07/01/2014 1:34PM

Los Alamitos opens short meet with high expectations

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Shared Belief, last year's champion 2-year-old male, will make his first stakes start of 2014 on Saturday in the Los Alamitos Derby.

CYPRESS, Calif. – The plan was launched more than a year ago, long before Hollywood Park announced that it would close at the end of 2013.

Los Alamitos wanted to be part of the Thoroughbred game.

A multifaceted improvement project was planned, expanding the five-furlong track used by Quarter Horses and lower-level Thoroughbreds to a mile. Year-round stall space would be available for Thoroughbreds, parts of the grandstand would be refurbished, and racing dates were requested for July and December, replacing some of what Hollywood Park left behind.

More than a year later, much of the background work is complete. The show starts Thursday with a two-week Thoroughbred meeting that bridges the end of the spring-summer meeting at Santa Anita last weekend with the start of the wildly popular Del Mar meeting July 17.

Los Alamitos, long known for top-class Quarter Horse racing, has a home on the Southern California Thoroughbred circuit.

This show will look a little different.

Los Alamitos does not have a turf course. It does have the $500,000 Los Alamitos Derby on Saturday that will mark the 2014 stakes debut of Shared Belief, the champion 2-year-old male of 2013. The reconfigured one-mile oval has a sharper first turn than most dirt tracks but a stretch of 1,380 feet, the longest in the nation.

[Los Alamitos Derby: Get PPs, watch Saturday's card live]

Los Alamitos is 35 miles from Santa Anita and 85 miles from Del Mar in an affluent Orange County market that has not been exposed to live Thoroughbred racing since Los Alamitos ran the Orange County Fair meeting, which ended in 1991.

The new meeting leaves officials optimistic but unsure how Thursday – and the rest of opening week – will be received.

“We don’t know what to expect,” said Brad McKinzie, the head of the track’s Thoroughbred operation. “Opening day is a Thursday. We don’t know if we’ll get 5,000 or 15,000. For the first week, we’re staffing as if we’ll fill every seat.”

The meeting runs through July 13 and includes two graded stakes. The Grade 2 Los Alamitos Derby was formerly run as the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park. The $200,000 Great Lady M Stakes, a Grade 2 for female sprinters on July 12, was formerly run as the A Gleam Stakes at Hollywood Park.

Thursday’s program is light on quality but better on quantity. There were 79 entries for the eight races, which will have a maximum of 72 starters after scratches from also-eligible lists. The day’s top race is the $100,000 Bertrando Stakes for California-breds over a mile. There are stakes scheduled on six of the eight racing days.

Field size is a concern for this meeting. With Del Mar and Santa Anita offering a higher purse structure, there is a belief that some owners and trainers will skip Los Alamitos in favor of Del Mar and its higher purses. For example, a maiden special weight race at Los Alamitos is worth $42,000, compared with $75,000 at Del Mar and $56,000 at Santa Anita.

“All of this work, manpower, and labor will be worth nothing if we don’t get support from the horsemen,” McKinzie said. “That’s something we can’t control.”

The track and grandstand at Los Alamitos have undergone significant changes in the last six months. Aside from the expanded oval, the barn area was reconfigured to dedicate 500 stalls to year-round training for Thoroughbreds while leaving space for the stables of Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds who run during the evenings on a year-round basis.

More stalls are being constructed. Barns housing approximately 90 horses and temporary stalls for 140 horses are scheduled to be available this week. Another 90 stalls will be constructed by late July, when the track will be active as an offtrack stabling venue during Del Mar.

The track has made refurbishments to the grandstand, including expanding the walking ring and winner’s circle, upgrading bathrooms, and adding a much-needed high-definition system to the in-house television network.

The work is not all for the July meeting.

In September, Los Alamitos will run 11 days previously held by the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona. In December, a 12-day Thoroughbred meeting will include two Grade 1 races formerly run at Hollywood Park as the CashCall Futurity and Starlet for 2-year-olds.

Track owner Dr. Ed Allred has told track executives to anticipate additional improvements and expansion to the property if the Thoroughbred meetings are successful.

