07/03/2017 11:36AM

Field size the main concern as Los Alamitos opens meet

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Los Alamitos opens its eight-day summer meet on Thursday.

More than six months have passed since Los Alamitos hosted a Thoroughbred meeting.

During that memorable two-week season last December, Mastery and Abel Tasman won Grade 1 races for 2-year-olds and 2016 Horse of the Year California Chrome won a made-for-him stakes in his second-to-last start and final win.

Thoroughbred racing resumes at Los Alamitos on Thursday for a two-week meeting through July 16. There are no Grade 1 races during the eight-day season. The stakes highlights will be $200,000 races on consecutive Saturdays – the Grade 2 Great Lady M. Stakes for female sprinters this weekend and the Grade 3 Los Alamitos Derby on July 15.

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On a day-to-day basis, the challenge for the racing department will be producing viable betting races for a meeting that runs between the marathon Santa Anita meet, which finished on Tuesday, and the popular Del Mar summer meet, which starts July 19.

Los Alamitos does not have a turf course, relying on a variety of conditional-claiming races to provide opportunities for lower-priced claimers who may not be competitive at Del Mar or Santa Anita.

While the December meeting was successful regarding major stakes, it also had healthy field sizes averaging 7.9 runners per race, a record since Los Alamitos expanded its main track to nearly a mile in early 2014.

In recent months, filling races has been a struggle for Santa Anita, which canceled four days of racing during its spring-summer meeting because of a lack of entries. The track operated on a three-day-per-week basis for the final three full weeks of June before running five days ending on Tuesday.

Los Alamitos racing secretary Bob Moreno said he is reluctant to predict field sizes at Los Alamitos.

“I’m hopeful,” he said last weekend. “This is the first time since the first year I don’t know what to expect. The first year, we were blind. This year, I don’t know.”

The track has more than 700 Thoroughbreds training there on a year-round basis who race at the Los Alamitos daytime Thoroughbred meets and the Santa Anita and Del Mar meets. Moreno hopes to attract horses based at Los Alamitos who run in the lower-level claiming races during the Los Alamitos mixed-breed night meeting.

Del Mar’s stable area does not open until July 13, which Moreno hopes will lead some runners based at Santa Anita to run at Los Alamitos in the first week of the meeting.

Los Alamitos joined the Thoroughbred circuit following the closure of Hollywood Park in 2013. In 2014 and 2015, Los Alamitos ran meetings in July, September, and December. Last year, the track ran a three-week meeting in April and did not have a July meeting.

In April 2016, Los Alamitos held two races for 2-year-olds, who as a group were not ready to race at that time of year. This month, Moreno expects a robust 2-year-old program, with an average of one race a day for juveniles.

“If we can get nine or 10 for the meeting, that would be great,” he said.