07/19/2013 12:59PM

California Horse Racing Board wants deal on Southern California stabling by August meeting


DEL MAR, Calif. – A resolution on offtrack stabling in Southern California for 2014 and beyond may be reached in the next month after a lengthy discussion at Thursday’s California Horse Racing Board meeting focused on potential locations, the number of stalls needed, and concerns over funding.

A meeting between racing board chairman David Israel and officials with racetracks and horsemen’s organizations is scheduled for Monday, with a solution to the stabling issue possibly being reached before the racing board’s August 22 meeting at Del Mar.

“There will be significant arm twisting before the August meeting,” Israel said Thursday.

Israel said he plans to act as a mediator between the groups.

The allotment of racing dates for the 2014 and 2015 seasons are contingent upon a solution being reached for offtrack stabling.

Finding a sufficient number of stalls to accommodate year-round racing on the circuit is a major concern with the pending demolition of Betfair Hollywood Park for development in early 2014. Hollywood currently has capacity for 2,000 horses and has approximately 1,200 horses housed on its backstretch. Venues such as Barretts Racing and Sales at Fairplex Park, Los Alamitos, and San Luis Rey Downs have been discussed as sites for horses not stabled at Santa Anita beginning next year.

Officials with the California Thoroughbred Trainers have sought Fairplex Park as a primary location for offtrack stabling, requesting stalls for 1,000 horses. Fairplex Park officials said Thursday they would prefer to house a maximum of 500 horses to remain in compliance with waste water storage regulations in 2014.

Officials with the Thoroughbred Owners of California have suggested allotments of 500 stalls at San Luis Rey Downs and as many as 700 stalls currently not in use at Los Alamitos, which is conducting a year-round meeting for Quarter Horses and lower-level Thoroughbreds.

The number of stalls needed has been debated. In recent seasons, the racehorse population in Southern California has ranged from 2,900 to 3,300, depending on the time of year, with a peak during July and August when most 2-year-olds have reached the track.

Israel urged racing executives to be flexible about potential offtrack stabling venues.

“Don’t dig in your heels,” Israel suggested. “We have to come up with a compromise and a solution, but we won’t do this past August.”

A method of financing offtrack stabling remains unclear. TOC officials put the cost at $3 million to $4 million annually. The monies are generated by a portion of handle from offtrack wagering venues such as satellite locations, but not through account-wagering sources. As handle has migrated to account-wagering sources in the last decade, available funds have diminished.

In the future, tighter controls could be put in place for offtrack stabling funding.

The racing board announced Thursday that a stabling and vanning fund used for offtrack auxiliary stabling has been operating improperly.

Reacting to a civil lawsuit filed by horsemen based at San Luis Rey Downs in Bonsall, Calif., who sought revenue from the fund, the racing board commissioned Scott Chaney, a Southern California steward and attorney, to review the case and write a proposed decision.

In his decision, released by the racing board Thursday, Chaney wrote that the stabling and vanning fund was not operating as a separate entity from Southern California Off-Track Wagering Inc. as required by law. Southern California Off-Track Wagering oversees offtrack wagering locations in Southern California.

In a 10-page decision, Chaney wrote that racing board auditors “completed a thorough and exhaustive inquiry” into payments by Southern California Off-Track Wagering, but that the funds were not well managed.

Chaney wrote that protocol was not followed for reimbursements.

Specifically, the stabling and vanning fund made direct payments to an auxiliary stabling location when the stabling and vanning fund should have first paid the racetrack conducting a live race meeting, who, in turn, should have reimbursed the auxiliary stabling venue. At times, racetracks requested funding for more stalls than were needed to conduct a race meeting, which, in one case, Chaney described as “a fiscally irresponsible arrangement.”

In addition, Chaney wrote, “At present, there appears to be no safeguards against using the fund in an economically inefficient manner and in fact most evidence indicates that it [is] almost a goal to try to figure out how to use the entire [fund] rather than require some efficiency.”