02/07/2013 6:24PM

Fairplex seeking funding to expand in anticipation of Hollywood closing


Fairplex Park executives said on Thursday that they are seeking “industry funding” for a proposed expansion of its racetrack at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds as an alternative venue for Thoroughbred racing when Betfair Hollywood Park eventually closes.

The expansion is dependent on financial support from other entities in California horse racing, Fairplex Park said in a statement. Executives with Fairplex Park were actively seeking support for their plan among Southern California horsemen at Santa Anita on Thursday morning.

Hollywood Park has committed to racing through 2013, but could be developed for residential and commercial purposes as early as 2014. Los Alamitos, which currently runs a Quarter Horse meeting in Cypress, Calif., has indicated a desire to expand its track and build stables to accommodate Thoroughbred racing and training when Hollywood Park closes.

Los Alamitos officials said last weekend that it plans to submit permits for expansion to the city of Cypress this month. Fairplex Park is not that far in the process, but president and chief executive officer James Henwood said in an interview on Thursday that his company wants to be “part of the long-term solution” for a revamped Thoroughbred calendar in Southern California.

There are unresolved issues regarding construction and funding for such a project.
If Hollywood Park closes after its fall meeting in December, there would be racing dates available as soon as the spring of 2014. In addition, stabling would be needed to accommodate as many as 1,000 Thoroughbreds that would be displaced from the Hollywood Park backstretch.

Henwood said that the cost of the project is not known, depending on the level of expansion. Los Alamitos officials said their project will have a cost of at least $11 million or $12 million. Henwood said the Fairplex Park figure would be higher.

In a statement released by Fairplex Park on Thursday, the company said that it would like to expand “given the opportunity for industry funding.” The expansion would lengthen the existing main track from five furlongs to six furlongs, and install a five-furlong turf course on the infield with chutes on the backstretch and the stretch run to accommodate various distances.

One blueprint that Fairplex Park officials showed trainers at Santa Anita on Thursday morning would feature wide turns, similar to Santa Anita’s, but the same short stretch currently in place at Fairplex Park.

By comparison, Los Alamitos has proposed expanding its five-furlong track to a circumference of just less than a mile. Los Alamitos does not have plans for a turf course. One financial scenario at Los Alamitos would have private funding. The track would seek an operator for Thoroughbred racing, who would pay a rental fee that would go toward the expansion costs, according to a person familiar with the proposal.

Wednesday, representatives of Fairplex Park and Los Alamitos are expected to make presentations to the board of directors of the California Thoroughbred Trainers, according to CTT Southern California vice-president Jim Cassidy.

If either track eventually conducts added Thoroughbred racing, it is likely to seek race meetings in the spring-summer and the fall to replace Hollywood Park’s dates. Los Alamitos has proposed two three-week meetings during those times. Santa Anita is expected to pick up racing dates upon the closure of Hollywood Park.

Thursday, Henwood called for “an open dialogue and for issues to be debated” on a revamped Thoroughbred calendar. He said that once underway the project could be completed “in nine months to a year,” but said there are issues related to local agencies and building permits to deal with in the short term.

“This is a big decision for the industry,” he said. “There is no perfect fit.”

Lafe Bassett More than 1 year ago
A reduction in track size, both in length and width pretty much tells me that California racing is heading back to "cowboy" days and creditablity. I cannot see these alterations as anything but a harbinger of diminishing respect.
W.G. More than 1 year ago
Personally, I think it would be better if instead of Los AL or Fairplex expanding, we see a consolidation of Northern and Southern California intro a single circuit once Hollywood Park closes. As I would do it: Santa Anita's winter meet would be extended to Derby Day, which would be the last day of racing in So. Cal until Del Mar starts. Golden Gate would begin on KY Oaks Day and run until late June-early July, with some of the California Fairs repositioned to accommodate this. Golden Gate would inherit most of the Hollywood Park stakes, including the Hollywood Gold Cup, Charles Whittingham and so forth for that spring meeting. The No. Cal fairs would start a little later than at present and run through about Labor Day weekend. Del Mar would start a weekend earlier than at present, with the meet starting on the Friday before it currently does and ending on the Saturday after Labor Day, three days later than it currently does. This would add six days to Del Mar's season, three each at the beginning and end. Del Mar would pick up the Affirmed and Swaps Stakes from Hollywood's spring meet to give Del Mar major races for three year olds that can be preps for that division for the Pacific Classic and/or the Travers at Saratoga. Del Mar and the Cal Fairs would be the only time both Northern and Southern California would be running at the same time since Del Mar gets enough shippers to go on their own. Fairplex would start a day later than at present with a Saturday night program and then race as it would now. Santa Anita's fall meet would run unopposed and end on the Saturday of the Breeders' Cup. Golden Gate's fall meet would start the Friday of the Breeders' Cup, with GG getting most of Hollywood's fall stakes EXCEPT for the Autumm Turf Festival. The meet would end the Saturday of the weekend before Christmas. Only overlaps with So. Cal (besides the fairs would be Derby and Breeders' Cup weekends. Del Mar would re-open for a four-day meet over Thanksgiving weekend highlighted by the Autumn Turf Festival Stakes, the only So. Cal racing between the two Santa Anita meets late in the year. This would allow for five-day-a-week racing for whatever circuit is open, and possibly six during Fairplex.
Bruce Baudoux More than 1 year ago
You obviously live in San Francisco. The Los Angeles racing fan doesn't want a strict diet of intertrack wagering at anytime throughout the year. Thoroughbred racing is also a tourist attraction infusing millions of dollars a year into local business. The distance is far too great to be shipping horses that aren't training locally and you would be displacing a lot of less valuable animals with the infusion of the southern Cal shippers. How excited is the San Diego resident about driving 10 hours to see a day of live racing? I am in full agreement we arew racing to many small fields but I don't think a loing distance relationship is the answer.
Lafe Bassett More than 1 year ago
I believe that a four day meet at Del Mar is not feasible in USA! Nearly 100 mile transport, is not cost effective, nor would you have the summer, beach crowd that makes Del Mar such an asset!
Bruce Baudoux More than 1 year ago
Who in there right mind would want to race at Fairplex if they didn't have to? Only possible answer: Martin Pedroza Do us all a favor and drop the cash into Los Al it's much more viable than the fair curcuit.