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CHRB awards extended dates to Santa Anita and Del Mar
By Brad Free
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The changing landscape of West Coast racing will include an unusual twist to the calendar – Santa Anita will stay open into July and Del Mar into the month of December. It used to be the other way around.
The California Horse Racing Board on Thursday gave the industry its first look at a California circuit that will operate next year without Hollywood Park, which will cease racing this December.
At its monthly meeting Thursday in the Cal Expo clubhouse grandstand in Sacramento, the CHRB allocated racing dates for 2014 and 2015, pending conditions to be addressed next week in industry meetings.
Along with standard fall meet at Santa Anita and summer meet at Del Mar, the CHRB voted unanimously to award Santa Anita an extended season from Dec. 26, 2013 through July 6, 2014, and also allocated a five-week fall meet at Del Mar that would run Nov. 5 through Dec. 7. Similar dates were assigned for 2015.
The CHRB also received interest from Los Alamitos to operate a Thoroughbred meet in late December. Fairplex Park is currently out of the running for extended racing dates and could lose closing weekend of the 2015 Los Angeles County Fair meet.
The two-year allocation of dates came near the end of a five-hour meeting that included frequent expressions of frustration from participants. Among the key issues were the issue of off-site stabling. Hollywood’s closure eliminates 1,950 available stalls, placing extra pressure on Santa Anita, San Luis Rey Downs and Los Alamitos.
California Thoroughbred Trainers lobbied strongly for Fairplex to be considered as the main off-site stabling site and urged the CHRB to resolve the stabling and vanning issue before allocating dates.
CHRB chairman David Israel opened discussion of 2014 dates. “I’d like to start with stabling and vanning issues, because everything comes out of that,” he said.
That began a lengthy debate regarding the availability of stalls.
According to Joe Morris, incoming Thoroughbred Owners of California president, there is sufficient stall space already. He said Southern California “has stabling for roughly 2,900 horses” which would be funded by the stabling and vanning fund.
Morris cited 1,900 stalls at Santa Anita, 500 stalls at San Luis Rey Downs pending completion of renovation project later this year, and 500 stalls at Los Alamitos. The current Thoroughbred population in Southern California is about 3,000.
Meanwhile, the CTT supported Fairplex Park in Pomona operating as a year-round training facility.
“We dare not, we ought not, say we cannot afford Pomona,” CTT executive director Alan Balch said. “We need Pomona.”
The CHRB eventually settled on these 2014 dates: Santa Anita, Dec. 26, 2013 through July 6; Del Mar, July 16 through Sept. 3; Fairplex Park, Sept. 4-23; Santa Anita, Sept. 25 through Nov. 2; and Del Mar, Nov. 5 through Dec. 7.
The five-week fall meet at Del Mar – the track originally proposed running four weeks – would run into early December and include the opportunity for the track to host two important Grade 1 races for 2-year-olds – the Futurity for either gender and Starlet, for fillies.
Those races will be run this fall at Hollywood for the last time.
The 2015 dates: Santa Anita, Dec. 26, 2014 through July 5; Del Mar, July 15 through Sept. 7; Fairplex, Sept. 10- 25; Santa Anita, Sept. 26 through Oct. 25; and Del Mar, Oct. 28 through Dec. 6. The shortened Fairplex meet hinges on 2015 Breeders’ Cup location. Fairplex could lose the lucrative closing weekend of the Los Angeles County Fair meet.
The CHRB dates allocation was unanimous by the board, with conditions that will be addressed next week. Those include the Del Mar television signal to which TVG is the current exclusive provider. The CHRB expressed interest that Del Mar could renegotiate its exclusivity agreement and allow HRTV to televise the summer races. The exclusivity arrangement is only for summer; fall is open.
The issue of stabling and vanning will be heard next week in industry meetings, as will the idea of opening Fairplex as a year-round facility. The San Luis Rey Downs expansion project will be addressed.
In a surprise announcement, Brad McKinzie of Los Alamitos said the five-eighth-mile track in Orange County could host a Thoroughbred meet between the end of Del Mar fall and the opening of Santa Anita winter.
“It is our intention, if there are empty weeks in December … to apply for those weeks,” McKinzie said.
He also reiterated that Los Alamitos can be used to accommodate horses displaced by Hollywood.
