Los Alamitos gained a lot of publicity this year as the ‘home track’ of Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome but it is still well down the pecking order in Golden State horse racing. The track will begin a short 11 day thoroughbred racing meet this weekend that will feature a Saturday workout by California Chrome himself.
It’s no secret that horse racing in California is something of a mess at the moment due as much to the bone headed management of the sport as anything else. Despite the closure of Hollywood Park and Fairplex’s decision to end live racing the reality is that Los Alamitos ranks behind Santa Anita and Del Mar–and probably always will–despite having it’s stature raised by California Chrome’s three year old campaign. As a result, the track has to fit in race meets where it can keeping in mind the schedules of the ‘big two’ tracks in the state. The first 2014 thoroughbred meet at Los Alamitos was an 8 day affair running from July 3 to July 13. The upcoming meet will run 11 days and will replace the Los Angeles County Fair meet previously held at Fairplex. Essentially, what happened is that Del Mar and Santa Anita extended their meets with Los Alamitos filling in the gaps.
Track general manager Brad McKenzie admitted that the arrangement is a bit of a challenge. The summer meet, for example, had problems due to the looming presence of Del Mar on the horizon: “We knew we were in a tough spot. When you have Del Mar waiting in front of you, with the purses they offer, we knew summer was going to be a tough meet. The first week, our numbers were great. And then, quite frankly, it fell apart.”
One of the bigger problems according to McKenzie is changing perceptions and creating the image among the general public that Los Alamitos is a viable track for thoroughbred racing: “We had to rebrand ourselves, which is extremely difficult. We had to establish Los Alamitos as a brand for Thoroughbred racing.”
Los Alamitos is reducing the Los Angeles County Fair meet from 13 to 11 dates. The hope is that they’ll be able to offer fuller, more competitive fields producing better races.