10/12/2006 11:00PM

Fewer races in northern California for 2007


ARCADIA, Calif. - The northern California Thoroughbred circuit will run five four-day weeks in January and February and reduce the number of races run on the fair circuit as part of a 2007 calendar approved by the California Horse Racing Board's Strategic Planning Committee on Thursday.

The committee's recommendation will be presented to the full board later this month, where it is likely to be approved. The Strategic Planning Committee consists of CHRB chairman Richard Shapiro and commissioners Marie Moretti and John Amerman.

Under the proposed calendar, Golden Gate Fields will not run on Wednesdays in January or on Feb.o7. That portion of the season has often been plagued by wet weather, which has affected field size.

The proposed calendar is a change from past years when the track ran five days a week during the winter. In addition, Golden Gate will not have racing days that overlap with the San Joaquin County Fair in Stockton in June.

The northern California fair circuit will have 73 or 77 days of racing, pending "an analysis and a definite proposal to determine whether to cut four race programs or the same number of events," Shapiro said.

Racing officials argued for 77 days, while Shapiro presented a calendar that featured 73 days of racing at Stockton, Pleasanton, Vallejo, Santa Rosa, San Mateo, Ferndale, and Fresno.

The Southern California Thoroughbred calendar is largely unchanged from 2006. Hollywood Park officials had argued for a longer spring-summer meeting than the 60 days allotted from April 25 to July 15, citing the recent installation of a synthetic surface as a primary reason.

Shapiro said the week in question - April 18-22 - is better at Santa Anita, which draws higher business.

"I think you have to look at marketing and advertising and the long-term commitment we can count upon," he said. "For me, I believe we're better putting the meet at the venue that will attract more business."

The decision was met coolly by track president Jack Liebau.

"Decisions like this will just cause an earlier demise of Hollywood Park," he said.

Hollywood Park officials have stated a desire to use the track's land for development in the absence of alternative forms of revenue for racetracks, such as slot machines.