06/02/2010 12:00AM

Oak Tree looking to seal a Magna deal


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Oak Tree Racing Association officials are hoping to reach a resolution in coming days with executives from Magna International Development, the parent company of Santa Anita Park, over a lease arrangement for Oak Tree's fall meeting at Santa Anita, according to Oak Tree's executive vice-president, Sherwood Chillingworth.

If an agreement can't be reached soon, the Oak Tree meeting, which has been run at Santa Anita since 1969, could be relocated to Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif., Chillingworth said.

Last month, MI Developments voided Oak Tree's lease for the five-week fall meeting, indicating that it wanted to develop a new lease. Face-to-face discussions between Chillingworth and Dennis Mills, chief executive officer of MID, were scheduled for Friday at Santa Anita but will instead be conducted by phone this week, the two men said on Wednesday.

In May, the California Horse Racing Board affirmed that the rights to five weeks of racing from Sept. 29 to Oct. 31 this year belong to Oak Tree and could be run at Del Mar or Hollywood Park.

Chillingworth said earlier this week that he is hoping that Oak Tree will remain at Santa Anita.

"We would prefer to stay here," he said. "That's my first preference. I've been talking with [Magna officials] by telephone, and I hope to hear from them this week."

Chillingworth said that Hollywood Park would host the 2010 Oak Tree meeting if an agreement were not reached with MID. Hollywood is near Los Angeles International Airport in Inglewood while Del Mar is just north of San Diego, approximately 120 miles south of Santa Anita.

"It's easier for trainers and guys that are training here," he said, referring to the Los Angeles area.

Chillingworth said the logistics of moving the race meeting to Hollywood Park this year "would be relatively simple."

"Right now, I'm focusing on whether to stay here or go because we need to make arrangements," he said. "We're on the verge of making a deal or not making a deal. I'm willing to wait for what their proposal is."

Mills declined to comment on the status of negotiations until he had a chance to speak with Chillingworth.

"It's terribly inappropriate to discuss this until we meet with them," he aid. "We'll do it by phone. It's no big deal."

Last month, Mills said that Magna chairman Frank Stronach, a Thoroughbred owner and breeder, would be in California in June to discuss a wide range of issues regarding Santa Anita and California Thoroughbred racing. Stronach is expected to speak at the California Horse Racing Board meeting at Hollywood Park on June 22.