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Fall race meet goes ‘Old Hollywood’

DEL MAR — The 2014 summer horse races at the Del Mar Fairgrounds will remain “Cool as Ever,” as the famous slogan promises. But the iconic blue and gold diamonds have been scratched from the lineup as the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club readies for the 15-day fall meet this November.

“We can’t use the summer advertising,” DMTC president Joe Harper said. “It’s an entirely different meet. We have to rebrand it.

“It’s important to get off on a good foot,” he added. “The blue and gold just won’t work in November.”

The theme for the fall meet, which runs Nov. 7, 8 and 9 and Thursdays through Sundays for the remainder of the month, is “Old Hollywood.”

Harper said he has been working with Hollywood — the city, not the recently closed racing venue — to put together an event to “capitalize on the motion picture industry.”

He said he is talking with “horse owners with a great deal of influence in Tinsel Town” in an effort to re-create the early days of the race track’s founding members, actors Bing Crosby and Pat O’Brien.

Harper provided the update at the Jan. 14 meeting of the 22nd District Agricultural Association board of directors while presenting the DMTC budget for approval.

According to the document, revenues for the fall meet are estimated to be $8.3 million, with the district receiving an additional $400,000, not including profits from food and beverage sales.

Expenses are expected to be approximately $7.85 million, with about $1.77 million earmarked for the rebranding campaign.

With the closure of Hollywood Park, Del Mar and Santa Anita are the only two major thoroughbred venues in Southern California, although Los Alamitos Race Course in Orange County is renovating its track to accommodate thoroughbreds.

As part of the approval process from the California Horse Racing Board for the fall dates, Del Mar, Santa Anita and Los Alamitos are required to contribute to a fund that will address stabling and off-site training facility needs in Southern California due to the loss of such facilities at Hollywood Park.

The industry needs to accommodate about 3,400 horses, Harper said.

The fund will provide for future stabling and training of thoroughbred race horses, which is critical to the ongoing success of the industry in Southern California, according to the budget report.

DMTC’s contribution to the fund for 2014 is estimated to be $1 million, although that expense is not fixed.

Harper also reported the widening of the turf track is on schedule and within budget. Officials are also considering options for the synthetic Polytrack, which has reached its expected 7-year life of usefulness.

Harper said rocks are coming through because of wear. Santa Anita converted back to dirt and with Hollywood Park closed, there are no other venues with a synthetic course. Del Mar could be making a change, he said, because the plan was to provide consistency for the horses when racing in Southern California.