This horse-racing season at Santa Anita Park will last 84 days, but it may get longer next fall with the closure of the track at Hollywood Park, which is scheduled for Aug. 1. As a result, other facilities will expand their seasons because track owners and breeders want to provide continuous horse racing year-round in Southern California.

"There would probably be additional racing in Santa Anita and Del Mar if Hollywood Park closes," said Ron Charles, president of Santa Anita Park.

The horse-racing schedule has rotated among the tracks in Southern California for more than two decades, with seasons transitioning from one track to another at Santa Anita Park, Hollywood Park, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and the Fairplex at Pomona.

"It's critical to have racing during the whole year," Charles said. "We continue to draw major racing stables, owners and jockeys, and have premier racing in Southern California. We need to afford owners a year-round calendar and ensure that purses will be high and have stability in the racing calendar."

The 2,000 stabled horses in the region need continuous boarding and training. With the closing of Hollywood Park, the other parks would have to help provide stable and training facilities for those horses. Hollywood Park has agreed to provide notification of its closure to the other parks and the California Horse Racing Board at least six months in advance of its traditional November season.

That should give the other parks enough time to set their schedules and ensure proper stabling for the Southern California horses. The fall season at Hollywood Park begins in early November, meaning that it would have to give notice of closure by the beginning of May.

Santa Anita's current season began Dec. 26. Charles said the economy will have an affect on horse racing and he expects to see a small decline in wagering.

The horse-racing industry has been impacted by the tough times in many ways. Sale prices for thoroughbreds have dropped, and the market for breeding and purchasing young horses has slowed, Charles said, along with the rest of the economy. However, the number of horses stabled has remained steady, which means that racing fields will be large and competitive.

Game Time

Officials at the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission weren't sure what to expect for their annual Basketball 101 with the Los Angeles Lakers event scheduled for Jan. 20. Attendance, however, is expected to surpass last year as fans are excited for a chance to interact with current and former players and coaches.

"The Lakers' success has helped us tremendously," said Kathy Schloessman, president of the L.A. Sports and Entertainment Commission.

The format of the event will be similar to last year's, with fans having an opportunity to shoot baskets on the court before a coaching demonstration by Phil Jackson. That will be followed by a dinner and panel discussion. Current Lakers Derek Fisher and Luke Walton have committed to participate. Schloessman is hoping that Jordan Farmar will also attend, but he has not confirmed due to an injury.

The commission has canceled its popular print calendar showing sports and entertainment events in Los Angeles. Instead it will produce an interactive online edition for 2009. If tickets are available for a game through Ticketmaster, people will be able to click on a link to that game and book seats.

By going online, the calendar will be constantly updated with all sports and entertainment events in Southern California. Like the printed calendar, it is designed to be a resource and is not advertising based.

"People can still print out the calendar, but now they can also download events," Schloessman said.

Volley Snowball

AVP Inc. learned some lessons after its first winter volleyball tour, one of them having to do with cold feet. So some changes have been made.

The league is launching its second annual winter volleyball tour through the Midwest and Northeast. The tour, now sponsored by Johnsonville Brats sausages, will bring bikini-clad players to cold-weather cities in winter.

Tour commissioner Leonard Armato expects larger crowds this year as the sport has increased in popularity due to the success of American athletes at the Beijing Olympics.

Several arenas last year stored the sand outside, where temperatures were below freezing. When the sand was moved indoors, players who were used to warm sand played with cold feet.

"It takes awhile for the sand to warm up," Armato said. "We invested in a sand drying and warming machine that will be with us at every stop this year."

Staff reporter David Nusbaum can be reached at dnusbaum@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 236.

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