“If we can do well, Dr. Allred is poised to make more of a commitment,” McKinzie said. “I think there is a lot of pent-up interest. If we can get through the first meet successfully, I think the September meeting will be more successful, and December will be even better. Something tells me we’ll be busy at Los Alamitos this year.”

Carmela Bozulich More than 1 year ago
The last track I went to with my dad...I have a soft spot for LosAl. I remember driving down Katella Avenue, back when I was a kid, and seeing the seeming endless pastures surrounding the track filled with grazing horses. Hollywood Park was the first racetrack I ever went to, but LosAl has the sweetest memories for me. Best of luck, I hope to make it there for a day or two.
Zack More than 1 year ago
Its 12:49 pm and 1st post is 2:00 pm, still no info on the scratches. Come on Los Alamitos you are stepping into big times and to wager more on your races handicappers would appreciate scratches to be announced ASAP.
Frank Reach More than 1 year ago
I wish Los Alamitos and Dr. Alred all the best. I think the meet will do very well. I'll enjoy the entire new racing meet. It's always fun to get a change in the races from both a handicapping and visual perspective. Good luck to all.
Richard Cadena More than 1 year ago
Los Alamitos is no Hollywood Park Race Track, which was one of the greatest race tracks in this country. Many who have been to Los Alamitos would liken it more to Fairplex, the bullring. They will need to invest more and for the long term to generate interest beyond Orange County. It appears, at least in Southern California, that a trend is to house live racing only in affluent areas. Maybe they can find a handful of big-dollar bettors to offset what most likely will be smaller on-track attendance. Or maybe they can get Orange County residents to use the facility, beyond quarter horse racing. It would seem that putting bucks into an historic track like Hollywood Park would have been the way to go. But Hollywood Park was sold out to redevelopers.
ML NJ More than 1 year ago
Hollywood Park was a dump. One visit was enough for me.
Richard Cadena More than 1 year ago
You must have a different point of view; no problem. Am not sure what you are referring to when you say 'dump', or which part of the track was a dump, so it is hard to comment on. Not only was Hollywood Park Race Track one of the greatest but it was most likely the safest track for horse and jockey. Of course, being safer than the dirt tracks, for example Santa Anita, has little bearing on keeping a track open. Also, Hollywood Park was one of a few tracks that provided good customer service, like when having to go in line to place a wager. Santa Anita, on the other hand, lacks in that area. Ask the handlers of Zenyatta and a few others why they made Hollywood Park Race Track her home base. You must not have been at Los Alamitos, which seems more like a throwback to the 1950's/1960's, in its design and outdated appearance. Maybe the money they invest will bring Los Al into the 21st century.
Edward More than 1 year ago
I am not sure you pay that close attention. Hollywood Park was the first track to let its Polytrack/Cushion go back to dirt. The last few years it was a decidedly a dirt track with some residual Cushion track underneath. Secondly, if you reaqd the article, they clearly state that the Los Al track has had a complete facelift AND has dumped the bullring for a traditional 1 mile oval so I am confused by your insistence in talking about your experience at the old Los Al, a comparison to the Fairplex when the first third of the article details the change to a full one mile oval and the last sentence of your second post where you imply that the facelift is something that is going to happen in the future as opposed to the track already having been expanded and updated. I gather you are one of these fools who comment without actually reading the article in full.(or is it low reading comprehension?)
jaybern1 More than 1 year ago
Is there really a need for name calling?
Walter More than 1 year ago
Los Al has not dumped it bullring. It is kept intact. There is just a mile track extended from the original 5/8 track.
Richard Cadena More than 1 year ago
When you personalize your comments you waste energy and most likely lose your focus and audience. Try to stick to the main point, a simple discussion about Los Al race track. As a matter of fact, I was at Los Al about a week ago. I did not focus on the size of the track; it might be longer. But everything else was the same. Few teller windows open, a cramped interior space in need of repair. But that didn't get in the way. Santa Anita racing was being shown on their TV's; didn't stay for the night quarter horse racing. Quarter horse racing has a particular following; you can't assume that the same people that follow quarter horse racing will move to thoroughbred racing; though Los Al has offered sprints at 4 1/2 furlongs. I was not aware that Hollywood Park Race Track let its Cushion track go back to dirt. If that was the case, the whiners from the East Coast would have been the first to toot their horns, since at least a few are against the safer synthetic tracks and favor for some reason the dirt tracks. So maybe you need to do more research or cite your sources about Hollywood Park going dirt before it closed down. When you are this far off it would be better to take a more indirect approach when you write.
