09/30/2010 11:12PM

California owners silent on Oak Tree-Santa Anita 2011 dates dispute

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The Thoroughbred Owners of California heard presentations on Thursday from officials representing Santa Anita and the Oak Tree Racing Association who are vying for six weeks of racing dates in the fall of 2011, but the owners took no position on which side they will endorse, according to Arnold Zetcher, the group's president.

Zetcher said Santa Anita and Oak Tree officials spoke to the TOC board for approximately 40 minutes each, arguing their respective organizations should play host to Thoroughbred racing from Sept. 28 to Nov. 6, 2011. Zetcher did not discuss specifics of the presentations.

“Both groups came well prepared,” Zetcher said. “Our intent was to not come to a conclusion but to understand what was going on. I learned from them things that I wasn’t aware of.”

Last month, the California Horse Racing Board declined to take action on the 2011 Southern California Thoroughbred calendar, with chairman Keith Brackpool urging the racing associations and horsemen’s group to conduct discussions before the next racing board meeting on Oct. 14.

Oak Tree conducted a fall meeting at Santa Anita from 1969 to 2009 but is running its 2010 meeting at Hollywood Park. Oak Tree’s lease with Santa Anita was voided by the track’s parent company, MI Developments, earlier this year. After the two sides agreed in June to terms for a 2010 Oak Tree meeting at Santa Anita, the TOC and the California Thoroughbred Trainers decided in August to oppose the meeting because of concern about the integrity of Santa Anita’s synthetic track.

Oak Tree began its current 22-day meeting at Hollywood Park on Thursday and is seeking to run a meeting again at Hollywood next year. Oak Tree officials argued before the racing board last month that their organization has a history of operating a fall meeting and with a not-for-profit structure has distributed money to a variety of racing charities in recent years.

Santa Anita officials argued before the racing board last month that the autumn racing dates have been traditionally run at Santa Anita and that Santa Anita can draw larger crowds and offer higher purses than Hollywood Park.