06/20/2010 3:00PM

Frank Goes to Hollywood


On the morning of Tuesday, June 22, in a very large room at Hollywood Park, Frank Stronach is scheduled to appear before the California Horse Racing Board. The anticipation for this appearance tremendous. Think Hannah Montana and Justin Bieber on a double bill, if your'e a 13-year-old girl.

Frank-Stronach Stronach is buried deep on the agenda -- 15th of 17 items -- but that's the way it should be. You don't run the first race and then go right to the Travers. So intense is the interest in this particular board meeting that the CHRB has come up with the money to resume its live web audiocast, which had been discontinued for lack of funds. The webcast can be found at www.chrb.ca.gov, but chances are it won't be easy listening.

What will Stronach say, and how will he say it? Speculation has been running rampant. Even those who consider themselves blessed with insight have only a fleeting idea what he will propose as a solution to the challenges faced by the Stronach-led MI Developments, which has taken control of Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields from the now defunct, Stronach-led Magna Entertainment. Given the choice, a racetrack would rather be owned by an entertainment company than a real estate company, but that ship sailed a long time ago.

In the past, Stronach has maintained that racing in California is broken, and that the racing calendar needs to be thrown open to the "free market" so that any racetrack can operate any time they see fit, and let the weak fall by the wayside. Undoubtedly, he will offer a variation on this theme at Tuesday's session. At the same time, the manner in which he presents his plan will go a long way toward determining how it will be received. Here are some approaches from which he could choose:

Stronach could aspire to be an inspirational, lofty leader of his fellow California horsemen (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qff098NCNDE), or... 

He could play the steel-eyed prince of high stakes corporate finance, throwing fastballs high and inside (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7upG01-XWbY), or... 

Stronach could simply let his actions speak louder than any words, as personalities of great influence have done in the past (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9JYq-mXprw).

There have been hysterical cries that Frank Stronach is holding California racing hostage. This makes no sense. The idea that one man, backed by the power of an international corporation based in Canada, can determine the fate of the entire industry is prepostrous. Of course, who could have imagined that the environmental health and economic welfare of the gulf coast of the United States could be threatened by the actions of -- and dependence upon -- a single oil company?

To this point, Stronach's investment in California's racing business has been considerable, and he certainly has a right to protect that investment. But his investment, no matter how large, did not buy the right to run roughshod over the other principal players, as MI Developments has done in their handling of the Oak Tree Racing Association. Stronach has a chance on Tuesday to close fresh wounds and step up as a leader among equals in a business that requires cool heads and smart compromise. Or not.