Los Alamitos Race Course

Los Alamitos Race Course

Courtesy of Los Alamitos Race Course

Los Alamitos Planning to Add Fairplex Dates

Action on future of Los Angeles County Fair racing needs California board approval.

Fairplex Park announced its intention April 21 to transfer its Los Angeles County Fair Throughbred racing dates beginning this fall to Los Alamitos Race Course in Orange County, Calif.

The announcement came in a press release from the Thoroughbred Owners of California, which has endorsed the plan. Fairplex, which has operated the LACF dates in Pomona, Calif., since 1933, was granted approval by the California Horse Racing Board to run an 11-day meet in 2014 from Sept. 5-21.

The CHRB must approve the dates transfer. However, its upcoming meeting April 25 at Golden Gate Fields does not include any action with regard to Fairplex or Los Alamitos race dates. The board's next scheduled meeting is May 22 at Santa Anita Park.

In 2002, Fairplex Park attempted to lease its racing dates to Santa Anita but the CHRB rejected the move after getting strong opposition from within the racing industry, led by the Oak Tree Racing Association.

The press release indicated that LACF would no longer be part of racing and its meet would be conducted independently by Los Alamitos. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

No indication has yet been given on the impact of this move on the Thoroughbred sales operation at Barretts, which is on the Fairplex grounds adjacent to the current racetrack. Also unclear is the future use of Fairplex Park as a training facility.

Los Alamitos, California's nighttime Quarter Horse racing facility, was granted Thoroughbred dates in 2014 as part of the state racing industry's response to the closure of Hollywood Park. The track, located in Cypress on the northern end of Orange County bordering Los Angeles County, was previously approved for five weeks of racingtwo weeks in July and three more in December. The additional dates would be bring the total to eight weeks.

The track has expanded its main oval from five furlongs to nearly a mile and is making grandstand renovations for the upcoming meet, which begins July 3. It is in the process of adding capacity on the backstretch to accommodate up to 700 additional horses. Temporary stalls could make room for as many as 900 horses during the running of meets.

According to the release, Fairplex Park and Los Alamitos, along with other "California horse racing industry leaders," have been in discussions on the date transfer for several weeks.

"The only constant in life is change," said Jim Henwood, CEO of Faiplex, in announcing the organization's decision. "We have enjoyed a long and proud history of horse racing here at Fairplex, but with the limitations of our facility we made a strategic decision for the continued growth of the industry to reach out to Los Alamitos and seek to move our dates to their facility. By moving our dates to a new market on a one-mile track we think we can grow on the past success of our race meet."

Joe Morris, president of the TOC, added, "With the marketplace challenges horse racing faces it is more important than ever that we connect our sport with a new audience. Los Alamitos has made a tremendous investment in the past year to build a first class one-mile track, and they are located right in the middle of an exciting new market in Orange County. It is with great appreciation to Fairplex and their 70 plus years of racing tradition that we have worked in conjunction with them to facilitate this move."

"Naturally we are excited about the prospect of adding additional dates to our 2014 thoroughbred racing calendar, and we are very appreciative to Fairplex for the opportunity to conduct and manage their race meet here at Los Alamitos," said Brad McKinzie, Los Alamitos Racing Association vice president. "We plan to immediately work with the CHRB and other industry stakeholders to make sure these racing dates are used to add value to the California Thoroughbred racing calendar."

Henwood indicated that Fairplex has plans to expand and upgrade its Finish Line Sports Grill satellite betting facility in the near future.