11/03/2005 1:00AM

Turf purses shift over to Golden Gate


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Hollywood Park will conduct a trimmed-down autumn meeting without turf racing, and purse money from Hollywood will be redirected to Golden Gate Fields to augment the northern California turf racing purse structure. The Hollywood meet begins Wednesday.

Hollywood officials and the Thoroughbred Owners of California are finalizing a revised purse agreement that reduces the 31-day fall meet to 27 days, increases overnight dirt-only purses 12 to 14 percent, and allows for $166,000 in purse money be allocated to turf races at Golden Gate.

The changing scenario of the autumn racing calendar was caused by the announcement from Hollywood this week that turf racing had been canceled for the fall meet because of unsatisfactory condition of the newly installed course. The course is being ripped up this week, and Hollywood is spending $500,000 to reinstall a new Bermuda-based course.

Turf races accounted for 72 of the 308 races run during the fall meet in 2004 - nearly 24 percent - including the six-race, $1.75 million Autumn Turf Festival and three other turf stakes with purses totalling $580,000. Hollywood proposed transferring the entire $2.3 million from turf stakes into the overnight program, and that's where most of it will go.

"It's a compromise," said Drew Couto, president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California. "We disagreed on some aspects of it. We did the best we could do."

Full details of the agreement, including which four days will be eliminated, have not been finalized, though several Wednesdays are likely to be canceled. Hollywood will be limited to eight overnight races a day.

The $166,000 that will be added to Golden Gate will allow Southern California turf horses to ship to Golden Gate to run for Hollywood-level purses. Hollywood is expected to absorb shipping costs. While specifics on purse allocation has yet to be determined, Golden Gate's racing secretary, Sean Greely, said he will welcome an influx of horses.

"We'd love to have them," he said. "We're going to run our program, and accommodate horses from [Southern California] as best we can. It's just a matter of working out the dynamics of the whole thing."

Entries for opening day of the Hollywood meet close Saturday, and the track's racing secretary, Martin Panza, faces an uphill climb filling races for the Nov. 9-Dec. 19 meet without a turf program.

"I can't apologize enough to the horsemen. It's a bad situation," Panza said. "Is it going to be easy? No. Is it un-doable? You can do it."

Without a turf program, field size is sure to shrink, and Panza will be forced to write certain races more frequently than he prefers.

Hollywood's president, Jack Liebau, deflected criticism that Bay Meadows Land Co., which purchased Hollywood from Churchill Downs this summer, is only in it for the short haul and is more interested in developing the property than conducting a race meet.

"People say, 'Oh, those are the real estate developers,' " Liebau said. "Well, the real estate developers have stepped up in a matter of days with another half-million dollars that wasn't anticipated. We're at the party, and we're participating."

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen