Four suitors jockey for dates when, not if, Hollywood Park closes

The body, meaning Hollywood Park, still has a pulse. However, plans are under way for the eventual closure of the Inglewood, Calif., racetrack. What raised the red flag is Hollywood applied for 2013 summer dates but not for a fall meet. A decision on that is expected by Jan. 1.

The California Horse Racing Board will have a quartet of suitors for any Hollywood race dates that come available.

Del Mar and Santa Anita already have expressed interest in the Hollywood racing dates, and now, according to the Daily Racing Form, Fairplex and Los Alamitos have joined the conversation.

Hollywood Park has been living on borrowed time since being purchased by the Bay Meadows Land Co. Blueprints are in place for a multibillion-dollar development of the valuable property.

Del Mar is planning to expand its turf course for a couple of reasons. One is to allow it to pursue hosting the Breeders' Cup someday. Another is to acquire some of Hollywood's dates moving forward.

It makes sense for Del Mar to be proactive, because if it isn't, Santa Anita Park will be. Santa Anita would like nothing more than to expand its racing schedule in Arcadia.

The California board has acted proactively in contacting Fairplex and Los Alamitos to gauge their interest. At minimum, either track would need to expand its main track to a one-mile configuration. Hundreds of new barns would have to be built. Then there is the fact neither track has a turf course.

If the choice comes down to Fairplex and Los Alamitos, I suspect Los Alamitos has more to offer. It already hosts year-round quarter-horse racing. And it's situated in the dense population base of Orange County, which includes nearby cities Long Beach, Anaheim and Garden Grove.

A geographic year-round thoroughbred schedule of Arcadia, Orange County, San Diego County and Pomona would make good sense. I doubt if investors have the money or will to build a new replacement racetrack. However, a retrofit of Los Alamitos in a prime area might work out.

■ LIVE-MONEY QUALIFIERS - For years, I have opined that handicapping tournaments should forgo mythical wagers and switch to a live money format. I was pleased to hear that Coast Casinos will be trying one-day, live-money qualifiers leading up to the Horseplayer World Series in February.

Live-money formats that mirror real-life play are more accurate measures of who the top horseplayers are. The best rules should place a premium on handicapping skill and money management.

The handle from live money also helps generate income for the host to pay the expenses of running the tournament. Now some players who might not bet real money on the nose of a 40-1 long shot, but would do so with fake money, will have to step it up.

The Coast Casinos include the Gold Coast, Orleans, Sam's Town and Suncoast. The day qualifiers will be on Nov. 16 and 30, Dec. 14 and 28 and Jan. 11.

Richard Eng's horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick