In a reversal that further signified the current shaky nature of thoroughbred horse racing in Southern California, Oak Tree Racing Assn. announced late Friday that it would hold its 2011 autumn meeting at Hollywood Park, not Del Mar.
Oak Tree had said this week that it would move to Del Mar in 2011, after holding this year's meeting, starting Sept. 30, at Hollywood Park.
Sherwood Chillingworth, executive vice president of Oak Tree, said that meetings at Del Mar on Thursday produced indications that environmental reports for the low-lying areas of Del Mar during October would take longer than at first thought. Chillingworth said that Hollywood Park was willing to hold the meet for another year, and made a commitment to that.
Nothing, of course, is final, until the California Horse Racing Board approves Oak Tree's license for this year and approves Hollywood Park as Oak Tree's tenant. That is expected to happen at a public meeting next Friday. Nor will the 2011 plan for Hollywood Park be set in stone until the CHRB reviews all date requests and sites, which it is scheduled to do at another public meeting in mid-September.
Chillingworth said that Oak Tree's long-range expectation remains a permanent home at Del Mar.
Oak Tree has held its annual meeting each fall since 1969 at Santa Anita, but was first evicted by track owner Frank Stronach and then forced to Hollywood Park for this year's meeting, even after Stronach had relented for one more year, by horsemen who said Santa Anita's synthetic surface track is no longer safe enough to race on.
Stronach said last month that he would install a new dirt track at Santa Anita prior to its main meeting opening day, Dec. 26.