The Los Alamitos Racing Association was granted a license to operate its first Thoroughbred meet July 3-13 at the Orange County racetrack by the California Horse Racing Board.
The board, meeting at Santa Anita Park May 22, gave unanimous approval for the eight-day meet at Los Alamitos Race Course—a total of 68 races—to be conducted on a Thursday-through-Sunday schedule.
"We're up here today to discuss eight days of racing," said Brad McKinzie, vice president and general manager of the Los Alamitos Racing Association. "That may not sound like a lot. But I can tell you Orange County is excited about the prospect of Thoroughbred racing."
He jokingly credited much of the excitement to Los Alamitos having the foresight to create a marketing plan around hosting a colt that would go on to win the first two jewels of the Triple Crown.
"We're proud to be the 'Home of The Chrome,' " McKinzie said. He noted that 600 people showed up in the early morning hours to see California Chrome in his final breeze before heading to Louisville to capture the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
The nighttime Quarter Horse track also has been awarded three weeks of Thoroughbred racing in December, and has an agreement in place with the Los Angeles County Fair to conduct its three-week summer meet in place of Fairplex Park, which wants to get out of the racing business. An agenda item related to the transfer of those September race dates was deferred until the next meeting of the CHRB, to be held June 19 at Los Alamitos.
McKinzie said the expansion of the main track (there will be no turf racing at Los Alamitos) to nearly a one-mile oval has been completed, and there is stabling for 500 Thoroughbreds on the grounds, with barns for 200 more being constructed. In addition, Los Alamitos has made "a sizable investment" in creating a new infield spectator area, added dozens of new HD television monitors, and also added several new bar and eating locations, he said.
"We need to establish very quickly that this a new type of racing that is coming to Los Alamitos," McKinzie said. "This is an extension of what Santa Anita and Del Mar do, not simply an extension of what we do at night."
One of its first announcements was the creation of the $500,000 Los Alamitos Derby (gr. II), formerly the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park, to be run July 5. "We feel that the message that we sent was an important one we needed to send as loudly and quickly as we could," Mckinzie said.
McKinzie said that after comparing the level of racing at Hollywood Park for the same dates, Los Alamitos will have a first-year purse structure that is 85% that of what Hollywood offered. The bottom purse will be $15,000, and the lowest level of racing will be for $8,000 claimers. Purses will total $2,992,546, with more than $2.1 million of that total earmarked for races other than stakes.
"We've been aggressive because we need to be aggressive," he said. "We're shooting for the fences with this first meet."
Additional stabling for the duration of the Los Alamitos meet will be available at Santa Anita and San Luis Rey Downs in northern San Diego County.
Elsewhere, the board approved license applications for the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club for its regular summer meet July 17-Sept. 3, the California Exposition and State Fair at Sacramento from July 9-20, and the Sonoma County Fair at Santa Rosa from July 23-Aug. 10.
The CHRB Southern California Race Dates and Stabling Oversight Committee reported that the racing industry has an agreement in principle with Fairplex to keep it open for training through this year's Breeders' Cup. The fair facility announced recently that it planned to halt training in July as it investigates other uses for the property.
Alan Balch, representing the California Thoroughbred Trainers, applauded the agreement, noting that trainers need the stabling space for 2-year-olds during the critical period of July through September.
The board also approved its annual contracts for fiscal year 2014-15.
The CHRB budget calls for $1,987,250 to be spent for drug testing in the coming year, as well as an additional $324,240 for operation of the equine medical director's office. More than $2.2 million is allocated for stewards contracts and $413,000 for official veterinarians at the state's racetracks.
In addition the CHRB will spend $60,000 to pay vets for out-of-competition drug testing, and $75,000 for hearing officer contracts.