“We have up to 500 stalls available at Los Alamitos. We are there if you need us,” McKinzie said.
Regarding the five-week fall meet at Del Mar, officials project a $500,000 in daily purses, compared to the approximate $375,000 offered during the fall meet at Hollywood.
Santa Anita president George Haines addressed concerns over the late-spring use of the turf course. Although the Santa Anita turf has never been used in May or June, he does not expect it to be a concern. The Santa Anita turf is rye over Bermuda.
Haines said the track can cut back use of the turf course late in the meet by reducing turf works and carding fewer turf races.
To hot in June and July at Santa Anita.
Stronach gets some 30+ weeks of racing, and this is good for California? Get out of there while you can.
This to me is a BIG mistake. What needs to be done is consolidation of the racing dates between Northern and Southern California outside of summer (and other limited exceptions), as I originally wrote about at: http://www.toosmarttofail.com/forums/showthread.php/30011 As I would do it in 2014: Santa Anita (main meet): December 26-Kentucky Derby Day (the meet would end on that Saturday, which in 2014 is May 3). Golden Gate: (spring meet) Kentucky Oaks Day (May 2 in 2014)-early July (approximately July 4) The Northern California Fairs would run as they do now, though some fairs would likely see their dates adjusted to reflect Golden Gate running a little later into the summer and NOT running in late August-early September. Del Mar: The Del Mar season would begin five days earlier than at present (beginning the Friday before the meet currently does which in 2014 would be July 11) and would conclude three days later than at present (Saturday after Labor Day, in 2014 September 6). The San Diego County Fair (along with many other state fairs) may need to have their dates changed to accommodate a slightly earlier start to Del Mar's racing season. Fairplex Park: Meet would begin the day after Del Mar ends their season (in 2014, Sunday, Sept. 7) with 14 days of racing that would include three Mondays, including a closing Monday program on Sept 22. Santa Anita (Autumn meet): Meet in 2014 would start where it has been in recent years in late September (Friday, Sept. 26 for '14) and would run through Breeders' Cup Saturday, which would be November 1 in 2014 and closing day. Golden Gate: (Autumn meet): This meet in 2014 would start on Breeders' Cup Friday (October 31) and conclude Saturday, December 20. Del Mar (Thanksgiving Meet): This would be just a four-day meet on Thanksgiving weekend that would run all of Hollywood Park's Autumn Turf Festival Stakes, including the Matriarch, Hollywood Derby, Citation and Generous. Most of Hollywood Park's stakes races would move north and be run at Golden Gate. Del Mar would get a few at the start of their summer meet (most notably the Affirmed and Swaps) while Santa Anita gets a handful of early season Hollywood stakes (except the Gold Rush, which would be pushed back and run at Golden Gate). With the impending Horse shortage, this is how it needs to be done.
Santa Anita has a large parking lot on the North side of the track that is used only for opening day, weekends and holidays. The Southside of the track has plenty of parking and there is access under the main grandstand to the infield. So let's take the North parking area and build more stables. Should be able to house a few hundred horses even if only 60% of the lot was built out.
See how that del mar meet goes. All their business is summer vacations and that's about the only time of year it might rain in san diego so for those of you watching simalcast expect del mar racing to cancel any time there is a sprinkle because the track won't drain.
There are just not enough horses to support serious year round racing in California. NY can barely do it and it racing in February and March is abysmal.
I can just picture the four horse fields at Santa Anita along about the middle of May....at which point you will hardly be able to tell the difference between the card at Santa Anita and the one at Golden Gate! The solution is FEWER racing dates NOT More! If the greedy politicians don't figure this out soon, the game will be over!
The changes proposed or already done have resulted in a sea change to the racing calendar. I think it is more of a change than if Aqueduct closed in NY. While I doubt if Aqueduct will cease operations ,due to the casino requirements and the long running renovations, I hope one day they will shut down. The place has outlived its usefulness and Belmont is a thousand times better.
I think we could see Delaware go the way of Hollywood Park. This meet at one of my favorite tracks, Delaware Park, is not what it used to be. It is scaled down horribly as is Monmouth. Seems like they want to lose money as an excuse to close.
Hope they bring trumpet player Jay Cohen to Del Mar! I wish they would tapeta Del Mar. I seem to win more on tapeta surface races.
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