02/17/2010 12:00AM

San Luis Rey Downs may close on March 15


ARCADIA, Calif. - The San Luis Rey Downs training center in Bonsall, Calif., faces closure within a month after officials with the company that owns the facility notified trainers earlier this week that they do not intend to keep the facility open beyond March 15.

But a group of trainers at San Luis Rey Downs are working on a potential business plan with training center owner Magna International to preserve the year-round facility, according to trainer and facility manager Leigh Ann Howard.

Howard said discussions are ongoing with Magna International, the parent company of Santa Anita Park owner Magna Entertainment, but that no resolution has been reached.

"We're working to put a business plan together for" Magna International, Howard said. "They would like us to stay open. They're hoping that we can make a business plan that would satisfy their need as land owners. We don't have to make a lot of money, but we have to break even. That's our goal. We want to get in a break-even situation."

This year, San Luis Rey Downs lost a primary source of funding when the Southern California Off-Track Wagering Inc.'s stabling and vanning fund stopped providing financing for offtrack stabling. The stabling and vanning fund has experienced significant shortfalls in recent years as offtrack wagering has migrated away from satellite locations at racetrack and county fairgrounds to account-wagering platforms, such as telephone and Internet betting.

Fairplex Park in Pomona, which hosts the Los Angeles County fair meeting each September, closed as a year-round training facility last November when it was notified it would no longer receive money from the stabling and vanning fund. Some Fairplex Park-based horses are now based at Hollywood Park, which does not have a full stable area. The stable area at Santa Anita is near capacity.

San Luis Rey Downs, located in northern San Diego County, has been authorized as a training facility by the California Horse Racing Board since 1984.

Trainers based at San Luis Rey Downs include some small operations that race in Southern California as well as stables that prepare horses for other trainers, such as 2-year-olds beginning their careers or horses returning from layoffs. The most famous horse based at San Luis Rey Downs in recent years was Azeri, the 2002 Horse of the Year.

Trainers at San Luis Rey Downs pay $7 stall rent per day, but the number of horses based at the facility has dropped within the last 10 years from approximately 600 horses to 260, Howard said. San Luis Rey Downs has capacity for 530 horses, and Howard said she borrowed portable stalls from Del Mar to accommodate the overflow in past seasons.

Howard said San Luis Rey Downs has "a ton" of 2-year-olds on the grounds currently, and that more could arrive in coming weeks, if a resolution can be reached with Magna International.

Bob Black Jack returns in San Carlos

The 2008 season was an unforgettable year for Bob Black Jack. He set a world record for six furlongs, started in the Kentucky Derby, and wonthe Grade 1 Malibu Stakes that December.

There was no 2009 season. Bob Black Jack emerged from the Malibu with an undisclosed leg injury. He returns to racing in Saturday's $150,000 San Carlos Handicap over seven furlongs at Santa Anita.

Owned by Jeff Harmon and Tim Kasparoff and trained by Tim's brother, James, Bob Black Jack has been training steadily at Hollywood Park for his comeback, which James Kasparoff downplayed to some extent Wednesday.

"I think he'll need a start after a year and a couple of months off," Kasparoff said. "We need to start him out. I hope we'll be able to make some big races with him."

Kasparoff said he has been "pretty hush-hush" about Bob Black Jack's injury, and declined to elaborate Wednesday.

In the 2008 Sunshine Millions Dash, Bob Black Jack zipped six furlongs in a world-record 1:06.53. He later finished 16th in Big Brown's Kentucky Derby after setting the pace. Bob Black Jack no longer holds the six-furlong world record, which was lowered to 1:06.49 by Twin Sparks at Turf Paradise last November.

Former trianer Jones dies at 38

Dal Jones Jr., a former trainer who worked in the group sales department at Hollywood Park and led an ownership syndicate, died Tuesday after undergoing surgery, his friends said.

Jones was 38. A Southern California native, Jones was a fixture in Los Angeles racing. He worked as an assistant trainer to Bob Hess Jr. and David Hofmans, briefly trained on his own, and later worked in racetrack management, first at Santa Anita and more recently at Hollywood Park.

In addition, Jones was the principal behind Meritage Racing, a partnership which had horses in training with Doug O'Neill. On Monday at Santa Anita, the Meritage-owned Indianski finished seventh in the fifth race.

Jones was a college baseball player but had battled health problems in recent years. Memorial services had not been finalized as of Wednesday, his friends said.