INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- The legendary racehorse Native Diver is being exhumed from the former Hollywood Park racetrack and will be moved to a new resting place in Southern California.
Richard Shapiro, the grandson of Native Diver's owner and breeder, told the Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/1h74WKb ) that he couldn't bear the thought of the thoroughbred's remains staying where they were as Hollywood Park is torn down and replaced by a residential and retail complex.
"He's racing royalty," Shapiro said. "You couldn't leave a horse like this beneath a real estate development."
Shapiro, 60, enlisted help from a pair of University of Southern California archaeologists who are used to excavating ancient sites in Egypt and Turkey. About a dozen students were assisting in the dig that began Saturday.
As the skeleton was slowly revealed at the grave marked by an elaborate stone memorial, professor Tom Garrison remarked that it appeared as if the horse was running.
Native Diver's remains will be taken to Del Mar racetrack and stored there until a new burial site is prepared.
The first horse bred in California to earn more than a million dollars, Native Diver won 34 stakes races and still holds the record, with another horse, for most Hollywood Gold Cup wins. The gelding died of colic in 1967 at the age of 8. His death made headlines around the country.
Hollywood Park closed in December after years of declining revenue.
The graves of two other horses will also be relocated. Landaluce, the 2-year-old champion filly of 1982, will go to Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky, where she was bred. Great Communicator, the 1988 Breeders' Cup Turf winner, will be moved, too.
Plans call for the track's 260-acre footprint to be turned into 3,000 housing units, 25 acres of parkland and a retail and entertainment district anchored by a movie theatre, office space and a hotel.
Hollywood Park opened in 1938 under the direction of movie moguls Jack and Harry Warner. Among the celebrity regulars years ago were Elizabeth Taylor, Jimmy Stewart and Bing Crosby.
Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com