01/15/2015 6:23PM

California expands 'Ship and Win' bonus program


ARCADIA, Calif. - An incentive program designed to entice owners to acquire horses from other states or countries and race in Southern California is being expanded from two race meetings at Del Mar to the entire circuit in April, the California Horse Racing Board was told on Thursday.

Beginning April 2, horses other than first-time starters will be eligible for a 30 percent bonus of purses earned in overnight races in their first starts at Del Mar, Los Alamitos, or Santa Anita  if they have not raced in California in the preceding 12 months. All runners who have not raced in California in the last 12 months, except for first-time starters, will receive a $1,000 appearance fee for their first starts at those tracks.

Known as the “Ship and Win” program, the incentives have proven a useful way to attract runners to California in recent summers. In 2011, 107 horses from outside of California were eligible for the bonuses at the Del Mar summer meeting, a figure that rose to a record 187 horses last summer.

Funding for the program will come from racetracks, the Thoroughbred Owners of California, purse funds; and the California Marketing Committee, which receives a portion of satellite wagers to promote racing.

Del Mar marketing director Craig Dado told the racing board that the incentive program helped Del Mar increase average field size at summer meetings from 8.1 runners per race in 2010 to 8.8 runners in 2014.

Dado, chairman of the CMC, said expanding to a year-round program could have “a ripple effect” on entries through the year. As an example, he said the 187 horses that qualified for the program during Del Mar last summer made an additional 290 starts in California through the end of the year.

“We don’t know if this will work outside of seven or eight weeks at Del Mar,” he said. “We’ve got to give it a try.”

To help finance the year-round program, the CMC is diverting approximately $600,000 from a rebate program for high-end bettors. Dado told the racing board that racetracks will make up the shortfall for most, if not all, of the rebate program funding.

Galway Downs approved as stable area

Galway Downs in Temecula, Calif., was approved as an auxiliary stabling venue to replace Fairplex Park, which is closing in February.

Joe Morris of the TOC and Alan Balch of the California Thoroughbred Trainers association told the racing board that up to 400 horses can be accommodated at Galway Downs, but that considerably fewer are expected to be based there in coming months. Most horses in training in Southern California are based at Los Alamitos, Santa Anita, and the San Luis Rey Downs training center in northern San Diego County.

Those four venues will give Southern California racing capacity for 3,400 to 3,500 horses. 

 The Galway Downs license approval was contingent on the completion of several technical issues, such as receiving clearance from local fire officials, emergency protocols, and completing security arrangements. The facility is expected to open by Feb. 4.

Fairplex Park will close for year-round stabling next month, but will continue to operate as an off-track betting site. Fairplex Park did not run its Los Angeles County fair meeting in Pomona last September, moving the dates to Los Alamitos.

The closure of Fairplex Park for off-track stabling will save the indebted Southern California stabling and vanning fund approximately $10,000 per day, officials said. The fund has a deficit of approximately $4 million, which will be reduced under the current structure.

“This is a better financial scenario for us,” Morris said.