Los Alamitos Race Course will hold its first thoroughbred meeting on its newly expanded mile oval beginning Thursday in a two-week test that will enable trainers, jockeys, owners and fans to get a feel for a facility that's becoming very important in the Southern California horse racing scene.
The track has been used primarily for quarter horses until recently expanding from a five-eighths-mile dirt oval to nearly a mile at a cost of $1.5 million. Its last thoroughbred meeting was in 1991 as part of the Orange County Fair. There is no turf course.
For the record: An earlier version of this report said the reconstructed Los Alamitos Race Course now has the longest stretch run of any horse racing track in North America. It is the longest stretch run in the United States.
With the closing of Hollywood Park, Los Alamitos has built new barns to become a key facility in housing thoroughbreds. The track now has a stretch run measuring 1,380 feet, making it the longest of any American track from the final turn to the finish. That, in itself, should make for interesting racing.
"That's been the thinking —- the longer the stretch, the easier it is for horses to come from behind," trainer John Sadler said. "I'm not sure yet. It's a new configuration."
The stretch run figures to test the patience and timing of jockeys riding the course for the first time.
An expanded winner's circle, upgraded television monitors, remodeled bathrooms in the grandstand area and opening the infield for fans on certain dates are among the improvements the track will be unveiling as part of an estimated $5-million renovation.
Highlighting the eight-day meeting will be the Grade 2, $500,000 Los Alamitos Derby on Saturday at 1 1/8 miles. Racing will take place Thursday through Sunday, with 2 p.m. post times.
One challenge will be to see how many horses are entered in individual races. The purses will be similar to a Fairplex meeting, and with Del Mar starting July 17, some trainers will want to save their horses for the bigger purses at Del Mar.
Early reviews have been positive, especially from trainer Art Sherman, who used the track to prepare California Chrome, winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
For fans, parking will be free and admission is $5 to the clubhouse and $3 for the grandstand.
Los Alamitos was awarded the dates after the closure of Hollywood Park. A winter meeting is scheduled from Dec. 4 through Dec. 21 and the track will also take over for Fairplex Park in hosting a meeting Sept. 5 through 21.
Thoroughbred racing comes to OC
What: Los Alamitos Summer Thoroughbred Festival.
When: Thursday through July 13; first post 2 p.m.
Highlights: $500,000 Los Alamitos Derby on Saturday; $200,000 Great Lady M Stakes on July 12.