California harness racing fans got good news Thursday when horsemen reached a last-minute agreement with the ownership of Los Alamitos for a 13-week meeting beginning in January.
Harness racing appeared to have little hope for a winter meeting after talks broke down Wednesday night. The next morning, however, minutes before the California Horse Racing Board's monthly meeting, the groups agreed on a 13-week season.
The Premier Harness Racing Assn., made up of several leading horsemen, then received approval from the CHRB for a 38-night Los Alamitos meeting that will run Jan. 7 through April 2 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
Harness racing also received approval for a summer meeting at Sacramento and tentative approval for a meeting next fall at a track in Riverside that has not been completed.
The PHRA still has some hurdles to clear before the Los Alamitos deal is final. The harness group must pay a $250,000 deposit to track owners Ed Allred, Lloyd Arnold and Chris Bardis by Wednesday and an additional $150,000 on Dec. 29. It must also resubmit it's application to the CHRB for final approval.
According to Dave Goldschmidt, who spoke on behalf of the PHRA and who was a racing official at last spring's harness meeting, the PHRA includes major investors Paul Reddam, Richard Staley, Michael Schwartz, Andy Perez, Ed Atkinson, Neil Kelly, Doug Acker
man and Bobby Gordon.
Reddam was one of two horsemen who operated a harness meeting last spring at Los Alamitos, the last time harness racing was held in Southern California.
The biggest obstacle appears to have been the weekly cost of leasing the track. Under the new agreement, the PHRA will pay $70,000 a week, which is $8,000 less than was offered on Wednesday and between $17,000 to $20,000 a week less than Allred paid during the recent quarter horse meeting.
Allred owns 50% of Los Alamitos, and former harness promoters Bardis and Arnold own 25% each.