Friday, 1 February 2013

The future of SoCal racing lies in the hands of Los Al

It's kind of funny to think about, but Los Alamitos currently has the future of racing in Southern California in it's hands. It's like saying the future of New York racing depends on Finger Lakes, it's not a thought that comes to mind.
     But it's true. With Betfair Hollywood Park most likely closing to be developed after the 2013 Fall meet, SoCal Horsemen will need a new place to stable about 1,200 horses. Last summer, when a replacement for Hollywood was brought to public discussion, Fairplex Park seemed to be the leading candidate, with a plan to expand the 5/8ths of a mile bullring to a 7 1/2 furlong dirt course with a turf course (presumably 6 1/2 furlongs) along with greater stabling capacity. Soon after, Los Alamitos got into the expansion talks, as it had previously in 2005 when Hollywood was purchased by the Bay Meadows Land Co.
     To be honest, I figured Fairplex was going to be the replacement and Los Alamitos was just tossing out ideas. As it turns out I was completely wrong. Yesterday there was an article published on BloodHorse announcing that Fairplex is out as a Hollywood replacement candidate, with Fairplex President Jim Henwood stating "I'd suggest that Los Alamitos is the better alternative at this time." DRF reported yesterday that Los Al would soon begin meeting with the city of Cypress, where the track is located, to discuss expanding the current facility. The plan includes the addition of 1,000 stalls and expanding the track from 5/8ths of a mile to 1 mile. A turf course is not included in the plan. If everything works out, the expansion will be completed in 12 months and Los Alamitos will be ready for Thoroughbred racing by 2014.
     There are several positive implications in this plan.
     This is good news for bettors who dislike the synthetic surface at Hollywood. As a Quarter Horse meet, and a very prominent one at that, Los Alamitos has a natural dirt surface. Ed Allred, the owner of Los Al, has been quoted as saying "I would like to do things to keep Los Al viable for Quarter Horse racing." That likely means that the dirt will stay.
     Handle-wise, Los Alamitos already has a very large following. The large Pick 4 pools have attracted about 99% of all Quarter Horse fans and brought quite a few Thoroughbred bettors to the Quarter Horse world. Sure, it would be nice for handle if the California takeouts would be lowered, but I'll leave takeout discussions to @InsideThePylons and @PullThePocket.
     This could be good news for the Quarter Horse people of Los Alamitos. Currently the Quarter Horse population at Los Al is too low. Having Thoroughbred racing at Los Al for a few weeks every year may attract more Thoroughbred bettors to Quarter Horse racing. With more betting on Quarter Horse racing, purses could be increased, which would lead to more owners buying more horses, which means bigger field sizes. I saw Thoroughbred bettors playing Quarter Horse races at Fort Erie this October, and the larger QH handles at Fort Erie than Ajax showed that. Hopefully Los Alamitos will be able to use Thoroughbreds to benefit their Quarter Horse product.
      As I said earlier, the Los Alamitos expansion does not include a turf course. This may concern owners of turf horses and bettors who are turf fans. However, the Los Alamitos Thoroughbred meets will be shorter than the Hollywood meets, with several dates being given to Santa Anita and a few more being given to Del Mar. So those who are concerned about turf racing shouldn't be too worried or disappointed.
      With the future not entirely clear, hopefully SoCal racing can successfully transition from Hollywood to Los Alamitos, and both Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing can thrive.

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