10/02/2006 12:00AM

Pegram withdraws from Los Alamitos project


Horse owner Mike Pegram has withdrawn involvement from a proposal to expand Los Alamitos Race Course to accommodate Thoroughbred racing, he announced over the weekend.

The $50 million proposal, designed to replace Hollywood Park on the Southern California Thoroughbred calendar, may still go forward, according to Los Alamitos owner Ed Allred. Allred warned that the expansion project would need the cooperation of Hollywood Park, local governments, and the racing industry to proceed.

Pegram, who owned 1998 Kentucky Derby winner Real Quiet, and Allred, a Quarter Horse owner-breeder, announced the proposed expansion in March 2005 as an alternative to racing at Hollywood Park. The Bay Meadows Land Co., which purchased Hollywood Park in July 2005, has expressed intent to develop that property in coming years.

In a statement issued Saturday, Pegram said Hollywood Park's failure to indicate when it would cease racing was a main factor in his withdrawal from the project.

"We could not reach an understanding with the Hollywood Park people on a timetable when they would close and we would open," Pegram said. "Without that agreement, we could never start building at Los Alamitos."

Pegram said that assessing land values at Los Alamitos also slowed the potential project.

"This issue of land value at racetracks is nothing new," he said. "Land values have always been worth more than what racing can generate, but we've been lucky in the past in the fact that these racetracks have been owned by people who were interested in racing, not real estate. I can only hope that the Los Alamitos project somehow moves forward, because we have done the work and shown it is without a doubt our best option."

Under the Pegram-Allred proposal, Los Alamitos, which runs a year-round Quarter Horse meeting, would have an expanded grandstand, barn area, and racetrack to accommodate Thoroughbreds. Pegram had hoped Los Alamitos would assume Hollywood Park's dates and open Thoroughbred racing to the affluent Orange County market.

The proposed expansion would require 190 acres to expand the stable area and racetrack and allow for additional parking and other facilities. Part of the property would come from the defunct Cypress Golf Club, which is adjacent to the racetrack on land owned by Allred.

Allred said it was unclear whether he would go forward. He said the project would not be completed until 2009 or 2010, at the earliest.

Pegram's announcement comes less than two weeks before the California Horse Racing Board is scheduled to discuss racing dates for 2007 and beyond at a meeting in Arcadia, Calif., on Oct. 12.