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Expanded Season Might Not Be Best for Fairplex Future

September 08, 2006|Robyn Norwood | Times Staff Writer

The Fairplex Park racing meet that opens today for a 16-day run during the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona remains much as it has been, a bridge between the closing of the Del Mar meet and the opening of the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita -- and another chance for perennial leading jockey Martin Pedroza to clean up.

Whether the future holds dramatic changes at Fairplex depends partly on the future of Hollywood Park as well as on whether Fairplex officials decide that seeking more dates is a good idea after all.

At a June meeting of the California Horse Racing Board at which industry officials discussed strategic planning for the possible shutdown of Hollywood Park and Bay Meadows in Northern California for more profitable land redevelopment deals, Fairplex presented a plan to spend $100 million on upgrades if it could secure potential lost dates at Hollywood Park.

But to justify the expense of replacing the five-furlong track with a mile oval, creating a new seven-furlong turf track and expanding the grandstand, Fairplex consultant Cliff Goodrich told the CHRB that Fairplex would require 20 weeks of racing -- 17 more than it has now.

Others have proposed similar expansion plans at Los Alamitos if Hollywood Park were to close.

But Goodrich, a former president of Santa Anita as well as Arlington Park in Illinois, said Thursday that Fairplex officials were no longer sure expanding the fair meet was the best approach.

"Fairplex thinks there has to be seasonality," Goodrich said, questioning whether year-round racing is in the best interest of the sport.

"That [previous] plan is still before the industry and before the board, but as the months go by, you look at that and say, 'Is this really in the best interest of the industry, when you're not maximizing Santa Anita and Del Mar?' "

Goodrich also said it might be more important for Fairplex to ensure its future as a training site by installing one of the synthetic racing surfaces that are being touted for reducing injuries and will soon be required at the state's major thoroughbred racetracks.

Hollywood Park is spending $8 million to install a synthetic surface, and despite uncertainty about the long-term future of racing at the track since Bay Meadows Land Co.'s purchase of the property last year, Jack Liebau, Hollywood Park president, has said he is operating on the assumption that racing will continue at the site beyond 2008, the company's guarantee at the time of the purchase.

Meanwhile, George Bradvica, Fairplex Park's racing manager, is zeroed in on the season that begins today.

"Our focal point is to try to do better than last year, when we set an all-time handle record of $113 million," he said. "The most important factor is field size, and we want to make sure our field size remains strong.

"We've been around since 1922. Of course a lot of things have changed since 1922, but I believe people like to come out here, like the change of pace and like the different environment."


James McIngvale, a Texas racehorse owner, filed a federal lawsuit in Texas on Thursday, charging trainer Bob Baffert and Florida bloodstock agents J.B. McKathan and Kevin McKathan with receiving "secret commissions and kickbacks" on horses he purchased on their recommendation.

The suit, which seeks unspecified damages, specifically cited the purchase of Work, a Menifee and Pacific City colt that McIngvale bought from trainer Murray Smith for $950,000. McIngvale paid the McKathan brothers a 5% commission. The suit charges that McIngvale was unaware that Smith also paid the defendants a 10% commission.

"I was the trainer," Baffert said. "I never made a dime off McIngvale that I didn't earn honestly."



Fairplex meet

* Where: Los Angeles County Fair, Pomona.

* Dates: Today-Sept. 25. No racing Tuesdays.

* Post times: 1 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday; noon Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

* Breeds: Thoroughbreds, quarter horses, Appaloosas, mules.

* Cost: Fair admission. Gates open Wednesday-Friday at 11 a.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m.; Horse racing admission gates open Monday at 11 a.m. The fair is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Source: Daily Racing Form,

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