06/17/2010 11:00PM

Oak Tree looks for site decision by month's end


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Officials with the Oak Tree Racing Association hope to finalize a home for their fall meeting by the end of his month and may have a resolution as early as Tuesday when the California Horse Racing Board convenes a highly anticipated meeting at Hollywood Park.

Oak Tree's lease with Santa Anita was voided by the track parent company, Magna International Developments, earlier this spring, and no substitute arrangements have been made with Magna. Oak Tree has held discussions with Del Mar and Hollywood Park about moving its fall meeting to those tracks, but nothing has been finalized. Hollywood Park is considered the leading contender to host the Oak Tree meeting if it is not held at Santa Anita, because of its proximity to Santa Anita and the presence of most of the circuit's stables in the Los Angeles area.

Oak Tree's executive vice-president, Sherwood Chillingworth, said on Thursday that he wants a resolution on a site for the Oak Tree meeting "before July 1" and that he is anxious to hear Magna chairman Frank Stronach's comments to the board on Tuesday. Stronach is expected to discuss a range of issues, including track surface, racing dates in California, and plans for the two tracks he owns in the state, including Golden Gate Fields.

Santa Anita officials are strongly considering changing their Pro-Ride synthetic track but have not announced what material -- synthetic or conventional dirt -- would be used. Dennis Mills, the chief executive officer of Magna International, said earlier this month that a renovation project could stretch beyond Sept. 29, the day Oak Tree is scheduled to open a five-week meeting.

Chillingworth held out hope that Oak Tree could stay at Santa Anita but said the time frame for new lease terms is closing. At Tuesday's meeting, the racing board has called for an update from Oak Tree on the status of its fall meeting. The issue is preceded on the agenda by Stronach's comments.

"We're looking to the meeting for a final resolution of where we are," Chillingworth said. "If [Magna] comes to Tuesday's meeting and says something, we have time to talk. If they stay with the status quo, we're ready to move on.

"They have come out and said they will tear up the track during our meeting. If they do that there is nothing we can do."

Chillingworth said no lease arrangements have been reached with Hollywood Park or Del Mar.

"We talked to Del Mar and Hollywood Park," he said. "Either party could accommodate us with the time we have left."

Apprentice off to solid start

A few weeks after 2009 champion apprentice Christian Santiago Reyes lost his five-pound claim in mid-May, Alex Gonzalez showed up at Hollywood Park from Golden Gate Fields.

His timing was impeccable. Despite short fields in recent weeks, Gonzalez has made a favorable early impression as an apprentice, winning three races from his first 17 mounts. He said any nerves about shifting from Golden Gate Fields to the more competitive Southern California circuit are slowing dissipating. "I still get butterflies. That happens all the time," he said.

Gonzalez, 18, won his first race at Hollywood Park earlier this month and won one race each day last Saturday and Sunday. This Sunday, Gonzalez has just one mount and says he is still trying to gain recognition by working in the mornings.

"You have to do your job and learn from all that," he said.

Gonzalez has looked toward Joel Rosario and Martin Garcia, two other transplants from Northern California in recent years, for guidance.

"They know what it's like to be in this situation," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez was not the only apprentice with a win in recent days. Wednesday, Johnny Gihua won an optional claimer on El Scorpio, his first win in his 35th start of the meeting. Gihua, 24, is from Peru where he was a leading apprentice last year.

Zenyatta out jogging

Zenyatta jogged on the training track on Thursday, her first significant exercise since winning her 17th consecutive race in the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap on June 13. Friday, she had a quieter day, only being walked at trainer John Shirreffs's barn at Hollywood Park.

Shirreffs said on Friday that he plans to mix walking and jogging in coming days for Zenyatta.

"I didn't want her to walk too many days in a row," he said. "I'll take her back to the track [Saturday]. I'll just putz around."

The champion older female of 2008 and 2009 for owners Jerry and Ann Moss, unbeaten Zenyatta may make her next start in the $300,000 Clement Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 7 although Shirreffs stopped short of committing to that race earlier this week.