02/13/2013 8:59PM

Fairplex and Los Alamitos present expansion plans to California Thoroughbred Trainers

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Funding from public or private sources and a lead time of approximately a year will be needed for Fairplex Park or Los Alamitos to expand its property to accommodate Thoroughbred racing and training, the board of directors of the California Thoroughbred Trainers was told on Wednesday.

Officials with Fairplex Park and Los Alamitos made presentations to a group of approximately 20 trainers, detailing how those tracks could be developed as a second venue for Thoroughbred racing and training in the greater Los Angeles area after the expected closure of Hollywood Park.

Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif., has assured the industry that it will race and be open for training through 2013, but has not stated whether it will operate in 2014. Hollywood Park officials have stated a desire to develop the property for commercial and residential uses. As a result, officials stressed on Wednesday the need for urgent action in the Southern California Thoroughbred industry to find a solution to accommodate horses that could be displaced.

Attracting funding and gaining support of the various factions in the industry for racing dates will be vital for either Fairplex Park or Los Alamitos to go forward with an expansion, officials said. Racing dates for 2014 have not been discussed by the California Horse Racing Board. Such discussions typically take place in August or September each year.

Wednesday, it was not clear how the choice would be made on whether Fairplex Park or Los Alamitos expands. The presentations focused on proposed changes at the two venues.

Fairplex Park has proposed a $15 million project that would expand its current five-eighths of a mile main track to six furlongs, widen the turns on the main track, and construct a five-furlong turf course on its infield.

Jim Henwood, the chief executive officer of Fairplex Park, said the project would need financial support from banks. “We would go to the open market,” he said.

Henwood estimated that if Fairplex Park received support to expand the project would “need three months to prep and six months of building.

“We can make these changes on an accelerated basis depending on when Hollywood would close. We would like to find a group that would like to get this done.”

Los Alamitos has proposed a $12 million project that would include the expansion of its main track from five-eighths of a mile to 7 1/4 furlongs - just short of a mile - construction of 700 new stalls, and the use of existing stalls to accommodate stabling. Currently, there is no plan for a turf course.

Brad McKinzie, a consultant for Los Alamitos, said the remodeling of the racetrack could be done by the end of 2013, but the building of new barns would take approximately 12 months from the start of construction.

“This is where we could be up against it,” McKinzie said. “It will be 14 to 16 months before we have everything done. The racetrack could be done in less time, if Hollywood Park decides to close.

“We’ve got three months of permitting and engineering before we turn a shovel.”

Los Alamitos would also have capacity for Thoroughbreds in its existing stable area, which is not fully occupied with Quarter Horses and the cheaper Thoroughbreds currently racing at that track.

McKinzie said that Los Alamitos owner Ed Allred will not fund the proposed expansion and does not plan to operate any Thoroughbred meets. Instead, outside investors would be required to finance the expansion and would operate race meetings.

Both Henwood and McKinzie said that short race meetings in the summer and fall are needed for investors to recoup costs.
Fairplex Park currently hosts a three-week Thoroughbred meeting each September. Los Alamitos conducts a year-round nighttime Quarter Horse meeting.

Los Alamitos is proposing that when Thoroughbred racing is held at that track, nighttime Quarter Horse racing will be suspended during those weeks and three Quarter Horses races will be run daily at the end of each Thoroughbred program.

The CTT, which represents trainers in the state, did not take action after listening to the proposals. McKinzie urged the industry to find an immediate solution to avoid a chaotic situation if Hollywood Park closes and Fairplex Park or Los Alamitos is not ready to accommodate an influx of horses.

“We’re not going to go to the racing board and say, ‘Pick us,’” McKinzie said. “There has to be a consensus in this industry of how to move forward. This industry needs to decide what’s best.”