Los Alamitos Horse Track Owner Threatens to Halt Operations After Licensing Vote

December 20, 2020 Updated: December 21, 2020

All bets are off at the Los Alamitos Race Course, where the horse racing track’s owner has threatened its closure over a contentious licensing debate.

The embattled quarter horse and thoroughbred facility in Cypress, California—where at least 29 horses have died from racing or training injuries this year—had sought a full-year license from the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB).  The CHRB instead granted the track a six-month license, following a Dec. 17 debate.

Track owner Eric Allred said he “won’t accept the contract” if the site is only licensed for six months.

“Don’t even bother,” Allred said during the meeting. “We cannot conduct racing under these conditions.”

The track had sought a license that would run from Dec. 23 to Dec. 21, 2021. The approved license for racing is now set to expire on June 30, 2021.

Commissioner Oscar Gonzales introduced the motion for a six-month license so the board could monitor the success of safety changes implemented to protect the horses. The board will reconvene at its scheduled June 2021 meeting to discuss extending the license.

But Allred said a year-long license is essential to allow those associated with racing to make long-term plans. He asked the board to issue a full-year license, and review it in six months if the track is flagged for wrongdoing.

The board deadlocked with 3-3 votes on both a six-month license and a year-long license, which again, the vote was tied 3-3. The result left the track without a license.

A second vote on the six-month license was then held. This time, the motion passed 5-1, with CHRB Chairman Dr. Greg Ferraro voting against the measure, calling it “a mistake.”

The board said that if Allred doesn’t agree that the six-month license is acceptable, he can remove himself from the contract between the CHRB and the Los Alamitos Race Course.

While discussing whether to approve the Los Alamitos Race Course for another license, public commenters were split.

“I really would encourage the board to approve the date requests for Los Alamitos,” John Lindo, a horse owner, told the board. “I know and trust the people at Los Alamitos to do what’s best and create a safe environment for our horses.”

Brenda Figueroa, a horse owner and trainer, said, “We need [the racetrack] as our business. … The racetrack employs many people and we take care of the horses as if … they were our children.”

However, Martha Sullivan, an animal activist, voiced her opposition.

“I would like to point out to those board members who may not be aware that the latest horse to die at Los Alamitos was just Dec. 5 … a 2-year-old filly that died in a ridiculous 110-yard dash,” Sullivan said.

“In the course of her being injured and subsequently euthanized, another horse stumbled and lost drive. So this was just another pileup at Los Alamitos, and is the 42nd horse to die there this year—and 45 percent of the total horses to die on California racetracks.”

The track was briefly put on probation by the CHRB in July after reporting at least 20 horse deaths as a result of racing or training issues, while 10 more horses had died due to illness. Officials suspected the deaths could have resulted from a high number of animals receiving steroids for joint pain.

The board on July 20 allowed Los Alamitos to hold more races after the track agreed to add more oversight to its procedures and races, including allowing another veterinarian to observe horses in training, bringing on a security steward to oversee veterinary and barn procedures for the horses, and an entry review panel of people who can remove horses from racing.

Since then, 10 more horses have died at the track—seven from injuries caused by racing, and three from other causes, according to the CHRB.

Follow Drew on Twitter: @DrewVanVoorhis