Horsemen Seek Stability as Hollywood Deal Looms

Officials maintained a taut no-comment stance on reports that Churchill Downs Inc. is close to a deal with the owner of Bay Meadows for the sale of Hollywood Park, but a spokesman for California's major trainers' organization expressed comfort in the news.

The deal, if approved, means Hollywood Park would continue racing for at least three years.

"It's a relief that (Hollywood Park) will remain a racing facility for some period of time," said Ed Halpern, executive director of the California Thoroughbred Trainers. "That's what I'm getting from the trainers. They're relieved they won't have to worry about where they were going to stable their horses in the event the track was closed.

"As long as they are selling the place to a racing interest, hopefully they'll do something on the front side that will help make it a place where people are going to want to come."

Stockbridge Capital Partners reportedly bid $275 million on the 240-acre property, which CDI paid $145 million for when it bought the Hollywood Park site from Pinnacle Entertainment in 1999. According to the Los Angeles Business Journal, Stockbridge, a private equity firm, submitted a bid 10% higher than any other received and also agreed to hire CDI to manage the facility for three years while a development plan goes through the approval process.

Spokesman Adam Alberti, who represents Bay Meadows Land Co., confirmed Stockbridge is discussing the property with CDI but declined to answer further questions on any "pending real estate negotiations."

Said Hollywood Park president Rick Baedeker: "There is no news." He referred an inquiry to the CDI corporate office.

CDI is expected to be a player in the bidding for the franchise to operate the New York Racing Association's three tracks (Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga) later this year. The NYRA franchise expires at the end of 2007.

Bay Meadows Land Co. is in the process of acquiring approvals for an 83.5-acre development on the Bay Meadows site that includes 1,250 residential units, 1.25 million square feet of office space, and 150,000 square feet to be used for shops and restaurants. It also includes 15 acres of green space.

Located in San Mateo south of San Francisco, Bay Meadows is about 400 miles north of Hollywood Park, which is in the Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood.

Inglewood officials have talked about similar plans for Hollywood Park in the past and are also known to desire a convention center and adjacent high-end hotel. A parcel to the north of the track's barn area has been sold for a housing development, while acreage to the south is the site of a large shopping center.

Terrence Fancher, executive managing director of Stockbridge, couldn't be reached for comment.