11/09/2007 12:00AM

Los Al in mix again

EmailLOS ALAMITOS, Calif. - Los Alamitos may become a venue for Thoroughbred racing within a few years after all.

The track's owner, Ed Allred, said recently that he is considering a $25 million upgrade of the Orange County, Calif., facility to accommodate Thoroughbred racing when Hollywood Park closes, which could be as soon as 2009.

The plan comes a little more than a year after owner Mike Pegram dropped out of a proposed $50 million expansion of Los Alamitos in partnership with Allred.

Another track, Fairplex Park on the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona, has expressed an interest in expanding in an effort to replace Hollywood Park, but it has yet to secure the $100 million in financing necessary, according to county fair officials.

Allred's Los Alamitos proposal is in the preliminary stage and has yet to be presented to the California Horse Racing Board, and could face opposition from cities near the track. It would bring major-league Thoroughbred racing to Orange County, an area that racing officials have hoped to tap for many years. Currently, Los Alamitos runs Quarter Horses and low-level Thoroughbreds.

California racing officials are scheduled to meet with Allred at Los Alamitos on Wednesday to discuss his proposal, which would include a one-mile main track, a seven-furlong turf course, additional stabling for Thoroughbreds, an upgrade of the existing grandstand, and development of a new paddock and saddling area. Los Alamitos currently has a five-furlong dirt track and no turf course.

This proposal is less elaborate than the plan that Pegram and Allred considered during 2005-06, which fell apart when it became unclear how long Hollywood Park would continue to operate.

"We would do a scaled-down version of our previous project," Allred said recently.

There is an urgency to the situation because of the uncertainty surrounding Hollywood Park's future. Hollywood Park, in Inglewood, Calif., has committed to racing through 2008 and is likely to race in 2009. It races about 95 days a year. Officials with its parent company, Bay Meadows Land Co., have repeatedly said they intend to develop the Hollywood Park property.

Currently, more than 1,750 Thoroughbreds are based at Hollywood Park. Under Allred's proposal, more than 700 of those horses could be based at Los Alamitos on a year-round basis.

Allred said that if Hollywood Park stays open through 2009, Los Alamitos would like to be ready to race in 2010.

Under the proposal, Los Alamitos would host at least 12 weeks of Thoroughbred racing annually, approximately five to six weeks in June and July and a seven-week span in November and December. Under that schedule, Santa Anita's winter meeting would be extended from late April to early June to encompass the Triple Crown season.

In a recent interview, Allred said he would pay for the project himself, and that Los Alamitos would need at least 12 weeks of Thoroughbred racing to be financially viable.

"There are no investors," he said. "It's not that expensive. We can handle it easily. We've said it's a $30 million job, and it can't go higher or it doesn't make any more sense."

Los Alamitos would continue to race Quarter Horses at night year-round if it gains Thoroughbred dates, according to Allred.

Fairplex Park officials have considered an expansion of that track's racing surface from its current five-furlong oval, according to Fairplex's chief executive officer, Jim Henwood.

"We're still working with the industry to see what we can do with this racetrack," Henwood said. "The concept of financing is something that has yet to be worked out."

It is possible that Fairplex could be expanded to accommodate more horses for training.

"A lot of this is predicated on what Hollywood Park wants to do, and as far as the racing industry wants to do with a comprehensive training center," Henwood said. "The concept of training at Fairplex Park is still an open issue."