05/02/2005 12:00AM

Lewis joins Pegram's Los Al plan


LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. - Bob Lewis, the two-time Kentucky Derby winning owner, has joined horse owner Mike Pegram as a partner on a project that could lead to a Thoroughbred meeting at Los Alamitos if Hollywood Park is sold.

Pegram said the two men will work together to gain Hollywood Park's Thoroughbred dates, if they become available. Pegram and Lewis said they have an option to purchase the 200-acre property from current owner Ed Allred, provided they receive Thoroughbred racing dates.

Neither would disclose the financial terms of their agreement, nor the potential purchase price of the Los Alamitos property.

In March, Pegram announced that he intended to pursue a $40 million expansion at Los Alamitos in the event that Hollywood Park is closed. Earlier this year Churchill Downs Inc., which owns Hollywood Park, acknowledged it may sell the Inglewood, Calif., track to developers, potentially leaving a major gap on the Southern California racing circuit.

If that occurs, it would set off a massive fight for Hollywood Park's racing dates, with Santa Anita and Del Mar expected to ask the California Horse Racing Board for the right to expand their meetings.

Pegram said the deal to bring a Thoroughbred meet to Los Alamitos is contingent on the sale of Hollywood Park to a non-racing entity and an agreement within the sport that an expansion of Los Alamitos is supported.

"If Churchill decides to keep [Hollywood Park], we will not go in," he said. "If another [racing group] goes in and buys them out, we're not looking to get into a big fight. We think the L.A. area needs a second track. Los Al would be the facility to fill that need to the industry."

Pegram and Lewis would like to expand the track at Los Alamitos from its current five-eighths-mile circumference to one mile, add a seven-furlong turf course, add 700 new stalls, renovate the existing barn area, and expand and overhaul the existing grandstand and clubhouse.

"I think it's a magnificent proposal," Lewis said. "I like it because of its location, accessibility to the freeways, and exposure to Orange County and Long Beach."

According to Pegram and Lewis, Quarter Horse racing would remain at Los Alamitos, which currently races low-level Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses. Quarter Horse racing has been held at Los Alamitos since 1951.

Allred in March said he would be a partner with Pegram on the Thoroughbred expansion, but has since said he would not be involved.

Lewis and his wife, Beverly, are starting Going Wild in Saturday's Kentucky Derby. They live in Newport Beach, Calif.