01/16/2014 8:00PM

California Horse Racing Board tweaks claiming rule


ARCADIA, Calif. - The California Horse Racing Board voted Thursday to relax part of a rule voiding claims on horses placed on the veterinarian’s list for unsoundness.

Under the rule change, unanimously approved by the racing board, owners and trainers can designate prior to submitting a claim to accept a horse even if the claimed horse is placed on the vet’s list for unsoundness after a race. The designation would be made by checking a box on the claim slip submitted 15 minutes before scheduled post time.

The rule change is expected to take effect this spring. The state Office of Administrative Law must review the rule change before it becomes official. Racing board officials said there was no communication from the public on the rule change during a recent 45-day comment period.

Since last May, a claimed horse placed on the vet’s list for unsoundness has been required to be returned to the owner and trainer for which it raced. The decision is made by track stewards, acting on advice from state or association veterinarians. A claim submitted for a horse that is euthanized or dies on the racetrack is automatically voided, and would remain voided under the amended rule.

Some trainers with runners in early races at Santa Anita on Thursday said they remain opposed to the general principal of a rule that voids claims. Before the rule change, a claimed horse belonged to the new owner regardless of the horse's condition.

Trainer Kathy Walsh said the new clause would aid owners seeking to breed a filly or mare, but said the rule should be rescinded.

“It should remain the way it’s always been,” she said of claiming rules.

Trainer Peter Miller, a vocal opponent of the rule since last year, said he objected to the latest change. He said that owners and trainers should be given the option after a race on whether to accept a claimed horse classified as unsound.

“You should be able to look at it after the race,” he said.

The rule that voids claims on unsound horses went into effect after months of discussion at racing board meetings in late 2012 and early 2013. From May 17 through the end of 2013, there were 133 voided claims at California tracks, including three because of fatalities, according to Dr. Rick Arthur, California’s equine medical director.

Of the 133, there were 64 on the Southern California Thoroughbred circuit, 31 on the Northern California Thoroughbred circuit, and 38 at the mixed meeting at Los Alamitos.

Through Sunday, the 13th day of the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting, there had been 10 voided claims at the meet, according to track stewards. For the Hollywood Park autumn meeting, there were 15 voided claims in 27 days of racing.

Baedeker named executive director

Rick Baedeker, the former president of Hollywood Park, was named executive director of the racing board on Thursday. His hiring was announced at the start of the public session of the racing board’s meeting.

Baedeker will not begin work until the state hiring process is completed. He is likely to oversee the racing board’s next monthly meeting, at Santa Anita on Feb. 21.

The position had been vacant since last August following the death of Kirk Breed from a lengthy illness.

Baedeker left Hollywood Park in 2005. In recent years, he has worked as a consultant for the Breeders’ Cup in California, and as a liaison between the racing board and groups that sought to open mini-satellites in restaurants and bars in Southern California.

Baedeker said after Thursday’s meeting that one of his early goals is to promote racing in general as well as oversee the regulatory agency.

“The number one responsibility is the integrity of the game,” he said. “It has to be a clean and fair game for the players.

“I would hope to be a facilitator of new ideas. We’ve been in this circle-the-wagons mode with the closure of Hollywood Park (in December). That’s behind us.

“I hope I can bring people together to think of ways to keep the fans we have, get back the ones that left, and attract new people. The goal is not to impose creative ideas, but to get people around the table that may not otherwise communicate with each other.”