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San Luis Rey limited reopening expected by Feb. 1

Monday, January 8th, 2018

Jay Hovdey
Officials hope to begin removing debris from burned stables at San Luis Rey Downs this month.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The San Luis Rey Downs training center, partially destroyed Dec. 7 in a wildfire, is expected to reopen for limited training by Feb. 1 and for full training for more than 400 horses by the spring, according to a leading executive of the facility’s parent company.

Tim Ritvo, the chief operating officer of The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita racetrack and the San Luis Rey Downs training center in Bonsall, Calif., said Sunday demolition crews are expected to begin removing debris from the burned stables and cleaning up the property this month in advance of the resumption of training.

But how San Luis Rey Downs will fit in the long-term stabling plans in Southern California is not immediately clear. Santa Anita officials have made expanding stabling at Santa Anita a priority, which could make San Luis Rey Downs obsolete in a matter of years.

In the short term, San Luis Rey Downs will reopen around Feb. 1 with capacity for approximately 200 horses to be housed in stables that were not affected by the fire. Ritvo said Santa Anita officials have accepted bids on the construction of temporary barns that will accommodate “200 to 300” horses that can be housed in stables destroyed by the fire. The wildfire cost the lives of 46 horses.

San Luis Rey Downs can accommodate up to 495 horses.

There is hope the rebuilt barns can be completed in early spring.

“Our goal is April 1,” Ritvo said.

Ritvo said the demolition of the scarred barns has been delayed by insurance company officials who want to inspect the property for potential hazardous materials, such as asbestos. Ritvo said he is hopeful there will be a limited delay before removal of the debris can start.

Ritvo said officials with The Stronach Group have not decided on what type of barns to construct. He said it is unclear whether the new stables will be temporary or more permanent structures.

At Santa Anita, there are ongoing discussions with the city of Arcadia, where the track is located, about expansion of the stable area in a parking lot adjacent to the backstretch.

There are plans to build a training track for joggers and gallopers in the same parking lot, an idea that has been discussed since Frank Stronach bought Santa Anita in 1998. Ritvo presented blueprints on Sunday featuring those changes to the property as well as an expansion of the main track from a mile to 1 1/8 miles and a plan to widen the turf course for increased use.

“Conceptually, the city is good with us,” Ritvo said of the Santa Anita expansion project. “My main focus is to build stalls here.”

Ritvo said the plans need to be formally approved by city officials.

Any rebuilding project at San Luis Rey Downs needs to be completed around May 1. Stables that were based at San Luis Rey Downs were relocated to Del Mar after the fire and have been based there in the last month.

Del Mar can operate as a training center until early May when the property, including the stable area, is needed in preparation for the massive San Diego county fair, which runs from June 1 to July 4. The Del Mar summer race meeting will begin July 18.



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