06/30/2009 12:00AM

Fewer stewards in California


In a cost-saving measure, the California Horse Racing Board has cut the number of stewards presiding over Quarter Horse and harness meetings in the state, as well as at the Humboldt County Fair meeting in Ferndale, according to Kirk Breed, the executive director of the board.

The harness meeting at Cal-Expo in Sacramento and the Los Alamitos Quarter Horse meeting will be run with two stewards instead of three. In August, the Ferndale meeting will have one steward instead of three. The change was to begin Wednesday, the start of the fiscal year.

The cuts were necessary because mutuel handle from those meetings fell below the level needed to finance the employment of three stewards, Breed said.

The two stewards at the harness and Quarter Horse meetings will have different tasks. Instead of having both stewards in a stand above the racetrack, watching races and reviewing videos in the event of an inquiry or objection, there now will be one steward in a stand and another working on the ground level, handling a variety of tasks related to racing rules and safety, Breed said. The ground steward would be available to help with inquiries, he said.

Breed said that two stewards would be sufficient to review inquiries and objections.

"These people are capable of making sound decisions," he said. "I've been monitoring this pretty close. It is relatively few times, especially at the night meetings, where there was a split decision and it required a third vote."

Breed said that drug testing at those meetings would not be affected by any budget cuts.

"We're preserving that at its maximum," he said. "We've got to keep that program intact."