03/17/2009 12:00AM

Hollywood's plans for fall meet up in the air


With plans proceeding for the long-term development of Hollywood Park, the track's future for the second half of 2009 will be discussed at Thursday's California Horse Racing Board meeting at Golden Gate Fields in Albany, Calif.

The board will hear from Hollywood Park executives on whether the track will operate a fall meeting from Nov. 11 to Dec. 20. The track has committed only to running its upcoming spring-summer meeting, from April 22 to Julyo19. It is widely believed in California racing circles that Hollywood Park will run a fall meeting this year, but Hollywood Park president Jack Liebau declined to state that over the weekend.

"I think we need to wait until the board meeting instead of informing them in the newspaper," he said.

A package of documents related to Thursday's meeting on the racing board's website does not include any statements pertaining to the future of Hollywood Park. The agenda simply states that the meeting will include a "report from Hollywood Park Racing Association concerning status of plans for conducting the Hollywood Park 2009 fall race meeting."

There is concern that the closure of Hollywood Park would cause chaos on the Southern California Thoroughbred circuit, leaving approximately 1,400 horses without stabling and resulting in a massive void on the year-round racing circuit. Santa Anita's barn area is currently full, and the track would likely pick up racing dates in the event of Hollywood Park's closure.

Some blueprints and models were recently unveiled describing development of Hollywood Park's 238-acre property for residences, a remodeled casino, a movie house, and retail space. The design for the project, which has a $2obillion price tag, has not been completed and is subject to approval by officials with the city of Inglewood.

There is some question as to how much of the project can be financed in the current economic climate.

Since Hollywood Park was acquired by the Bay Meadows Land Co. in 2005, officials with that company have stated that the track would eventually be developed if an agreement was not reached to allow for some form of alternative gaming, such as slot machines. No such gaming has been authorized. In 2005, Bay Meadows officials stated that they would seek entitlements, or building rights, to eventually develop the property.

Liebau said he understood the entitlement process to be proceeding "as they anticipate."

Furthermore, Liebau said that process has not affected the day-to-day operations of the racetrack.

"We have been instructed to operate the track as business as usual," he said.

At Thursday's meeting, board members are also scheduled to discuss a rule that the board suspended late last week regarding the entry of claimed horses in races run out-of-state. According to a notice from the board, the rule was suspended because "issues have been raised regarding the enforceability" of the regulation, which bars a horse from running in an out-of-state race until 60 days after the close of the meeting at which the horse was claimed, unless the race is a stakes.

The board temporarily waived the rule for horses that raced at the Fresno State Fair in 2006, according to a transcript of the meeting on June 22, 2006, an action that has introduced questions as to whether the rule was enforceable after the waiver was approved. Since that time, a handful of trainers have been fined for violating the rule regardless of the question of enforceability. The rule is also the subject of a lawsuit filed in early March against the board by California owner Jerry Jamgotchian.

At the time the rule was adopted in 2005, board members had said it would stop trainers from out-of-state locations such as Washington and Arizona from claiming horses at the end of meets in California and shipping them out immediately to their home states. But officials at Fresno argued in 2006 that the rule was also discouraging trainers from those states from stabling at the fairs because of fears that they would not be able to replace their claimed stock as the meeting wore on.

* In another matter, the board said on Tuesday that applications to operate "mini-satellite" wagering facilities are now available. A law passed late last year authorized the approval of 45 new offtrack wagering locations operated by bars, card clubs, and other businesses, in addition to the 34 wagering locations already in the state.

- additional reporting by Matt Hegarty