12/14/2016 2:40PM

California Chrome sure to draw big crowd

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Barbara D. Livingston
Los Alamitos could have its biggest crowd of the year to see California Chrome on Saturday.

Los Alamitos officials will be prepared for a large crowd on Saturday for the first appearance by California Chrome in a race at the Orange County, Calif., track. Track general manager Brad McKinzie said he’s not sure how many people will come out to watch California Chrome run in the Winter Challenge, saying it could be from 6,000 to 16,000.

“I don’t have a clue,” he said.

“We’re staffing like we’ll fill the joint up.”

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California Chrome has trained at Los Alamitos when he has been based in Southern California since early 2014 but has never raced there. The 2014 Horse of the Year, California Chrome is scheduled to be retired to stud in Kentucky in early 2017 following a start in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 28.

Annually, the largest crowd at Los Alamitos is on a Saturday in July during the night meeting, when more than 10,000 typically attend a charity night with dachshund races to benefit a local animal shelter. The event was launched in the early 1990s, borrowing a theme from Phoenix Greyhound Park, and has become a night for locals to attend the races – for both pups and horses.

One thing is certain – the attendance is going to soar compared to last Saturday, when the track drew 2,667 for the afternoon races.

McKinzie said the track typically draws about 8,000 people for the Kentucky Derby simulcast program each year. He said additional mutuel clerks, parking attendants, and concession employees are in place for Saturday.

“If it isn’t full, there won’t be any lines,” he said.

This is the second and final week of the Los Alamitos winter meeting, which began Dec. 8. The Santa Anita winter-spring meeting begins Dec. 26.

McKinzie said the first week of the Los Alamitos meeting showed growth in all-sources handle compared to a similar period in 2015.

“We’re up 14 percent,” he said. “We had a hell of an opening week.”