08/26/2010 1:18PM

Plans for Oak Tree at Hollywood coming together


The Oak Tree Racing Association is planning a 22-day race meeting at Hollywood Park this fall, with two five-day racing weeks and three four-day racing weeks, Oak Tree executive vice-president Sherwood Chillingworth said on Wednesday.

Oak Tree has yet to sign a deal with Hollywood Park for the fall meeting, which is scheduled to start on Sept. 29, but Chillingworth said the two sides have “agreed to the terms.”

The license application for Oak Tree’s meeting at Hollywood Park must be approved by the California Horse Racing Board, but a date for that hearing had not been scheduled as of early Thursday.

On Aug. 19, the racing board denied Oak Tree’s request to run its meeting at Santa Anita, where it has been based since the late 1960s, after the officials with the Thoroughbred Owners of California and California Thoroughbred Trainers said they had safety concerns about the Santa Anita synthetic surface. On Aug. 18, Frank Stronach, the chairman of Santa Anita’s parent company, MI Developments, said that a dirt track will be installed at Santa Anita this fall, in time for the winter-spring meeting that begins there on Dec. 26.

The decision to replace the synthetic track with a dirt track will force Southern California stables to train at Hollywood Park, Fairplex Park in Pomona, or the San Luis Rey Downs training center in northern San Diego County this fall. Santa Anita is not expected to open for training until December.

Chillingworth said the details of the Oak Tree schedule are still being discussed.

He said horsemen’s agreements have yet to be finalized with the CTT and TOC.

Hollywood Park will be able to accommodate approximately 2,150 horses, with 1,950 stalls and about 200 temporary pens, according to racing secretary Martin Panza. Stall applications are being processed this week. The barn area was about half-full during its spring-summer meeting, and Panza said there will be enough room to stable and train horses when at capacity.

“We have a mile and an eighth track that is larger than Del Mar and we have a training track that can be used,” he said.

Panza said stalls will be allocated primarily to horses that are racing, or show a pattern of works indicating they are being prepared for a race. He estimated that the Southern California Thoroughbred population is approximately 2,850 horses, of which about 800 are not active.

At Santa Anita, president George Haines said on Wednesday that the track has had “preliminary talks” with the city of Arcadia regarding permits for construction of the new dirt track.

The process will be overseen by Ted Malloy, who works for MI Developments of Gulfstream Park. Malloy is expected at Santa Anita on Monday to confer with track superintendent Richard Tedesco on the engineering details of the new surface.

“Once we get that, we can finalize permits,” Haines said. “We’re not sure on the time frame on what it will take on the permits.”

He said the track is still studying what type of dirt will be used.

“We’re sending some samples out to labs and working with the horsemen on what’s the best consensus,” Haines said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us.”