11/02/2005 12:00AM

Hollywood in purse talks


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The complexion of fall racing in Southern California remained undecided Wednesday while officials from Hollywood Park and the Thoroughbred Owners of California negotiated a revised purse agreement void of turf races at Hollywood.

Hollywood Park on Tuesday announced the cancellation of all turf racing for the fall meet that begins Wednesday and runs through Dec. 19, citing the unsatisfactory condition of the new grass course that was installed this summer.

The move eliminates the cornerstone of the meet, the $1.7 million Autumn Turf Festival. In a meeting Wednesday with the owners' group, Hollywood proposed transferring purse money from the Turf Festival and two other graded turf stakes into an all-dirt overnight program.

As of midday Wednesday, an agreement between Hollywood and the owners had not been reached. Additionally, Santa Anita is concerned that an all-dirt Hollywood program leading into the Santa Anita winter meet that begins Dec. 26 would reduce the number of available horses.

"The concern is if you have eight or nine races a day on the dirt for a month and a half, what type of inventory do you have for those type of races when you get back to Santa Anita?" said Ron Charles, president of Santa Anita. Turf races accounted for almost one-fourth of the races run during the 2004 Hollywood fall meet.

Furthermore, there is worry that some turf horses would leave the state permanently. Informal discussions Wednesday considered such alternatives as an abbreviated turf meet at Santa Anita or Del Mar, or transferring Hollywood purse funds to Golden Gate to allow horsemen to run in northern California turf races at Southern California purse levels.

The Santa Anita course, however, is scraped and over-seeded with rye after the conclusion of the fall Oak Tree meet. It would be unusual to run over a scraped course. The Del Mar option is not viable because the course does not withstand rain. And Golden Gate and Hollywood do not currently share a cordial working arrangement.

It leaves turf trainers such as Bobby Frankel and Ron McAnally with nowhere to run.

"I have to sit on them," Frankel said. "I'm not going to run them on dirt."

McAnally added, "We're going to have to run in places where we don't normally run - Golden Gate and maybe Turf Paradise. It's ridiculous - a multimillion-dollar business and look what they're doing to it."

Hollywood's president, F. Jack Liebau, said he understands concerns.

"My sympathy goes out to them," he said. "We inherited a bad situation. . . . None of this could have been anticipated, and we've done what we think is the right thing to do."

Bay Meadows Land Co. purchased Hollywood from Churchill Downs this summer, but the new turf course, which was grown in a clay-silt medium, failed to take root properly. Hollywood had no choice but to cancel fall turf racing, remove the course, and replace it with Bermuda similar to Del Mar. Officials are confident the course will be ready for the spring-summer meet that begins April 26.

Meanwhile, Liebau admits that an all-dirt program, with purses boosted by money from turf stakes, could affect Santa Anita's winter meet.

"Maybe for a week or two it would limit the number of dirt horses available, but there will be a whole bunch of turf horses," he said. A purse agreement is expected this week.

Hollywood hopes to run eight dirt races daily, while adding two juvenile dirt stakes - the $100,000 Real Quiet on Nov. 26, a prep for the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity on Dec. 17; and the $100,000 Sharp Cat on Nov. 27, a prep for the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet on Dec. 18.