08/23/2013 4:35PM

Oakmont Ranch expands amid California stabling shortage

Courtesy of Oakmont Ranch
Oakmont Ranch will be expanded in the coming months to accommodate more horses who are preparing to race in California.

Oakmont Ranch in Murrieta, Calif., will not look the same in six months.

Set on 85 acres, the Riverside County ranch is home to owner Gary Broad’s active and retired racehorses, as well as breeding stock, yearlings, and weanlings.

They are about to have a lot of company.

In the coming months, Broad and farm trainer Scott Hansen plan to expand the capacity to include horses trained by a variety of horsemen who are being prepared for racing at California tracks. The ranch could play a role in providing stalls in Southern California at a time when space will be at a premium with the  impending closure of Betfair Hollywood Park in Inglewood at the end of the year.

“We want to get some good trainers in there and get the ball rolling before Hollywood closes,” Broad said in a recent interview.

Broad, 54, bought Oakmont Ranch at a public auction for $7.7 million in 2007 and has used the property as the base for his small racing operation in the past six years. The farm hosts many of his racing and breeding stock as well as a few retired runners, some of whom are being conditioned as hunter-jumpers.

With a capacity for 70 horses, Oakmont always will be small and can only dent the effect of the closure of Hollywood Park. Starting next year, many trainers will be forced to stable their stock at different venues than in the past, such as San Luis Rey Downs in northern San Diego County or Los Alamitos in Orange County.

Still, the idea of preparing a young horse away from the commotion of the racetrack, in the more tranquil setting of a training center, is likely to appeal to some horsemen.

Hansen, who has a few horses based at Del Mar for Broad this summer, said he has heard from trainers such as Marty Jones and Gary Mandella who would like to send young racehorses to Oakmont in the coming months. Hansen expects more requests for space later this fall as yearlings are being prepared for racing in 2014.

The farm has never been at capacity, so more activity on a daily basis will mark a noticeable change. Hansen, who said Oakmont has had as many as 50 horses, expects a response from trainers with smaller barns, some of whom may not be fully accommodated at the racetrack next year.

“I don’t think it will get rolling until Hollywood closes,” Hansen said. “I think the guys that will get stung are the ones that have 12 or 14 horses, and they’re told, ‘We’ll give you 10 stalls.’ ”

By using Oakmont’s facility, including its half-mile training track, horses can be well into their workouts before they see the racetrack for the first time.

“We’re trying to get them closer to racing before they can get stalls,” Hansen said. “We train our horses just like they do at the track.”

Broad does not envision a major change in the number of stalls at Oakmont.

“I think with Hollywood closing, it will be interesting to see what happens,” Broad said of the future of stabling in California. “We can get up to 70. We can add temporary stalls. I don’t think I would put 200 stalls out there.”

For Broad, racing works best on a smaller scale, emphasizing quality.

“I like to keep it to 10 or 12,” Broad said. “You want to manage what you have and stay on top of it. If it gets too big, it can get out of hand.”

Since his start in racing, Broad has had horses with trainers Peter Miller, Julio Canani, and Ron Ellis. Hansen and his wife, Laura, reside at Oakmont on a year-round basis, running much of the operation.

Earlier this year, Broad was active at the Barretts March sale of selected 2-year-olds in training, buying a Henrythenavigator filly from the family of Quiet American for $310,000 and a Smart Strike colt from the family of Sky Mesa and Bernstein for $105,000.

Broad has campaigned such runners as Buzzards Bay, who won the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap in 2006 and the Grade 2 Californian Stakes at Hollywood Park a year later. More recently, Broad raced the turf sprinter Mr Gruff, who won the Grade 3 San Simeon Handicap at Santa Anita in 2009 and 2010 as well as two listed stakes later in his career. Mr Gruff traveled to Dubai in 2011 but finished 16th in the Group 2 Al Quoz Sprint.

Holladay Road, a Street Cry gelding, won the 2012 Crystal Water Stakes at Santa Anita and still is racing for Broad and Canani.

Buzzards Bay and Mr Gruff reside at Oakmont Farm as retirees.

“I’m very proud of the fact they’re at the ranch,” Broad said. “A majority of our horses have second careers as jumpers and in dressage. We’ve been successful with that.”

Having the farm makes it easier to support such horses after their peak racing days instead of dropping them in claiming values until they become someone else’s property, he said.

“That’s part of the game I don’t like,” Broad said. “The owner is responsible for the horse.”

Broad is the son of billionaire businessman Eli Broad, who is active in Los Angeles charities and civic affairs. Both father and son were involved with the family’s Stanford Ranch Thoroughbreds in the past, but Eli Broad does not have an active role in racing today.

“He’s busy with his philanthropic ventures,” Gary Broad said of his father.

The younger Broad splits his time between Palm Desert and Del Mar, managing his investment portfolio in the mornings. Winter afternoons are spent on the golf course, while summertime is for Del Mar. He often can be found at a clubhouse table overlooking Del Mar’s paddock.

By this time next year, it is quite possible that the paddock could feature runners who spent the early part of 2014 being prepared for racing at Oakmont Ranch.