12/10/2013 1:46PM

Los Alamitos gets city approval for track expansion

Los Alamitos
Crews begin work Tuesday to expand the Los Alamitos track.

CYPRESS, Calif. – Los Alamitos Race Course received approval from the Cypress City Council on Monday evening to expand its racetrack to a mile in circumference to accommodate Thoroughbred racing in 2014, a construction project track officials said was to begin Tuesday.

The council voted 5-0 to approve the expansion after hearing 50 minutes of testimony in favor of the project. There were no speakers in opposition of the plan.

Los Alamitos will host five weeks of Thoroughbred racing in 2014, two weeks in July and three weeks in December. The racing dates are part of a revamped Thoroughbred racing schedule in Southern California following the permanent closing of Betfair Hollywood Park on Dec. 22. Santa Anita and Del Mar also will have expanded racing schedules in 2014.

Brad McKinzie, a consultant at Los Alamitos who is leading the track’s new Thoroughbred operation, said after Monday’s meeting that the track will begin removing trees Tuesday on the property. The property for the redesigned racetrack is west of the existing five-eighths mile racetrack on ground formerly used as a golf course.

“Now we can get to work,” McKinzie said.

The racetrack expansion project will take approximately six weeks, with a targeted opening date of Jan. 22. Hollywood Park will keep its racetrack open for training through January. Stables currently based at Hollywood Park will relocate to other tracks on the circuit next month, with Los Alamitos set to house 500 Thoroughbreds.

Stables currently residing at Los Alamitos, consisting of Quarter Horses and lower-level Thoroughbreds, will continue to be based in the barn area, but in an area separate from where the new Thoroughbred stables will be located.

Dennis Moore, who has worked as track superintendent at Hollywood Park and Los Alamitos in recent decades and who was hired last month to serve in the same capacity at Santa Anita, will direct the Los Alamitos expansion.

McKinzie said that following the removal of trees, excavation work will begin to level the former golf course property. By the first of the year, grading of the new racetrack will be under way, along with the installation of rails, he said.

When the track expansion is completed, Moore will blend material from the existing track with material from the new section of the track for uniformity, McKinzie said. The track will close for a four-day period in mid-January to allow that process to be completed, he said.

“We’ll be working double shifts for six days,” McKinzie said. “The city doesn’t want us working on Sundays.”

During Monday’s discussion, members of the City Council and California Assemblyman Travis Allen, whose district includes Los Alamitos, spoke in favor of the expansion as a way to increase business at Los Alamitos. The track operated six nights of racing per week until the early 1990s, but is currently offering three nights of Quarter Horse and lower-level Thoroughbred racing Fridays through Sundays on a year-round basis.

The new Thoroughbred racing dates will be conducted during the day on a four-day-per-week basis, Thursdays through Sundays.