03/17/2005 12:00AM

Los Alamitos expansion intriguing idea to Pegram

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Ed Allred, the owner of Los Alamitos Race Course south of Los Angeles, and prominent Thoroughbred owner Mike Pegram have begun discussions to fund a major renovation of Los Alamitos that would enable the track to hold major Thoroughbred meets, Allred and Pegram said Thursday.

The renovation would cost $40 million and be financed by Pegram, the two sides said. Tentatively, the project would include the expansion of Los Alamitos's racetrack from five furlongs to one mile, along with the installation of a seven-furlong turf course and barns for 700 more horses.

The announcement was made on the heels of an acknowledgement by Churchill Downs Inc. that the company may sell Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif., to developers, potentially leaving a major gap on the Southern California racing circuit. Hollywood currently runs for 18 weeks a year.

"If there is any change in Hollywood Park's status as a racing operation, what is the best way to operate those racing dates?" Pegram said. "If you tried to build a new Thoroughbred track in Orange County, the price of the real estate alone could drive the costs over $400 million, but by expanding Los Alamitos, we get a $400 million facility at a cost that makes sense for racing."

Pegram and Churchill Downs have a checkered recent history. Both were suitors for the Fair Grounds racetrack in New Orleans last year, with Churchill Downs eventually winning out for the track after what became a bitter back-and-forth battle.

The Los Alamitos renovation will be designed by Parsky Associates, an architectural and planning firm that has been involved with projects at Churchill and Longchamp in Paris. If the project is undertaken, the renovations could be complete by early 2007, Pegram said.