As Hollywood Park prepares to hold an Internet auction on Friday and Saturday to sell off memorabilia and other items from its 75 years of racing, track President Jack Liebau confirmed on Wednesday that thefts have been ongoing since the Inglewood track closed Dec. 22.
"We've continued to have stuff leave that don't have legs even though we have 24-hour security," Liebau said.
One of the missing items, a 1980s portrait of former exercise rider Cheri Iozzia Von Platen, has left her sister, Lori Harmon, extremely upset. The framed portrait has much sentimental value. Harmon said her sister inspired her to launch the Equine Alliance Youth Foundation, a nonprofit group in Paso Robles that rescues and rehabilitates horses. Von Platen died in 2011.
"It's really such a part of my sister," Harmon said. "An artist found my sister at the racetrack. He did a picture of her and it was hanging in the Turf Club."
Harmon said she recognized the photo on a website for auction items in late December. She called the track to inquire about purchasing it. Then she learned it had gone missing.
Hollywood Park representative Sandra Robbins told Harmon in an email, "I did confirm that it is your sister in the print; unfortunately, it seems that it was stolen on Sunday, along with many other items that were on the walls in the Turf Club and other areas. Our plant superintendent looked through the recovered property and it was not there. Sadly, the Sunday patrons were also looters and vandals. If it does show up, we will certainly let you know."
Liebau said there were numerous thefts on closing day.
"People walked out with everything even though we retained outside security at the gate," he said. "The reason we retained outside security is that I had the same experience at Bay Meadows" when it closed.
Liebau said the track would have gladly given the portrait to Harmon. "We did our best to get things to people," he said. "The things attached to walls we didn't take down until the end." Liebau estimated that more than a dozen items on walls were taken.
Harmon said she would offer a reward if she could get back the print of her sister.
"Cheri lived and breathed the racetrack lifestyle and loved every minute of it, especially Hollywood Park, the place that she lived her dream," Harmon wrote in an email. "We love her and miss her and are pleading for the community's help in bringing Cheri's picture back home where it belongs."
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