07/30/2006 11:00PM

Fairs should get more racing dates, Shapiro says


SANTA ROSA, Calif. - Richard Shapiro, the chairman of the California Horse Racing Board, made an appearance Sunday at the Sonoma County Fair, answering questions from a group of about 300 fans who were gathered for a handicapping seminar.

Among Shapiro's opinions and observations was that changes were needed in the California racing schedule, especially in light of the expected closing of Bay Meadows. Shapiro said that there is too much racing in California, and that when Bay Meadows closes, the fairs should get more racing dates. But, he said, in order for that to happen, the fairs need to improve their facilities, and he cited Santa Rosa's improvements, which include a $3 million turf course that was constructed last year.

Shapiro said he thinks Hollywood Park and Bay Meadows will both close. He said it was a "100 percent certainty" that Bay Meadows will close.

"It could be in two years or a number of years after that," he said.

Although he said he doesn't want Bay Meadows or Hollywood Park to close, if that happens it would offer "an opportunity to revise the racing schedule."

Shapiro told the fans Sunday that Santa Rosa could receive more dates if Bay Meadows were to close. In order for that to happen, he said, fans should send letters and e-mails of support to the CHRB and the governor's office.

"It's going to take a strong outpouring of support of people," he told fans.

Shapiro also discussed the distressing number of injuries to Thoroughbreds, pointing out there were many reasons for them, including horses' breeding, medication, and the condition of racing surfaces.

He talked about ways to increase purses and to attract more people to racetracks. Among his ideas were lowering the ontrack takeout and perhaps offering rebates.

Changes to TOC recommended

The board of the Thoroughbred Owners of California recommended changes to the group's bylaws at a meeting Friday at Golden Gate Fields. These proposed changes come about a month after claims made by a dissident group that the TOC has not been adequately representing northern California horsemen's interests. The group, called the Northern California Owners and Trainers, was formed in June and claims to have the support of 200 northern California owners and trainers.

According to a TOC release handed out at the meeting, the board recommends that:

* All TOC members be allowed to vote for board members. Currently, owner-trainers are not allowed to vote. This diminishes northern California representation, supporters of the new group say, because an estimated 60 percent of owners in the region also are trainers.

* All board members representing northern California reside in the region and have started a horse at least six times at the northern California tracks in the past year. Supporters of the new group have said the region would be better represented by local horsemen.

* Members vote to require that at least one of the three owner-trainer representatives on the TOC board represent northern California. This would make official what is currently the case through a casual agreement.

* A northern California subcommittee of the TOC's Racing Affairs Committee be established. This subcommittee would meet "for the purpose of reviewing, negotiating, and establishing purse schedules with racing associations and fairs conducting live racing meets" within the northern California region, the release said. Supporters of the new group have said that they are displeased with the way the TOC has distributed purse money.

TOC bylaw changes can only be made through a vote of the membership.

Texas Chili may go out a winner

Going into Friday's race at Santa Rosa, trainer Bill Morey thought Texas Chili might be making his last start. A $3,200 claimer at one mile, the race marked Texas Chili's 31st start and first try around two turns.

"He's been good to me, and I want to be good to him," said Morey, whose cousin, a vineyard owner, will likely take Texas Chili, 8, when he does retire. "People ask why I'd run him for $3,200, but he loves the racetrack, and he's been tremendously sound. I always wanted to route him."

Texas Chili took the lead down the backstretch and held it around the second turn to score his ninth career victory.

"When he took the lead, he looked like his old self," Morey said. "At the quarter pole, I thought, 'That's it,' because they were closing in on him, but he showed his old class and won."

Morey said he isn't sure if Texas Chili will race again.

"He's done his job as far as I'm concerned," said Morey.

Accident causes three riders to fall

Three jockeys fell in two separate spills in a mule race that opened Monday's Sonoma County Fair race card.

Jockey Otto Arriaga was taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital for X-rays for a possible broken arm after his mount, favored Tom Cat, veered in sharply to the rail. That happened after Pass'Em John Henry clipped heels with the winner, Bar JF Winning Ticket, and lost his rider, Robert Anderson. O Peggy Sue then dumped jockey Dionicio Navarro when she altered course.

Navarro suffered a concussion but refused to go to the hospital. Anderson was unhurt.

* Russell Baze was suspended for the final three days of the meet after his mount, Danzonette, bore out badly at the start of Friday's seventh race and bumped Scotty Wotty, who in turn bumped Somuch Higher, who lost his rider. Baze will be allowed to accept a mount in the $100,000 Joseph Grace Handicap, which is a designated race.