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HORSE RACING

CHRB to Vote Today on Proposed Fairplex Move

June 06, 2002|LANCE PUGMIRE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A series of arguments invoking themes ranging from warm-hearted sentimentality to cold, hard cash will be addressed today when the California Horse Racing Board debates whether the Los Angeles County Fair meet should move from Fairplex Park in Pomona to Santa Anita Park in Arcadia.

The seven-member board will vote to either accept, reject or delay the proposed move of the 17-day fair meet (Sept. 13-29) during its meeting at Bay Meadows Race Track in San Mateo.

Fairplex President/Chief Executive James Henwood announced May 23 he had agreed to end 63 years of horse racing at Pomona's tight, five-eighths-mile dirt track. Henwood signed a five-year lease agreement with Santa Anita President Jack Liebau and predicted the deal would result in increased revenue because of greater on-track attendance, wider distribution to satellite wagerers and larger purses because of the addition of 10 turf races and the move to a one-mile track.

But Craig Fravel, executive vice president of Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, said: "We were just informed and now the board's meeting. The issues are larger than what this time frame allows."

That argument has gained significant momentum in the last week. Fravel and Hollywood Park President Rick Baedeker will oppose the move to Santa Anita, as will Oak Tree Racing Assn. Vice President Sherwood Chillingworth. The Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita immediately follows the fair meet. Chillingworth said moving the dates to Santa Anita will ruin Oak Tree's identity and could eventually cost the series major races, such as Breeders' Cup prep events. Del Mar's meet immediately precedes the fair.

Two board members have told The Times they expect to oppose the move and the Thoroughbred Owners of California and the California Thoroughbred Trainers agree that the move should be delayed at least one year and racing should return to Fairplex this year.

If the board rejects the proposed move, racing will resume Sept. 13 at Fairplex Park. Liebau said he and Henwood will continue to explore the move if defeated today.

The meet has established itself as an opportunity for second-tier owners, trainers and jockeys to make handsome sums of money--the largest purse last year was $100,000--while the sport's elite figures usually are on vacation.

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