07/20/2017 5:37PM

CHRB considers new rules on claiming, gelding announcements

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Benoit & Associates
Comeback runner Fly to Mars caused controversy at Santa Anita in June after his first-time gelding status was not disclosed in advance of his maiden victory.

DEL MAR, Calif. –  The California Horse Racing Board will consider implementing a rule later this year prohibiting horses claimed at California tracks from leaving the state for a period of time, and a regulation to scratch a horse that is racing as a gelding for the first time if the information is not presented to the public before the start of betting.

The proposed rules were introduced at Thursday’s California Horse Racing Board meeting, but are months from being implemented.

The rule regarding when a claimed horse can leave California to race in a non-stakes in another state has been referred to a legal, legislative and regulation committee. The rule regarding the late announcement of a horse racing as a gelding for the first time was approved for a 45-day public comment, one of the first stages for a potential new regulation.

Currently, Del Mar and Santa Anita have house rules in place that restrict a claimed horse from racing out-of-state until the completion of a race meeting, or for 45 days, whichever is longer, unless the transfer to another state is approved by the track’s racing secretary. Trainers that fail to comply risk losing access to stabling, according to a notice in the respective tracks’ conditions books.

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The rule is designed to prevent trainers from plundering California’s claiming ranks and shipping runners to other states. Track officials in California are sensitive to horses being exported to other states, frequently expressing concern about field sizes.

The proposed rule would restrict a horse from racing in a state other than California for 60 days after the conclusion of the race meeting in which the horse was claimed. Stakes races would be excluded from the proposed rule.

The rule drew discussion from commissioners and representatives of racetracks and horsemen’s organizations regarding potential drawbacks. In one scenario, a horse claimed on Dec. 26, the opening day of the Santa Anita meeting, would not be able to race outside the state until late August or early September, well after the conclusion of the track’s meeting in late June or early July.

John McDonough, general counsel for the racing board, requested that the board seek the opinion of the state’s attorney general’s office concerning interstate commerce laws.

There is the possibility the racing board may not act on the proposal and track rules could be toughened to keep claimed horses in the state, according to racing board executive Rick Baedeker.

“The associations have the authority to do that,” Baedeker said.

The potential rule change to scratch horses that are first-time geldings when the information is not presented to the public before the start of betting is months from implementation, if approved.

Currently, trainers face a minimum fine of $1,000 if they fail to notify a track’s racing department at the time of entry that a horse is racing as a gelding for the first time.

Last month at Santa Anita, Fly to Mars ($10) won his first start in nearly a year when racing as a gelding for the first time. The information was presented to the public approximately 20 minutes before the race, long after all multi-race wagers, such as the pick six and late pick four, had been placed.

Fly to Mars won the final leg of a winning single-ticket payoff in the pick six worth $891,568. Trainer Peter Miller was fined $1,250 for the late declaration.

Racing board officials said that under current penalties there are few incidents of trainers failing to note that horses have been gelded since their last starts.

Rick Arthur, California’s equine medical director, suggested stronger fines as a deterrent against trainers who fail to note a horse has been gelded.

“It’s a complicated issue,” said racing board chairman Chuck Winner. “I think one reason for the 45-day [comment period] is that all these issues can be considered.”