09/04/2017 1:16PM

Los Alamitos opens meet with hopes for big fields

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By the time the Los Angeles County Fair meeting at Los Alamitos begins a 12-day season on Thursday, most Southern California stables will have moved from Del Mar to Los Alamitos or Santa Anita for the autumn.

For Los Alamitos, having approximately 2,600 runners nearby at two venues should make attracting entries an easier task. In July, the Los Alamitos summer meeting was plagued by short fields in advance of the Del Mar meeting, when many stables were moving to San Diego County.

The reverse trend could benefit the Los Alamitos meet, which ends on Sept. 24.

“The stable area at Santa Anita opened and they’ll stay there,” Los Alamitos racing secretary Bob Moreno said last weekend. “I don’t have to worry about them going to Del Mar. That’s a major difference.”

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The July meeting averaged 6.82 runners per race, the fewest since Los Alamitos was expanded to accommodate daytime Thoroughbred racing in early 2014 following the closure of Hollywood Park at the end of 2013.

“It was probably the toughest meet to fill since we started,” Moreno said. “We were light at the end of Santa Anita. So many people wanted to wait for Del Mar.

“I had a lot of people saying, ‘Bobby, my owner wants to wait for Del Mar.’ ”

Del Mar, approximately 80 miles south of Los Alamitos, had strong field size for its summer meeting. Through Sunday, the 35th day of the 36-day meeting, fields averaged 8.53 runners per race, an increase from 8.31 runners during its 2016 summer meeting.

Los Alamitos will not approach those figures. The track does not have a turf course, and turf races usually draw large fields.

“I don’t have that luxury,” Moreno said. “This will be better than July.”

In its brief history, the Los Alamitos September meeting has been well supported by horsemen, with average fields of 7.73 runners in 2014, 7.65 in 2015, and 7.04 last year. The December 2016 meeting at Los Alamitos averaged a track-best 7.9 runners per race.

Los Alamitos officials hope larger fields will attract the attention of bettors throughout the country who are not as familiar with Los Alamitos as Del Mar and Santa Anita.

Racing will be held during the Los Angeles County Fair meeting on a Thursday-through-Sunday basis, with a first post time of 2 p.m. Pacific.

There are four ungraded stakes at the meeting, worth $75,000 to $100,000. The richest races are two $100,000 sales progeny races for juveniles that went through the ring at Barretts Sales – the Debutante for fillies on Sept. 16, and the Juvenile for colts and geldings on Sept. 23. Both races will be run at 6 1/2 furlongs.

There are two $75,000 races on Saturday – the E.B. Johnston Stakes for California-bred milers and the Beverly Lewis Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at six furlongs.

Last year, the $200,000 Los Alamitos Derby was the richest race of the September meeting. This year, the race was run in July.