06/19/2014 4:20PM

Los Alamitos gets Fairplex Park dates


CYPRESS, Calif. – The California Horse Racing Board on Thursday approved the transfer of the Fairplex Park meeting at the Los Angeles County Fair to Los Alamitos starting in September, a decision that ends 71 years of live racing at the Pomona racetrack.

By a vote of 5-0, the racing board approved the transfer of 11 days of racing from Sept. 5-21. A formal application for the race meeting will be heard by the racing board later this summer.

Officials with Fairplex Park and Los Alamitos began discussions in the spring about relocating the meeting. At the time, Fairplex Park officials said running a live race meeting at the county fairgrounds was no longer viable.

The racing board’s decision gives Los Alamitos a third Thoroughbred race meeting this year. The track will run an eight-day meeting July 3-13 and a three-week meeting in December. Those race meetings replace dates previously run at Hollywood Park, which closed last December.

The subject of transferring the Fairplex Park meeting was discussed at the April meeting of the racing board and postponed until Thursday’s monthly meeting, which was held at Los Alamitos.

On Thursday, Jim Henwood, the president of the Los Angeles County Fair Association, briefly addressed the board, stating that legislation to allow the transfer of the race meeting from Los Angeles County to Los Alamitos in the Orange County city of Cypress has reached the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown.

In addition, Henwood said the transfer was approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, that financial terms were reached with Los Alamitos, and that Fairplex Park has agreed to stay open as an off-track stabling venue until Nov. 5.

It was not clear what would become of the Fairplex Park racetrack or stable area after Nov. 5. Henwood declined to comment after Thursday’s meeting.

In a letter sent to the board in early May by Henwood, Los Alamitos track owner Ed Allred, and Los Alamitos executive Brad McKinzie, the future of fair racing at the Los Angeles County Fair was described as “bleak in part due to the condition of its racing facility.”

The letter stated that Fairplex Park would need to spend an estimated $40 million to upgrade the facility. The Los Angeles County Fair “does not have the capital and financial resources necessary to upgrade its existing facility to a premier level,” the letter stated.

Handle figures have slumped at Fairplex Park in recent years. The letter to the racing board said that purses would be lowered for 2014 because of purse overpayments in past years, if the meeting was held at Fairplex Park.

Racing began at the Los Angeles County Fair in September 1933, shortly after the legalization of pari-mutuel racing in California. The county fair meeting has been a September fixture on the Southern California Thoroughbred calendar, following the Del Mar meeting.

Fairplex Park was awarded 13 racing days for September, but Los Alamitos is expected to run 11 days, dropping two Wednesdays. The race meeting will run from Sept. 5-7, 11-14, and 18-21. Los Alamitos runs a year-round meeting for Quarter Horses and lower-level Thoroughbreds.

Terms of the financial agreement between Fairplex Park and Los Alamitos were not disclosed, but McKinzie told the racing board that handle figures are expected to be considerably higher at Los Alamitos, resulting in “$1 million in increased purses” from levels at past Fairplex Park meetings.

“If we don’t do considerably better in handle, we don’t benefit,” McKinzie said. “This whole program is based on more purse money, more in handle, and more in revenue.”

Los Alamitos has made capital improvements to its grandstand in preparation of its July Thoroughbred meeting.

Fairplex Park has a five-furlong track. Los Alamitos expanded its track from five-eighths of a mile to a mile in circumference this year to accommodate Thoroughbred racing and training. The track began hosting year-round training for 500 Thoroughbreds in late January following the closure of Hollywood Park for development. There will be permanent stalls for 700 Thoroughbreds by the end of this month.