12/12/2013 7:46PM

Chuck Winner elected as California Horse Racing Board chairman


ARCADIA, Calif. – Chuck Winner, a longtime Thoroughbred horse owner and the founder of a marketing and crisis management firm in Beverly Hills, Calif., was elected chairman of the California Horse Racing Board on Thursday.

Winner, 73, replaces David Israel, whose term on the board expires next month. Israel was chairman through 2013 following the resignation of Keith Brackpool last January to become chief executive of Santa Anita.

Winner, who joined the racing board in 2012, was vice chairman in 2013. Thursday, he was elected chairman in a unanimous vote by the seven-person board. Bo Derek and Richard Rosenberg were named first and second vice chair.

As a horse owner, Winner has often raced Thoroughbreds in partnership, campaigning horses such as I Want Revenge,  The Pamplemousse, Liberian Freighter, and Walkslikeaduck, to name a few.

Winner’s appointment came midway through a four-hour meeting that focused considerable time on the status and costs of offtrack stabling in Southern California in 2014, an update from Del Mar on the construction of their new turf course, and a lengthy debate regarding racing dates in Northern California in 2014 and 2015.

Track officials told the racing board that approximately 2,500 horses will be housed at Santa Anita, Barretts Sales and Racing at the Los Angeles County Fair, Los Alamitos, and the San Luis Rey Downs training center after the permanent closing of Hollywood Park’s stable area at the end of January. Santa Anita will house approximately 1,850 horses, with the rest spread across the other venues, beginning Jan. 22.

Barretts Sales and Racing will be used for auxiliary stabling through mid-July, with an assessment of its need to be made later in the year. A renovation of the barn area and racetrack at San Luis Rey Downs has nearly been completed, according to representative Scott Daruty.

Santa Anita will limit trainers to 40 stalls, with some granted 50. Trainers will be informed beginning this weekend how many stalls they have been allotted at Santa Anita, or whether they need to send horses to an auxiliary venue.

The number of horses on the circuit is lower than at the corresponding time last year, according to Alan Balch of the California Thoroughbred Trainers association, but is expected to increase beginning in February when 2-year-olds are permitted in the stable areas.

A fund that finances auxiliary stabling and vanning in Southern California is running a deficit that could exceed $3.5 million by the end of 2014, officials said. Revenue for the fund is derived from a portion of satellite wagering within the state, a figure that has dropped substantially in recent years as handle migrates to account-wagering providers. In 2014, legislation could be enacted to generate more revenue for that fund.

Del Mar turf course work

Del Mar is in the midst of replacing its turf course, a project that will be completed this spring.

The old course was removed in September, and the infield chute was expanded last month. An irrigation network is being installed, with the new sod expected to be installed in early February, according to turf course superintendent Leif Dickinson.

The new course will be widened from 53 feet to 80 feet, the same as the turf course at Santa Anita, and will allow for races over five furlongs, a mile, 1 1/16 miles, 1 1/8 miles, 1 3/8 miles, and occasionally 1 1/2  miles, according to director of racing Tom Robbins.

Robbins said the new turf course will allow for as many as 14 horses in a race, compared to the past limits of 10 runners in two-turn races and seven or eight runners in one-turn races. He said the new course could help to attract the Breeders’ Cup to the popular San Diego County racetrack for the first time.

Northern California racing dates

The racing board gave unanimous approval to a 2014 racing calendar in Northern California contingent on the California State Fair in Sacramento hosting a three-week meeting in 2015 and Golden Gate Fields making a good-faith effort next August to not write claiming races worth less than $5,000 on the racing days when it operates simultaneous to the Humboldt County Fair in Ferndale.

Humboldt officials said that Golden Gate Fields offered claiming races for lower-level Thoroughbreds last August when Humboldt was racing, which had a negative impact on Humboldt’s field sizes.

For 2014, Golden Gate Fields will run from Dec. 26 to June 15, Aug. 15 to Sept. 14, and from Oct. 16 to Dec. 21. On the county fair circuit, the racing dates are Pleasanton from June 19 to July 6; Sacramento from July 10-20; Santa Rosa from July 21 to Aug. 10; Ferndale from Aug. 13-24; Stockton from Sept. 19-28; and Fresno from Oct. 1-13.

The rest of the 2015 Northern California calendar will be discussed in coming weeks.

The racing board approved a license for a mini-satellite in Norco, Calif., in Riverside County. The yet-to-be-named restaurant, at 2895 Hamner Ave., will occupy space formerly used for offices and is expected to be opened by the end of April.