03/18/2009 11:00PM

Hollywood commits to fall race meet


Hollywood Park officials committed the track to a fall race meet this year at a meeting of the California Horse Racing Board at Golden Gate Fields in Albany on Thursday.

Commissioners had asked Hollywood Park officials to clarify their position on holding a fall meet because of concerns that the track would be torn down later this year in order to begin redeveloping the property. Jack Liebau, president of Hollywood Park, told commissioners that the track will definitely run the meet this year, but would not provide any other information about Hollywood's long-term future.

Hollywood Park is owned by Bay Meadows Land Company, which also owned Bay Meadows Race Course in the San Francisco area. Bay Meadows was torn down late last year, but its redevelopment is in limbo because of tight credit conditions.

Bay Meadows Land Company has drawn up plans for the Hollywood Park property for a $2 billion development that includes residences, a remodeled card club, a movie theater, and retail space. But it is highly unlikely that the redevelopment could be funded unless the credit markets loosen anytime soon. In addition, the development would need to go through several layers of zoning approvals from the city of Inglewood, where Hollywood is located.

John Harris, chairman of the commission, pressed Liebau to offer more information on the company's redevelopment plans beyond a "six-month time frame," but Liebau said that he was "not in a position to do that," citing the uncertainty of the economy.

Hollywood Park is expected to run fall dates from Nov. 11 to Dec. 20.

Also at the meeting, the commission voted to post a revision to the rules for the minimum number of entries in races that offer trifectas or superfectas. The minimum number of entries for a race with a trifecta would be reduced from six to four; the minimum number for a race with a superfecta would be reduced from eight to six.

The revision would allow racetracks to cancel trifectas and superfectas in races with the minimum number of entries if officials feared the race could result in a minus pool. The rules will be posted for a 45-day public comment period before they can be offered for final approval.

The board also voted to suspend a rule that prohibited a claimed horse from racing out of state within 60 days of the end of the meet at which the horse was claimed, except in a stakes race. The rule was suspended after the state's attorney general issued an opinion stating that the rule violated the federal interstate commerce clause.

The rule is the subject of a lawsuit filed by owner Jerry Jamgotchian. The lawsuit alleges that the rule violates the protections over interstate commerce.

Commissioners and representatives of the racing industry debated a way to enforce a similar rule for 90 minutes, including setting up a meeting with Jamgotchian to persuade him to drop the lawsuit. Most racing officials said that the suspension of the rule will result in "open season" on the California racing population as out-of-state trainers claim California horses at the end of meets to race them in other states.

"We're going to get picked clean," Liebau said.

Late in the meeting, Jamgotchian notified the commission through an acquaintance at the meeting that he would be willing to meet with commissioners over the lawsuit.