Transfer of Santa Anita race dates to Los Alamitos 'a stretch'

Transfer of Santa Anita race dates to Los Alamitos 'a stretch'
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

California racing stakeholders continue to discuss the potential transfer of race dates from Santa Anita Park to Los Alamitos ahead of the April 22 meeting of the California Horse Racing Board, which would need to approve such a move.

For the strategy to be pursued, officials would need to submit a proposal to the CHRB 10 calendar days in advance of the meeting in order for it to be placed on the agenda. While this technically makes Sunday the deadline, CHRB spokesperson Mike Marten noted “in terms of staff schedule, the agenda will be going out either [Thursday] or Friday.”

This means time is short for making a decision. On Wednesday, officials at Santa Anita declined to comment on the status of a potential shift of racing to Los Alamitos, which has continued to conduct nightly quarter horse programs during the coronavirus pandemic in neighboring Orange County.

Greg Avioli, president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, said Wednesday he was unaware of any movement toward a shift in venue. However, he noted it comes down to “if Los Alamitos determined it was something they wanted to do...and Santa Anita supported that.”

While morning training continues at Santa Anita, racing ceased on March 17 after the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health deemed it a “non-essential business” under the county’s “stay at home” directive. Track officials continue to work with the health department on a solution to resume racing at Santa Anita. But until that can be ironed out, Los Alamitos has been eyed as a potential alternative. 

Marten acknowledged there’s “daily discussion by stakeholders and commissioners” with regards to shifting race dates to Los Alamitos. He added there’s likely to be an agenda item regarding race dates at the April 22 meeting, though “I do not know what specifically will be discussed. 

“We probably will see the agenda this Friday, so perhaps we will have a better idea of the specific items for discussion and possible action,” Marten said. 

Trainer Eoin Harty, who serves as president of the California Thoroughbred Trainers, said Wednesday a shift of racing from Santa Anita to Los Alamitos at this point would be “a stretch.” Instead, he and his constituency are optimistic racing will resume at Santa Anita by the end of the month. 

Trainer Bob Baffert is among that group. On Thursday, the Hall of Famer also expressed optimism.

"I feel pretty good that maybe in two weeks," he said, "they can revisit this at Santa Anita and give us a chance to open up again.”

Horse Racing Nation editors Carolyn Greer and Jonathan Lintner contributed to this report.

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