12/02/2014 1:41PM

Los Alamitos claims spotlight as third short meet of year opens

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Take Charge Brandi (right), shown winning the Delta Downs Princess last month, is expected to run in the Grade 1 Starlet at Los Alamitos.

CYPRESS, Calif. – The revamped schedule for a Southern California Thoroughbred racing circuit without Hollywood Park or Fairplex Park reaches the end of its first year this month, when Los Alamitos hosts a three-week meeting beginning Thursday.

The 12-day season, which runs through Dec. 21, will be the third Thoroughbred meeting of the year at Los Alamitos, preceded by a two-week July meeting that replaced dates held at Hollywood and a three-week September meeting previously run at Fairplex Park. Hollywood Park and Fairplex Park conducted racing for the final time in 2013.

This month, Los Alamitos officials expect higher business than in July and September. There is a very good chance that one of the season’s leading races, the Grade 1 Starlet Stakes on Dec. 13, will have an influential role in voting for champion 2-year-old filly.

The field for the $350,000 Starlet is expected to include Take Charge Brandi, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and Delta Downs Princess Stakes in her last two starts. The Starlet is the first of two Grade 1 races for 2-year-olds at the meeting, followed a week later by the $500,000 Los Alamitos Futurity, which could draw the exciting and unbeaten colt Dortmund.

The Starlet and Los Alamitos Futurity, which was previously run as the CashCall Futurity, were major stakes in December at Hollywood Park. They provide Los Alamitos with national attention at a time when the track hopes to capitalize on offtrack betting.

:: LOS ALAMITOS RACE COURSE: Get PPs, watch Thursday's card live

“This is like every other meet we’ve had – it’s the first time,” said Los Alamitos general manager Brad McKinzie. “The stakes look good. We’ve had a lot of interest in both races.”

The meeting will run Thursdays through Sundays and include five stakes worth $200,000 or more each, beginning with Saturday’s $200,000 Bayakoa Stakes for fillies and mares over 1 1/16 miles on dirt.

Los Alamitos does not have a turf course and has scheduled programs of eight or nine races for most days. A successful season could depend on the weather. Drought-stricken Southern California had a wet Tuesday morning, leading to the closure of Los Alamitos and Santa Anita for training. Dry weekends will be key for a successful December meeting, McKinzie said.

“With a three-week meet, so much depends on weather,” he said. “If we get hit with bad weather on a weekend, that’s a third of our meet.”

McKinzie said he expects growth in the out-of-state wagering market since the track will host its third meeting of the year and because the December racing calendar does not include as much competition from other tracks compared with July and September.

“We were up against Gulfstream Park and Belmont” in September, McKinzie said. “There’s not much that we’re up against. We should move up a notch or two nationally.”

Field sizes will be vital for robust betting. In July, fields averaged 6.99 runners per race, a figure that increased to 7.73 runners per race in September.

“They can talk about marketing and weather all they want, but it doesn’t mean a damn thing unless you can put horses on the track,” McKinzie said. “Field size is 90 percent of it.”

Thursday’s opening day has solid entries. There are 83 horses entered for the eight-race program, although six are on also-eligible lists. First post is 12:30 p.m. Pacific.