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Los Alamitos Has to Be Creative, but Payoff Is Big


The business of keeping Los Alamitos Race Course alive has required some creativity.

The small Orange County track operates at night because, by then, most other facilities, especially those on the East Coast, have closed. That gives Los Alamitos a corner on the simulcast market, all those fans watching on television around the nation, accounting for 70% of the daily bets.

"If people want to gamble," marketing director Jeff True said, "we're the last track running."

Los Alamitos has pushed this advantage by helping TVG network set up a studio on its premises. TVG broadcasts to more than 8 million homes via satellite and selected cable companies, attracting an additional $75,000 in wagers a night over the telephone and Internet.

Still, the track draws an average of only 1,516 fans and $1.2 million in bets each night, far below Santa Anita with its averages of 10,486 fans and $11 million.

So when Los Alamitos officials decided to stage the richest annual race in California, they turned to an arrangement called a futurity, something the larger, wealthier thoroughbred tracks do not have. Here's how it works:

Track owner Edward Allred starts by putting up $250,000 of his own money. That's enough to get horsemen interested.

Owners with young prospects pay a nominating fee at the beginning of the year. They continue to make small payments, all the while gambling their horses will qualify through a series of elimination races to be among the 10-horse field in the Los Alamitos Million Futurity.

The attraction? A huge payday come December.

"They know the money is out there," said Orlando Gutierrez, a track spokesman. "And when enough owners get together, the pot starts building."

This year, 199 owners have nominated 332 horses, paying as much as $3,050 per horse. The estimated purse is $1.3 million.

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