The Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona, Calif., may have run its last horse race when the 2001 Fairplex Park meeting ended Sept. 24. According to published reports, next year's fair dates, tentatively scheduled for Sept. 13-29, will be run at Hollywood Park.
Officials at Hollywood Park and Fairplex Park would neither confirm nor deny reports that an agreement has been reached.
Horse racing has been part of the fair's heritage since 1922, when harness and chariot races were run during the inaugural fair. Modern-day programs have included several breeds, including Appaloosa and Quarter Horse racing.
In recent years, the Thoroughbred Owners of California have suggested changes to the racing calendar that would move the late summer dates from Fairplex, which has a five-furlong main track and no turf course. Among the reasons cited was an absence of high-quality racing from the time Del Mar closes in early September until the opening of the Oak Tree meeting at Santa Anita, when many horses are preparing for the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships.
"From TOC's standpoint, I'd like to see (the switch to Hollywood Park)," said John Van de Kamp, president of TOC. "Average handle at Fairplex is roughly $8 million on a weekend, whereas at Hollywood it's $12 million or $13 million. Fair racing is a valid component of our circuit and I would hope if it's at Hollywood that they would race other breeds. At the same time they can run on the grass and have bigger races."
Barretts Equine Sales has been based at Fairplex since 1990, and company president Jerry McMahon said a shift of racing dates would not affect the sales, despite one published report saying the Fairplex racing property would be developed.
"We have a very strong ground lease for both our barns and sale pavilion, as well as a guarantee as to the racetrack." McMahon said the lease runs through 2019.
A track spokesman acknowledged previous plans to develop a portion of the county fair property, but not where racing has taken place.