03/20/2015 2:34PM

Santa Anita, Los Alamitos at odds over September weekend


Los Alamitos and Santa Anita are trying to settle a conflict over which track will host racing on the last weekend of September.

Los Alamitos is scheduled to hold a September meeting on behalf of the Los Angeles County Fair from Thursday, Sept. 10 through Friday, Sept. 25, but is seeking to add Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 26 and 27.

Santa Anita is scheduled to open its autumn meeting on Sept. 26. The track was granted that weekend of racing when the California Horse Racing Board issued a calendar for the 2014 and 2015 seasons in September 2013.

Racing dates for the last Saturday and Sunday of September were issued to Santa Anita with the expectation the Breeders’ Cup would be held in Southern California this year. The Breeders’ Cup later awarded the two days of championship races to Keeneland in Kentucky.

As a result, Los Alamitos has asked the racing board to extend its September meeting through Sept. 27. The track has argued that those dates would typically be held by the Los Angeles County Fair, which began running its annual race meeting at Los Alamitos in 2014.

Racing board executive director Rick Baedeker said on Thursday that he is urging the two sides to reach an agreement before the issue is brought before the racing board at its next monthly meeting, which is at Golden Gate Fields on April 16. 

“Any changes have to be heard in an open meeting,” he said. “I’ve suggested that it would be a good idea that they come before the board in lockstep or it could be a contentious discussion.”

The subject was scheduled to be discussed at a racing board meeting in Sacramento on Thursday, but the meeting was canceled last week.

Santa Anita chairman Keith Brackpool said on Thursday that discussions are continuing between Los Alamitos and Santa Anita.

“The dates were supposed to go to Santa Anita,” he said. “I think the conversations will be productive.”

Brackpool did not elaborate on details of the discussions. Los Alamitos track owner Ed Allred said on Thursday that he is seeking a resolution before the racing board meeting.

“We don’t want to get into a conflict with Santa Anita about it,” he said. “What will happen, I don’t know.”

Ending a race meet at one venue on a Friday and starting one at a different venue on a Saturday is unprecedented in Southern California. In 2010, the Del Mar summer meeting ended on a Wednesday, followed the next day by the start of the county fair meeting at Fairplex Park. In recent years, the county fair meeting has started on a Friday.

Los Alamitos also is considering constructing 400 more stalls in its barn area, which would bring the total for year-round Thoroughbred stabling at the track to 1,100.

As part of an agreement that granted the track Thoroughbred racing dates following Hollywood Park's closure at the end of 2013, Los Alamitos agreed to conduct year-round training for two years. The deal expires after this year, and Los Alamitos management is deciding whether it wants to commit to a long-term agreement and build more stalls.

California horsemen are in needs of more stabling space, said Joe Morris, the president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California.

“Right now, we talking about a long-term agreement on stabling,” said Morris. “We don’t have a long-term viable solution. Los Alamitos could be a good part of that.”

Allred said finding a funding mechanism for the expansion remains a point of concern.

With the two-year deal expiring at the end of this year, Los Alamitos also must decide whether it wants to continue to conduct daytime Thoroughbred meetings. Los Alamitos also runs mixed Quarter Horse and low-level Thoroughbred races at night.

Los Alamitos held three Thoroughbred meetings in 2014. The track ran a two-week meeting in July, a three-week meeting in September, and a three-week meeting in December, and has a similar schedule this year. The July and December dates were previously run at Hollywood Park.

Allred said that although last year's Thoroughbred meetings were profitable, he is not certain what the Los Alamitos racing calendar will look like beyond this year.

“It might be the same or it could be totally different,” he said.

Racing board chairman Chuck Winner said earlier this week that he is hopeful Los Alamitos will continue conduct Thoroughbred race meetings after 2015 and will remain a year-round training venue for Thoroughbreds.

“My own view is that we haven’t given it enough time,” Winner said.