09/03/2010 7:47PM

Oak Tree to run at Hollywood for next two years


The Oak Tree Racing Association will run its annual fall meeting at Hollywood Park in both 2010 and in 2011, the racing association and racetrack announced late Friday.

The announcement, subject to the approval of the California Horse Racing Board, means that the Inglewood, Calif., track will host a majority of the Thoroughbred racing dates in Southern California this year and in 2011.

Hollywood Park already hosts two race meetings of its own – a spring-summer meeting from late April to mid-July and a fall meeting in November and December. The 2010 Oak Tree meeting will run from Sept. 30 to Oct. 31. The dates for the 2011 meeting will be discussed at a racing board meeting in Pomona, Calif., on Sept. 22, but are expected to be from late September to early November.

Under that scenario, Santa Anita would host one four-month meeting in 2010-11, from Dec. 26 until late April.

Oak Tree ran its fall meeting at Santa Anita from 1969 until 2009. Oak Tree had a contract to run its 2010 meeting there, but the contract was voided by Santa Anita parent company MI Developments, which is chaired by Frank Stronach. MI Developments took over ownership of Santa Anita after another Stronach-controlled entity, Magna Entertainment, declared bankruptcy in 2009.

In June, Stronach reversed course and agreed to allow Oak Tree to run at Santa Anita this fall, but the license was rejected by the racing board in August after officials with the Thoroughbred Owners of California and California Thoroughbred Trainers said they considered the Santa Anita synthetic track surface unsafe. Stronach announced last month that Santa Anita will install a dirt surface this fall.

Friday’s announcement occurred two days after Oak Tree and Del Mar officials met to discuss a possible relocation of the Oak Tree meeting to that San Diego County track in 2011. The meeting ended with Del Mar chief executive Joe Harper saying that the two sides wanted to incorporate the horsemen and racing board in the conversations before finalizing plans.

A move to Del Mar in the future is still being discussed, according to Oak Tree executive vice-president Sherwood Chillingworth.

”Long-term I think we’ll go there,” Chillingworth said late Friday afternoon. “The other thing is we’re trying to get all the horsemen together – the CTT and TOC – so that everyone is happy with the move.”

Chillingworth and Hollywood Park executives have been scrambling in the last two weeks to prepare for the Oak Tree at Hollywood Park meeting, including arranging for stall space and developing a racing schedule and promotions. Chillingworth said a 2011 Oak Tree at Hollywood Park meeting will be easier to run, with a longer lead time for such logistics.

“It isn’t easy to move a race meet from one venue to another with 35 days to do so,” Chillingworth said. “Next year, we’ll have a year’s experience with their staff to get things totally working. We’ve had a good relationship getting things done.”

Chillingworth said a formal agreement between Hollywood Park and Oak Tree on business terms for the forthcoming 2010 meeting was signed on Friday morning and that Oak Tree has received the support of the Thoroughbred Owners of California and California Thoroughbred Trainers for the meeting.

The racing board is expected to review the license application for the 2010 Oak Tree at Hollywood Park meeting by the end of next week in a conference call, Chillingworth said.