The inclusion of thoroughbreds in the Los Alamitos racing program this Friday will give a program that was once strictly for quarter horses the look and feel of the county-fair circuit.
More important, it will probably stabilize a decreasing number of quarter horses in California and enable the track to run as many as 54 races a week in the near future, the maximum currently allowed.
Entries were taken Tuesday for Friday night's races, the first program to include thoroughbreds. Three breeds--quarter horses, thoroughbreds and Arabians--will race on Friday. Assembly Bill 364 recently legalized thoroughbred racing at Los Alamitos during a quarter horse meeting.
The bill restricts the track to claiming races of $5,000 or less, racing at 4 1/2 furlongs. Those conditions are designed to protect the major Southern California thoroughbred circuit, which has a bottom claiming price of $8,000 at Hollywood Park and $10,000 at Del Mar and Santa Anita.
It also mandates that more than half of the races written for entries must be for quarter horses at a distance of 550 yards or less. Consequently, a 13-race program in the future could include seven races for quarter horses, three for Arabians and three for thoroughbreds. The 870-yard races between quarter horses and thoroughbreds will not count against the quarter horse portion of the program.
The presence of thoroughbreds probably will bring the number of races offered per week up to 54 over four nights of racing. Last week, for example, the track carded 46 races. Fourteen-race programs, a frequent occurrence on Saturdays last year, might soon reappear, according to Edward Allred, the chief executive officer and president of the Horsemen's Quarter Horse Racing Assn., which conducts quarter horse racing at Los Alamitos.
"We look over a period of time for a large influx of horses from the Southwest," he said. "By the mid-1990s, the horse crunch is going to get worse and worse and we'll have this marriage of four breeds that will take the pressure off of quarter horse owners and trainers, who perhaps need a little time off now and then.
"We remain a quarter horse licensee and we intend to run all the quarter horses we can."
Allred said that aside from the substantial number of thoroughbreds who will take a drop in class from the major thoroughbred circuit to run at Los Alamitos, horses from Arizona, New Mexico and Caliente are also expected at Los Alamitos.
The track is hoping that any stables that appear for thoroughbred racing also bring a few quarter horses along. In the last decade, the number of quarter horses at Los Alamitos has decreased. Tracks such as Trinity Meadows near Ft. Worth and Remington Park in Oklahoma City have enabled horsemen from quarter horse states such as Texas and Oklahoma to stay home.
Those factors have reduced the number of horses running in Southern California and added to the constant turmoil of dates at Los Alamitos between the harness and quarter horse industries. Like the nation's thoroughbred industry, quarter horse racing is losing owners and breeders at an alarming rate.
Consider the average racing week in June over the last 10 years. In 1983, Los Alamitos ran six nights of quarter horse racing, which included 57 races, four of which were 870-yard races for quarter horses. In 1988, five nights of racing were conducted, including 47 races, five of which were 870-yard races for quarter horses.
Last month, from June 17-20, 44 races were held over four nights, but only 31 were races of 550 yards or less for quarter horses. Nine of the other 13 were for Arabians, and four were for quarter horses and thoroughbreds at 870 yards.
"I'm not sure of the immediate impact the thoroughbreds will have, but once we get year-round racing I think that will be a major impact," Allred said.
Allred, who races a huge stable of quarter horses at Los Alamitos, wants a year-round season as soon as possible. He has even mentioned the possibility of leasing Bay Meadows in San Mateo, Calif., for a meeting during the first few months of 1994, dates that harness racing has been allocated to race at Los Alamitos.
"We'd like to run 12 months of the year. We think our industry needs it," Allred said. "It would be good that when a horse is ready to race he can come to a meeting and doesn't have to wait (for the season to start). We have reason to believe we'd be welcome at Bay Meadows, and we intend to proceed in that direction. I think Bay Meadows would welcome us, but at this time we do not have a lease."
With the presence of thoroughbreds, Arabians, quarter horses and later this year Appaloosas, he might at least have the horses.
Los Alamitos Notes
Over the weekend, trainer Blane Schvaneveldt teamed with jockey Bruce Pilkenton to win one stakes race--the Double Bid Handicap with Make Mine Bud on Saturday--and qualify for another--the Dash For Cash Futurity with Jumping Tac Flash on July 30. Make Mind Bud won the Double Bid Handicap by a head over Vessels Maturity winner Wealth, running 350 yards in 17.54 seconds. The 4-year-old has won six of eight starts, a low number of starts for a horse his age, but has won two stakes, including the Shue Fly Handicap last month. Make Mine Bud is owned by Texans Bobby Cox and Herb Graham. They bred the horse to several mares last winter and almost didn't bring him back to the races. Schvaneveldt insisted he get the horse back on the track, and the owners have been awarded with two stakes wins and the possible favorite for the $50,000 Go Man Go Handicap in early August. Friday, Pilkenton guided Jumping Tac Flash to a trial win for the Dash For Cash Futurity.
The California Sires Cup Derby is Sunday. Leading qualifiers Check Her Twice and Easily A Secret will be looking for their first 1993 stakes wins. . . . Thursday's 11-race program includes seven races for maidens. . . . Arabian jockey Roxane Losey was suspended for four days, July 22-25, after Thursday's eighth race even though her horse, Bits And Pieces, was not disqualified. Bits And Pieces, the 1-5 favorite, led from the start, but lugged out so badly around the second turn that she lost the lead entering the stretch, where she continued to drift out. Jockey Richard Pfau, who rode Sams Luv, was racing on the outside of Bits And Pieces. When Sams Luv came alongside Bits And Pieces, Pfau, fearing he was about to be cut off, reached over with his right hand and struck Bits And Pieces on the behind with his whip. He went on to win while Bits And Pieces finished fourth. The stewards were not impressed. They fined Pfau $200--roughly his share of the purse--for misuse of the whip and suspended Losey for failing to maintain a straight course and causing interference.