09/02/2010 12:59PM

Oak Tree begins discussions for a future at Del Mar


DEL MAR, Calif. – Officials with the Oak Tree Racing Association and Del Mar met on Wednesday to discuss a potential 2011 Oak Tree meeting at Del Mar, but adjourned without finalizing plans after agreeing to include horsemen’s groups and the California Horse Racing Board in future discussions.

Oak Tree executive vice-president Sherwood Chillingworth and Del Mar chief executive Joe Harper were among the executives who met at Del Mar, discussing things such as the logistics of how to transport horses and trainers who are based at Los Angeles-area tracks and environmental issues, Harper said.

“We want them to come down here and the fair wants them here,” Harper said. “The best way to proceed is to start the conversations with the CHRB, the TOC and the CTT,” he said, referring to the Thoroughbred Owners of California and California Thoroughbred Trainers.

Harper said Del Mar could conduct the Oak Tree meet for the foreseeable future.

“We have to look beyond the horizon on this thing,” Harper said. “What should the racing calendar look like five years from now as well as next year?”

Del Mar leases the racetrack, on the San Diego County Fairgrounds, from the 22nd District Agricultural Association.

Oak Tree has run its meeting at Santa Anita from its inception in 1969, but will run at Hollywood Park this year, from Sept. 30 to Oct. 31. Oak Tree wanted to run its meeting at Santa Anita again this year, but the TOC and CTT opposed the plan because of concern about the condition of the synthetic main track at Santa Anita, which is going to be replaced by a dirt track this fall.

Earlier this year, Oak Tree’s lease with Magna Entertainment, another Stronach-controlled company, was voided after Magna Entertainment declared bankruptcy. Oak Tree and Santa Anita had agreed to run the 2010 Oak Tree meeting at Santa Anita, until the surface issues arose.