Updated on 04/12/2013 4:08PM

Santa Anita: 2013-14 meet could run through early July

Shigeki Kikkawa
Mike Pegram, chairman of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, said that Santa Anita and Del Mar officials have discussed a plan to run virtually all of Southern California's racing dates at the two tracks.

Santa Anita and Del Mar officials are close to an agreement regarding a proposed Thoroughbred racing calendar for Southern California in 2014 that would lead to virtually all racing on the circuit at those venues.

A proposed calendar for 2014 was presented to the board of directors of the Thoroughbred Owners of California in a meeting at Santa Anita on Thursday, contingent on the closure of Betfair Hollywood Park at the end of this year.

Hollywood Park officials have said the track will close for residential and commercial developments, but have committed to stay open for racing and training through 2013. There is widespread belief in the California Thoroughbred industry that Hollywood Park will not operate in any capacity in 2014.

Under the proposed 2014 schedule, Santa Anita would run from Dec. 26 through early July, and run a fall meeting from late September to late October or early November. Currently, the track ends its winter-spring meeting on the third weekend of April. The fall meeting has run through the first weekend of November in recent years.

Del Mar would run its usual late-summer meeting, from mid-July into early September, and would have an autumn meeting in November. Currently, the track has one race meeting each year.

“Santa Anita and Del Mar are close and the TOC is hoping they come to an agreement that works,” TOC chairman Mike Pegram said on Thursday evening.

Barretts Racing at Fairplex Park would run its September meeting in conjunction with the Los Angeles County Fair. Upon the expected closure of Hollywood Park, Barretts Racing is seeking to become a year-round training venue, Fairplex Park president Jim Henwood said on Thursday.

The proposed calendar leaves gaps with no racing in part of July and for a large portion of December.

No racing dates for 2014 have been assigned by the California Horse Racing Board. Racing board chairman David Israel said on Thursday that 2014 racing dates would be discussed at the racing board’s meeting in Sacramento on May 23.

A six-month meeting at Santa Anita from late December to early July would result in major changes to the winter-spring meeting. One being discussed would have Santa Anita stop racing on turf in late spring to reduce wear and tear on the surface, and shift turf racing to Golden Gate Fields in Northern California. Both tracks are owned by the Stronach Group.

“We could look at a lot of different things,” Santa Anita president George Haines said on Friday. “All things are open right now. We feel this is an opportunity to help Santa Anita.”

An expanded racing schedule at Del Mar would be a major change from racing there in past decades.

Del Mar president Joe Harper said that a summer meeting at Del Mar could be expanded in some years with an earlier start, depending on the schedule of the San Diego County Fair, which is conducted on racetrack grounds prior to the race meeting.

For a fall meeting, Harper said that having simulcasting of the Breeders’ Cup meeting “is crucial for us” because of the revenue generated from handle. The track has also expressed an interest in hosting the Breeders’ Cup. A fall meeting would likely feature racing four days a week, compared to five during the summer, he said.

“I think 2014 will be more of a test than we realize,” Harper said.

Barretts Racing at Fairplex is making plans to open its barn area for year-round training next January, but is unlikely to expand its racetrack beyond the current five-eighths configuration in the near future, Henwood said.

Barretts Racing, located on the Los Angeles County fairgrounds in Pomona, Calif., had previously proposed a $20 million renovation that would include expanding its main track to six furlongs and the development of a five-furlong turf course on its infield.

In a two-page letter to the TOC earlier this week, Henwood said Barretts Racing was focusing on being a year-round training site. In an interview on Thursday, Henwood said that Barretts racing has not dropped plans for an expanded racetrack, but that it is not an immediate goal for 2014.

“There is not enough time,” he said. “We need the industry to see the expansion project as a need.”

The backstretch in Pomona may be desperately needed to house Thoroughbreds in the Los Angeles area by the end of this year upon the expected closure of Hollywood Park.