05/17/2010 12:00AM

Del Mar, Hollywood reach out to Oak Tree


Officials with Del Mar and Hollywood Park have informed the Oak Tree Racing Association that their racetracks are available for a race meeting in October if Oak Tree is unable to reach an agreement with Magna International Development on a lease at Santa Anita later this year.

Last week, MID, the parent company of Santa Anita's owner Magna Entertainment, voided its lease with Oak Tree, which hosts an annual fall meeting at Santa Anita.

MID chief executive officer Dennis Mills declined on Friday to state what terms MID wants from Oak Tree in a new lease. Officials with Oak Tree and MID are expected to discuss new lease terms in coming weeks. Oak Tree has leased Santa Anita for its annual fall meeting since 1969.

MID's decision to void Oak Tree's lease occurred two weeks after the terms of the existing lease were approved by a bankruptcy court in Delaware. MID is led by prominent horseman Frank Stronach.

Saturday, Hollywood Park president Jack Liebau said Hollywood Park has made a rent-free offer to Oak Tree to run at Hollywood Park. Oak Tree would be asked to pay the costs of operating the meeting, Liebau said. Del Mar officials have also made an offer to make their seaside San Diego County track available.

Oak Tree executive vice president Sherwood Chillingworth said that Oak Tree would like to conduct its meeting at Santa Anita.

"I think my board's preference is to stay where they are," he said.

If Oak Tree shifts its race meeting to Hollywood Park or Del Mar, both tracks would run the Oak Tree dates in addition to their own meetings. Oak Tree runs its meeting on a not-for-profit status, with proceeds dedicated to racing-related charities.

Oak Tree is scheduled to run a five-week race meeting from Sept. 29 to Oct. 31. Del Mar will run this year from July 21 to Sept. 8, while Hollywood Park has a fall meeting from Nov. 3 to Dec. 19. In between Del Mar and Oak Tree, the Los Angeles County Fair meeting at Fairplex Park will be run from Sept. 9-27.

A move to Hollywood Park would give that track essentially a three-month race meeting in the fall, combining Oak Tree dates and Hollywood Park's fall dates.

"We immediately stepped up and offered the facility," Liebau said. "Oak Tree would just pay the direct costs. We don't have a rent proposal in it.

"Oak Tree has done a lot of good for the industry and should have an alternative if they can't work something out with Stronach."

Del Mar's track is located on the San Diego fair grounds. The fair grounds's website lists one major event during the time that Oak Tree has racing dates, a horse show on the first weekend of October. Del Mar president Craig Fravel said Sunday that executives from his track have been in contact with Oak Tree officials in recent days.

"We'll run some projections and be helpful any way we can," he said.

Oak Tree's lease arrangement with Magna will be discussed at a California Horse Racing Board meeting at Golden Gate Fields on Thursday. The issue was already on the agenda before the lease was voided last week.