By San Diego Union-Tribune
DEL MAR, Calif. (Feb. 6, 2013) — It’s been apparent for some time that horseracing’s days are numbered at Betfair Hollywood Park, but only recently have tracks in Southern California begun to address it, starting with Del Mar and Los Alamitos in Orange County.
Joe Harper, president and CEO of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, said Del Mar would like to host a short fall meeting so long as it included the Breeders’ Cup dates in late October or early November. Del Mar plans to expand and install a new turf course for the 2014 meeting and has designs on hosting the Breeders’ Cup Championships as early as November, 2015.
Los Alamitos would like to house more horses and stage more thoroughbred racing and training in addition to its year-round night racing for quarter horses, according to a recent article in Bloodhorse Magazine. Los Alamitos officials plan a $12 million expansion that will add 700 horse stalls to the 300 stalls they currently have dedicated to present thoroughbred racing. They’ll also improve a grandstand that holds 15,000 spectators now. Los Alamitos currently houses 1,100 quarter horses.
Harper said Los Alamitos would be a good location for a limited, three-days-a-week meeting in the spring and a year-round venue for training.
“A year-round training facility won’t work at Del Mar,” Harper said. “It won’t work at Santa Anita. Los Alamitos, from my point of view, is the best place. We have a very good relationship with (track executive and consultant) Brad McKinzie and Doc Allred (owner of the track). Doc’s word is his bond. We’d love to do business with them.
“But for us, any expansion of dates will be done with one thing in mind,” Harper added. “Don’t screw around with the summer meeting. Those dates work great. So we’re not going mess with that at all.”
The matter was discussed Tuesday at the Del Mar Race Track Authority and Race Track Leasing Commission meeting. Tim Fennell, CEO and general manager of the Del Mar Fairgrounds and Racetrack, said he would be in favor of additional dates in the fall for racing. Any expansion of racing would have to go through a series of state governing bodies, but Fennell said he would push for the approvals.
Harper said Del Mar’s fall racing would be an “Oak Tree-type meeting.” Santa Anita Park hosted the fall meeting and the Breeders’ Cup last November and will do so again this November. Del Mar has been in discussions with the Breeders’ Cup and sent a proposal last spring in hopes of luring a future world championship to the surfside track.
For now, Del Mar has no plans to add racing until Betfair Hollywood Park is closed. Bay Meadows Land Co., which owns the track’s 238-acre site, has been approved for a $2 billion commercial and retail development on the site. But financing has been an issue. Bay Meadows refused to commit to more racing after its racing meet ends in December.
Fairplex Park in Pomona was considered the ideal place to expand thoroughbred racing and add additional stalls for stabling the horses that will be stall-less when Hollywood Park closes. But Fairplex Park officials withdrew from consideration as an alternative to Hollywood Park, leaving the industry scrambling to find another year-round stabling and training venue.