01/04/2015 3:07PM

Del Mar studies possibility of opening stables year-round

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Del Mar and the landlord of its property, the California 22nd District Agricultural Association, have launched a feasibility study on year-round stabling at the popular seaside racetrack.

Track president Joe Harper said on Sunday that the study will focus on the costs of year-round stabling, and how stabling will affect other events held on the property through the year.

“From their point of view, they are very open to some kind of increase in stabling and training,” Harper said of the agricultural association. “Their concern is they have a number of things go on there that make it difficult to have training.”

Currently, Del Mar hosts stabling for its two race meetings – from mid-July to early September and in November – but is not open on a year-round basis. The track typically opens its barn area one week to 10 days before the start of a race meeting.

Harper said the most significant issue is the presence of the San Diego County Fair, which is held in the weeks before the summer race meeting. This year, the county fair will be held from June 5 to July 5, while the summer race meeting will be conducted from July 16 to Sept. 7. During the county fair, there is activity on the racetrack and the infield that makes housing Thoroughbreds in the stable area impractical, he said.

“There is no way to have horses stabled there during that time the fair is in progress or getting ready,” Harper said. “That being said, there are other weeks available that would probably work.

“Everything that they talked about has been prefaced by saying they have to do everything they can to keep the Thoroughbred industry as healthy as they can at Del Mar. They want to be part of it.”

The potential for year-round stabling was first discussed by the agricultural association at its monthly meeting in December.

“We’re delighted with the study,” Harper said. “It’s bringing into light what the concerns are. There are a lot of things to look at in this thing.”

Off-track stabling in Southern California has become an acute issue following the closure of the Hollywood Park stable area for development last January. Hollywood Park had capacity for approximately 1,500 horses.

There are approximately 2,800 to 3,200 horses in training at all venues in Southern California at different times of the year. Santa Anita has capacity for 1,900 horses.

Last February, Los Alamitos began offering year-round stabling for Thoroughbreds. The track conducted three brief Thoroughbred meetings in July, September, and December. Year-round stabling was offered at Fairplex Park in Pomona and San Luis Rey Downs in northern San Diego County.

Fairplex Park will close as a training center in late February, leaving the need for approximately 500 additional stalls. Galway Downs in Temecula, in Riverside County, may be used as a venue for off-track stabling this year, according to racing officials.

Los Alamitos plans to add an additional 100 stalls for Thoroughbreds in the first half of this year, raising capacity for Thoroughbreds to approximately 800. The track also houses Quarter Horses and lower-level Thoroughbreds that run there during evening programs.