04/11/2013 5:52PM

Barretts plans for year-round training at Fairplex


Barretts Racing at Fairplex is making plans to open its barn area for year-round training next January, but is unlikely to expand its racetrack beyond the current five-eighth-mile configuration in the near future, the company's president, Jim Henwood, said on Thursday.

Barretts Racing, located on the Los Angeles County fairgrounds in Pomona, Calif., had previously proposed a $20 million expansion that would include expanding its main track to six furlongs and the development of a five-furlong turf course on its infield.

In a two-page letter to the chairman of Thoroughbred Owners of California, Mike Pegram, earlier this week, Henwood said Barretts Racing was focusing on being a year-round training site. In an interview on Thursday, Henwood said that Barretts racing has not dropped plans for an expanded racetrack, but said that is not an immediate goal for 2014.

"There is not enough time," he said. "We need the industry to see the expansion project as a need."

The backstretch in Pomona may be desperately needed to house Thoroughbreds in the Los Angeles area by the end of this year. Betfair Hollywood Park is expected to close at the end of the year for commercial and residential developments. Hollywood Park has committed to racing through December but is not expected to be open for racing and training in 2014.

If Hollywood Park closes, Henwood said that Barretts Racing would be able to accommodate 1,200 horses on its backstretch, and that he expected the support of horsemen.

"I would be disappointed if we had 1,199," he said.

He said maintenance crews would need about 30 or 40 days to prepare the barn area "and get it up to speed."

Financing the proposed expansion may also be difficult. The board of directors of the Thoroughbred Owners of California recently reviewed a proposal from Barretts Racing to finance the expansion with a 30-year bond backed by racing purses.

Pegram  of the owner's organization said an open forum on April 7 that the proposal left his group's board "concerned" about the financial commitments required.

Henwood said the cost of daily training at Barretts Racing is approximately $16,000, which will be largely covered by a stabling and vanning fund created from a portion of handle from Southern California offtrack wagering locations.

Barretts Racing currently conducts a race meeting for three weeks in conjunction with the Los Angeles County Fair each September. If Hollywood Park closes, Del Mar, and especially Santa Anita, are expected to add racing dates.
Fairplex Park could add racing dates from mid-June to mid-July, and in late November and early December in future seasons. Thursday at the California Horse Racing Board monthly meeting, chairman David Israel said the subject of 2014 racing dates would be discussed at the board's next meeting, in Sacramento on May 23.

"We would like to have dates," Henwood said. "Why not? It might help us in the improvements of what is needed at Fairplex. If he had dates, we'd put the [revenue] back into the facility."