10/10/2012 1:20PM

Los Alamitos again considering an expansion into Thoroughbred racing


Los Alamitos officials have held discussions with representatives of the Thoroughbred Owners of California and Southern California racetracks about a possible expansion of the Orange County Quarter Horse track to accommodate Thoroughbred racing.

The proposed expansion, which would cost at least $10 million, is contingent upon the closure of Betfair Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif. That would open up Thoroughbred dates on the Southern California racing calendar that Los Alamitos would seek to fill. Hollywood Park officials told the California Horse Racing Board in August that it will race at least through summer 2013. A decision on whether racing will be held in fall 2013 or beyond will be made in January.

Under a proposal directed by track owner Ed Allred, Los Alamitos would expand its track from its current five-furlong configuration to approximately a mile, build 700 additional stalls, refurbish a portion of the grandstand, and conduct two race meetings for Thoroughbreds annually – in the spring and autumn.

The project would not interfere with Quarter Horse racing, which is currently held on a year-round basis, Allred said in an interview.

“I would like to do things to keep Los Al viable for Quarter Horse racing,” he said.

Allred described the possibility of the project going forward as “50-50.”

Los Alamitos is not the only track contemplating development. Fairplex Park, located on the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona, has considered expanding its track and adding stalls to accommodate horses upon the closure of Hollywood Park.

“The idea is to figure out a replacement,” Mike Pegram, president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, said in a recent interview. “We’re looking to have someone like [Allred] or Fairplex come into the business.”

Both Fairplex Park and Los Alamitos considered similar expansion plans in the 2000s.

In 2005, Allred and Pegram announced a $50 million expansion plan that would allow Los Alamitos to replace Hollywood Park on the Southern California Thoroughbred circuit. That year, the Bay Meadows Land Co. bought Hollywood Park and said that without expanded gambling in California, the track would eventually be developed for other uses. Bay Meadows continues to own Hollywood Park.

The Los Alamitos plan stalled, and Pegram dropped out in 2006.

Last month, Allred and Pegram met again to discuss expansion.

“They came to me,” Allred said. “I’m not seeking this.”

Earlier this week, Allred emphasized that he will not go forward with expansion plans if Hollywood Park continues to seek racing dates beyond summer 2013.

“I wouldn’t do anything to hasten the demise of Hollywood,” he said.

If Hollywood Park closes, approximately 1,200 horses based in Southern California will need stabling accommodation. Los Alamitos would build stables on track property that was formerly a golf course. Existing stables also would be utilized.

“We would have stabling for 1,100 to 1,200 horses when and if Hollywood closes,” Allred said. “They need a place to train on a year-round basis. That would give us 2,100 stalls. There would be two three-week boutique meetings before and after the Del Mar meeting.”

Allred said that discussions will be held in coming weeks “with interested parties.”

He said the project would cost at least $10 million “not counting the cost of the land we would be tying up.”

“The land is very valuable,” he said.

The California Horse Racing Board released a statement Monday evening saying that a public information hearing on the subject of expanding Los Alamitos or Fairplex Park would be held in the future.