qvale, Golden Gate Fields is now part of the Magna Entertainment Corp. (who also own Santa Anita Park and the San Luis Rey Downs Training Center in Bonsall, California).
Golden Gate Fields is situated on a tract which extends eastward from Fleming Point, a rocky promontory which lies on the eastern shoreline of San Francisco Bay. It lies on what was once a part of the slough into which three creeks drain: Schoolhouse Creek, Codornices Creek and Marin Creek. The tract had originally been that portion of the Rancho San Antonio owned by Domingo Peralta. He sold it in July of 1852 to John Fleming, who used it as a transhipment point for sending his cattle across the bay to San Francisco for slaughter and processing. Later in the 19th century, it was the site of the Giant Powder Company, a manufacturer of black powder, dynamite and nitroglycerin. Between 1879 and 1892, the plant blew up four times.
Just before World War II, Golden Gate Fields built its new grandstand up against the eastern slope of Fleming Point, and adjacent marshland was filled in for the track. The inaugural meet was on February 1, 1941. In the period just before the war, the track was used as the scene of the crime central to the plot of the movie Shadow of the Thin Man. With the onset of World War II, the United States Navy took over the property as the "Albany Naval Landing Force Equipment Depot" for storing hundreds of landing craft destined for use in the Pacific theater. After the war, Golden Gate Fields resumed horse racing.
In 1957, the horse Silky Sullivan came to the track and with him came the excitement that followed him throughout his life. Silky Sullivan, nicknamed "the loveable laggard" as well as "The Heart-Attack Horse", a legend in horse racing, is honored by having a stakes race in his name run every year at Golden Gate Fields—the Silky Sullivan Handicap. Until the death of Lost in the Fog, he was also the only horse to be buried in the infield. Lost in the Fog's plaque is the third to be placed at Golden Gate Fields, found near the one for Silky Sullivan and that for Bill Shoemaker.
The infield turf course was opened on February 22, 1972.
In 1974, the first $2 million dollar day in Northern California was held on California Derby Day.
In 1984, the great gelding John Henry set a course record winning the Golden Gate Handicap.
From 2001 to 2004, Golden Gate Fields was the home track for the Grade III El Camino Real Derby, before returning the race back to Bay Meadows.
Before his death in 2006, Lost in the Fog was based here. On September 17, 2006, he was euthanized due to inoperable tumors found on his spleen and along his spine. Prior to his early death, Lost in the Fog ran three races at his home base — winning twice, and placing once. On September 30, 2006 Golden Gate Fields held a celebration of his life.
During the summer of 2007, the racetrack installed a polymer synthetic type racing surface as mandated by the California Horse Racing Board. The synthetic all-weather racing surface is designed to make racing safer for both horses and riders.
On February 1, 2008, on board the horse Two Step Cat, got his 10,000th career win as a jockey.
The multiple Graded stakes winning Hystericalady, half sister to Funny Cide and Commentator, is based here.
With the loss of Bay Meadows to developers in 2008, Golden Gate Fields has become Northern California's only major racetrack (aside from other racetracks that host the summer fair circuit). Its stakes schedule (graded and ungraded) is in flux as officials of California racing shuffle the racing season. Golden Gate Fields may return to offering both Spring and Autumn racing, with more racing dates. On May 2, 2009, the Silky Sullivan Handicap ran again after a hiatus of two years.
AC Transit, the local bus agency, provides a seasonal bus service, line 304, between the track and North Berkeley BART station. The track is also accessible from the Gilman Street and Albany exits of the Eastshore Freeway, as well as from adjacent city streets. The San Francisco Bay Trail, a bicycle and walking path, runs to the north and south edge of the track, but does not go through, leaving a gap.
Pop Culture References
Punk rock band Rancid wrote and performed a song called "GGF" about lead singer's Tim Armstrong's childhood near Golden Gate Fields on their 2000 self titled album.