06/25/2001 11:00PM

CHRB dates committee proposes shorter schedule

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - California would trim 19 racing days from the 2002 calendar if a proposal by a dates committee of the California Horse Racing Board is adopted. According to a news release from the CHRB, the Race Dates Committee has suggested a reduction of 14 racing days in northern California and five racing days in Southern California.

The proposed reduction "to increase field size and win back fan support," amounts to a 3.3 percent reduction from the 2001 schedule of 574 racing days (273 in Southern California, 301 in northern California). CHRB chairman Robert Tourtelot and commissioner John Harris, members of the Race Dates Committee, said that declining field size has led to a need for change.

In the release, Harris said: "We feel there is a serious problem in California with short fields, and this exacerbated our fan decline

. . . no sector of racing fans has called for keeping the race dates just as they are . . . fans indicated a concern with field sizes and an erosion of fan support."

The Race Dates Committee will consider the 2002 calendar and hear from interested parties at a July 9 meeting in Sacramento. The committee would take a recommendation to the full CHRB in August. While resistance may come from parimutuel clerks or the California Association of Racing Fairs, Tourtelot is calling for the California industry to reach a consensus.

"We need to stop looking at band-aids to take care of us next year and start looking at long-term solutions to do what is in the best interest of horse racing," Tourtelot said in the statement.

The proposal suggests several possible changes. They include dark Tuesdays and Wednesdays following Monday racing; reducing overlapped race days between northern California tracks and the fairs; and ending meets Sundays instead of Monday. Other proposed changes are four-day race weeks at Bay Meadows during the overlapping Fresno Fair, and adding a two-day turf festival in the Bay Area to encourage more stables to remain in northern California in July. Also, Monday and Tuesday racing would be eliminated at the fairs in August, and Del Mar would close on Monday instead of Wednesday.