Walter More than 1 year ago
Hol never officially changed back to dirt, however it was well known the owners were not spending any added money to maintain the Cushion. So they did just added dirt. Funny how most folks loved the Hol surface and it's safety. It was dirt, folks! Also, if you dropped Hol into most other cities, people would rave about how nice the facility was. A track like Hol shouldn't be gone. Los Al will never be Hollywood Park
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thank you Dr. Alred for stepping up to the plate. You had the choice not to invest and capitalize on Hollywood Park's closing but you chose to do so. A gamble? Yes. But you know that. I wish you all the best. The 2-year old Eclipse champion is running in this weekend's Los Al Derby at your track and the Triple Crown Contender will be returning to his home base soon at your track. Two very popular horses at your track. Not bad...for starters in the thoroughbred realm....would'nt you say?
Alice Haraden More than 1 year ago
Best Wishes to everyone at Los Al. And THANK YOU to Dr. Allred. Class gentleman; class act. Your commitment to Los Al and racing is greatly appreciated. I hope it is immensely successful.
Sherri More than 1 year ago
I think HP closing was a blessing. Nobody wanted to chance going to that neighborhood. Loa Al, Santa Anita & Del Mar are all great places to come to. With current improvements & more to come Los Al will do just fine. My family used to go there many years ago, & I will return again. Looking forward to a fun time.
Bobbycwill More than 1 year ago
What neighborhood are you talking about? You white trash racist POS.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bobbycwill: The neighborhood where folks who are broke want to steal from folks who are not broke. Next question. You dumb white idiot.
Edward More than 1 year ago
It precisely because Sherri isn't white trash that she finds the dumpy, crime ridden neighborhood near Hollywood park objectionable. Sorry she insulted your kind.
FESTUS ELROY More than 1 year ago
I never had a problem going to HP .Racetracks aren't all built in lucrative areas.
pathagan More than 1 year ago
I attended the races at Hollywood Park and Kings/Lakers games at the Forum several hundred times over the past 30 years and never once had a problem. Moreover, the same can be said for the restaurants that I ate at around the area. Pimlico, Churchill Downs, Hawthorne and Calder and located in worse areas than Hollywood, but that doesn't stop people from attending the races at those venues.
James_Escarcega More than 1 year ago
Los Alamitos opens tomorrow amid an air of unsure optimism...
RIP Grammar More than 1 year ago
Well, when the races at Hastings finally crumbles in its entirety, I may move my horses to Los Al... if I can get stalls. Will probably be too tough for my kids, but you never know.
russell More than 1 year ago
I'm sure the BC Cup committee will pick Los Al before they return to Belmont Park.
w More than 1 year ago
I would certainly hope so. You have to apply if you want to hold it. Clearly, Belmont has no interest in BC otherwise they would apply for date.
Edward More than 1 year ago
But you have to admit that the all California BC with its endless expansion of races has clearly dented the BC importance. If they keep goingin that direction, I'd be willing to wager that in ten years there will be an East Coast rival to the BC that fields better races. SA is way to biased a surface to hold the championship there every year. It has stopped my BC wagering in its track and I know plenty of others. The momentum is slowly moving to a complete downgrade of the BC.
3Boys 2dogs 6Horses More than 1 year ago
I hope so too! Belmont is the worst venue to see a horse race ever.
Andrew Connie More than 1 year ago
the dumbest thing I've read on Drf ever!
Chris Lowe More than 1 year ago
Then you have not been reading here long enough.
Richard Cadena More than 1 year ago
You may have a point. The BC Committee in all their transparency picked Keeneland and Del Mar as the next two host sites, only after they said or had committed to converting from the safer synthetic track to the less safe dirt tracks. They showed no courage; they should have picked Keenland while it was a synthetic track but most likely caved in to the wise powers-that-be that control horse racing, which no doubt is in a funk, accelerated by the allowing of Hollywood Park Race Track to go down. Hollywood Park Track is also a synthetic track. Good luck to Los Al.