07/14/2016 5:37PM

California statewide handle declines almost 9 percent in June


DEL MAR, Calif. - All-sources handle at California racetracks declined 8.8 percent in June and was down 4.6 percent for the year, according to figures released at Thursday’s California Horse Racing Board meeting by executive director Rick Baedeker.

Combined handle at Golden Gate Fields, Los Alamitos, the Northern California fair circuit, and Santa Anita reached $220,983,777 in June, compared to $242,385,842 in June 2015. Handle at Santa Anita was affected negatively by the absence of turf racing for the final five racing days of the month.

For the first six months of the year, statewide handle was $1,481,162,605 compared to $1,553,197,536 in the first six months of 2015. The figures include handle from Thoroughbred tracks that operate during the day, and night racing at the Cal-Expo harness meeting and the Quarter Horse and lower-level Thoroughbred meeting at Los Alamitos.

Ontrack handle during the first six months of the year fell 9.4 percent, to $167.1 million, while account wagering rose 1.6 percent, to $312 million. Account wagering was down 3.8 percent in June, to $50.3 million.

“We’re still in a bit of a slump,” Baedeker said. “We’re hoping the month of July gives us a lift.”

The racing board met for nearly three hours on Thursday discussing topics such as off-track stabling in Northern California, a lack of funding for charity organizations and drug testing for Quarter Horses.

The racing board heard a lengthy discussion about consolidating training on the Northern California fair circuit to Golden Gate Fields this fall and eliminating subsidized training at the nearby Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, at least until next spring.

The board did not take action on the measure.

Golden Gate officials indicated that the horse population on the circuit has declined to the point that all stables can be accommodated in a single barn area.

Officials with the Thoroughbred Owners of California said they want a second venue to be open to encourage growth of stables. The issue will be discussed at the racing board’s August meeting, when Golden Gate Fields presents a license application for its autumn meeting.

License applications for the Los Angeles County Fair meeting at Los Alamitos in September and the Santa Anita autumn meeting were not heard at Thursday’s meeting because officials with those tracks indicated to the racing board that the required paperwork was not complete. The licenses will be heard at the racing board’s August meeting.

The racing board approved a license for the Oak Tree at Pleasanton meeting from Sept. 21 to Oct. 4.

Bob Fletcher of the Winner’s Foundation, which aids people in racing with substance abuse and addiction problems, said his organization has had to cut staff throughout the state because of reduced donations. The organization has benefited from donations by racetracks and other groups for more than two decades.

“We don’t foresee any funding solutions,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher said that with a smaller staff the Winner’s Foundation would not be able to respond to people in need as quickly as in the past.

Baedeker appealed to the racing industry to help fund the Winner’s Foundation’s operation.

“They’ve been doing good and vital work,” he said. “I would hope that people in the room that have the ability to fund it realize the importance of it.”

The racing board approved a request from Los Alamitos to enact emergency regulations to ban horses from racing that test positive for clenbuterol, albuterol, ziplaterol or ractopamine in pre-race examinations that include tests from hair follicle samples.

Earlier this year, Los Alamitos lost a Superior Court case that challenged the track’s house regulation of pre-race tests for clenbuterol. The judge in the case said there was a discrepancy between racing board rules and Los Alamitos track rules regarding clenbuterol testing. The racing board rules at the time did not refer to hair follicle testing.

The emergency regulation must be approved by the state’s office of administrative law. Los Alamitos has a zero-tolerance policy on the use of bronchial dilators such as albuterol and clenbuterol.