Marjorie L. Everett
For the better part of two decades, she was at the helm of Hollywood Park. Guiding it through day-to-day operations, she forged a reputation for toughness, but also proved to be a highly effective leader with her knowledge and dedication of Thoroughbred racing.
Marjorie Lindheimer Everett had her supporters and detractors, but she accomplished a lot during her tenure at the Track of Lakes and Flowers, and it is very possible that no one loved that venue more than she did.
Born in 1921, the lady who came to be known as Marje was well acquainted with racing long before Hollywood Park. Her adopted father was Ben Lindheimer, a prominent figure on the Illinois racing scene. The elder Lindheimer owned Arlington Park, Balmoral Park, and Washington Park, and also owned Thoroughbreds. Marje learned a lot from her father when it came to racing, and those times shaped her future.
After her father's passing in 1960, Marje succeeded him as head of the Chicago venues before leaving at the end of the decade. That event paved the way for her to come to Hollywood Park.
Before settling in as part of the Southern California racing scene, Marje had married Webb Everett, who served in various capacities at multiple California racetracks, in 1958. She arrived at Hollywood Park in 1972 as part of the board of directors as well as a stockholder. Under her leadership, the track achieve its highest attendance figure of 80,348 when fans came to receive a tote bag in 1980. A major proponent of on-track attendance, Everett knew the value of bringing fans to the races, and she worked hard to ensure the seats were filled at the Home of Champions. Her tenure saw Sunday racing become part of the schedule, and that also went for the Pick Six wager, which also featured the carryover element.
Star racehorses competed there in her heyday, too. Local favorites like Ack Ack, Ancient Title, Cougar II, Ferdinand, John Henry, and Snow Chief won races there, as did legends like Affirmed and Spectacular Bid. There was also Seattle Slew, who famously lost the 1977 Swaps Stakes to J.O. Tobin less than a month after winning the Triple Crown.
Everett was also there when Hollywood Park was awarded the Breeders' Cup in 1984. Designed to have horses and jockeys from different circuits meet to decide divisional championships, the Breeders' Cup was going to be a major event. Everett clearly saw the potential in it, and knew that if her racetrack played host to the extravaganza, that thousands would be in attendance and millions more would see it on television. Given its Southern California roots, celebrities would be in attendance as well (Everett knew some of them, too). To be the stage for the Breeders' Cup would be a major victory for Hollywood Park.
Everett wanted the Breeders' Cup at her track, and that is precisely what happened. She gave $200,000 of her fortune to the Breeders' Cup, which drew the ire of both Santa Anita and Oak Tree Racing Association management, who were in the running for hosting duties as well. None of that fazed Everett, and she achieved her goal. The inaugural Breeders' Cup came to Hollywood Park on November 10, 1984, with more than 60,000 people on hand for the festivities. That would not be the only Breeders' Cup held in Inglewood; it came back in 1987.
Hollywood Park also gained the distinction of being the first track to handle more than $4 million and later $5 million in daily average handle with Everett in control, and the track also expanded its dates to include an autumn meeting in 1981. That was anchored by the Hollywood Futurity, which became the first race for juveniles to have a million dollar purse in 1983. The very first edition turned out to have the following year's Kentucky Derby winner in Gato Del Sol, who finished seventh in the Hollywood Futurity.
In addition to her board of director duties, Everett became Hollywood Park's Chairwoman, Chief Executive Officer, and President in 1985. Just as she had been in her time on the Illinois circuit, Everett was known for being tough on employees. It was not uncommon to frequently hear of people being relieved of their positions. Even so, Everett had friends in Southern California, counting top jockeys Laffit Pincay, Jr. and Bill Shoemaker among them.
Like her father before her, Everett also got involved with Thoroughbred ownership. She campaigned Stardust Mel, who won or placed in multiple graded stakes in Southern California during the middle part of the 1970s.
Everett served in multiple positions in Hollywood Park until 1991, when she was removed after she lost a proxy battle to R.D. Hubbard. It was a true end of an era for Hollywood Park, and Everett rarely returned to the venue in the years afterward.
In March of 2012, Everett passed away at the age of 90. Though it had been years since she worked at Hollywood Park, she was rightly remembered for her accomplishments and service to California racing along with her tenure in Illinois. In her honor, the track renamed the Milady Handicap, long a mainstay of the spring/summer meet, to the Marjorie L. Everett Handicap. It stayed on the schedule for the next two seasons until Hollywood Park closed in December of 2013. The announcement came just over a year after Everett's passing.
She was a maverick in Thoroughbred racing, but she was also one of its most dedicated personalities as well as a trailblazer. Female executives were not common in racing back when Everett was around, but she did not let that deter her from a prolific career.
A true racing fan, Marje Everett cared about the sport, and she rightly earned her place as one of its true leaders and visionaries.