11/19/2015 4:48PM

California horsemen look for alternatives to stabling at Los Alamitos


Off-track stabling in Southern California may be moved from Los Alamitos to Del Mar this winter after officials with Southern California racetracks and horsemen’s organizations have been unable to reach a long-term agreement for year-round stabling at Los Alamitos.

The issue was discussed at length at Thursday’s California Horse Racing Board meeting at Del Mar.

Two off-track stabling scenarios are under discussion – a short-term arrangement allowing the continuation of year-round stabling at Los Alamitos, or a new plan to allot stall space for 500 horses at Del Mar through the end of May and build additional stalls at San Luis Rey Downs training center in northern San Diego County.

Racetrack and horsemen’s officials are expected to meet in coming days to seek a resolution.

The racing board granted conditional approval for Santa Anita to begin its winter-spring meeting on Dec. 26 contingent on the track reaching agreements regarding off-track stabling and on general horsemen’s contracts with the Thoroughbred Owners of California and California Thoroughbred Trainers Association. Santa Anita was given until Nov. 28 to resolve the items. The track will be given a full license upon completion of those agreements.

Los Alamitos has hosted year-round stabling for approximately 700 Thoroughbreds since the closure of the stable area at Hollywood Park in January 2014. A cessation of year-round stabling there would force dozens of stables to move to Santa Anita or to Del Mar or San Luis Rey Downs.

Officials with horsemen’s organizations and Santa Anita had sought a 10-year deal with Los Alamitos for continued off-track stabling. The deal was not resolved because of financial issues, leading to the plan including Del Mar and an expansion of stalls at San Luis Rey Downs. Under that scenario, there would be space for 1,900 horses at Santa Anita, 500 at Del Mar, and 500 at San Luis Rey Downs. In addition, there would be space for up to 500 horses at Galway Downs, near Temecula, which currently a base for a small number of horses.

If horses are based at Del Mar, they would have to be relocated to San Luis Rey Downs or the Galway Downs training center in late May in advance of the San Diego County Fair held on the property in June and into early July before the track’s summer Thoroughbred meeting.

Los Alamitos has been paid $4,700 a day to conduct off-track stabling, a fee that the track wanted to increase, according to discussions at Thursday’s meeting.

Brad McKinzie of Los Alamitos said a 10-year deal “has proven too difficult to do to lock up the land at Los Alamitos. To come back for a shorter-term deal, one or two years, will be simpler to do.

“Let’s look for common ground for a shorter-term deal,” McKinzie said. “That is our proposal and that’s where we’d like to go.”

Joe Morris, the former president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California who is now an executive at Santa Anita, said a fee of $9,500 per day was agreed with Los Alamitos until the track stated in a recent letter that it wanted a higher fee. TOC chairman Mike Pegram said Los Alamitos sought consideration for other terms, such as a share of revenue from nighttime simulcasting of Australian racing, as part of a new deal.

Alan Balch, the executive director of the CTT, said there is concern among Los Alamitos trainers about a cessation of year-round Thoroughbred training there.

“We don’t like the lack of planning and lack of certainty,” he told the racing board. “I don’t think we’re alone at that.  What we want is stability going forward. We’ve had new information that may open the door to Los Alamitos’s continuation.”

The higher fee for Los Alamitos was rejected in a vote of a stabling and vanning committee of Southern California racing executives. An expansion of San Luis Rey Downs was approved by the committee, according to Scott Daruty, an executive with The Stronach Group, the parent company of Santa Anita and San Luis Rey Downs.

At Thursday’s meeting, the two sides were strongly urged to continue discussions.

“You’re all in the room, maybe you can get together,” said chairman Chuck Winner.

Daruty said the expansion of San Luis Rey Downs is in the permit planning process and that temporary stalls could be installed as a short-term measure, if needed.