05/10/2013 3:52PM

Hollywood Park closing prompts discussions on race dates, stabling

Barbara D. Livingston
The racing dates at Hollywood Park are expected to be mostly split between Santa Anita and Del Mar next year.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The announcement that Betfair Hollywood Park will cease operations at the end of 2013 has increased urgency among Southern C1alifornia racing officials to develop alternative plans for a year-round racing calendar and stabling venues.

The racing dates issue will be discussed and possibly resolved at a California Horse Racing Board meeting in Sacramento on May 23.

Santa Anita and Del Mar will take control of much of Hollywood Park’s current racing dates for the spring-summer and autumn meetings, with Del Mar planning for a fall meeting in November 2014, Del Mar president Joe Harper said Friday.

Under one blueprint being discussed by the two tracks, Santa Anita’s 2013-14 winter-spring meeting would be extended from late December to July 4 weekend, rather than ending as it currently does in April. Del Mar would run its traditional late summer meeting and an additional meeting in November that would run through Thanksgiving weekend.

Following the Del Mar summer meeting, Barretts Racing at Fairplex Park would run the Los Angeles County Fair meeting in September, followed by the Santa Anita fall meeting, which would begin in late September and run at least through October. There is a possibility that no racing would be conducted in the state in early December.

Regarding a fall meeting at Del Mar, one issue that remains to be resolved is whether Santa Anita or Del Mar will be open on the first weekend of November 2014, which is expected to include the dates of the Breeders’ Cup. The location for the 2014 Breeders’ Cup has not been announced, but Santa Anita is considered a candidate to be host for a third consecutive year.

If Santa Anita does not host the Breeders’ Cup, Harper said that Del Mar wants to be open that weekend to take advantage of lucrative revenue from simulcasting.

“We’ve sent a letter asking for the month of November,” Harper said. “The gripe with Santa Anita is we want the Breeders’ Cup dates. They’ve get the Triple Crown dates, and we could get the Breeders’ Cup dates. We want to come to an amicable agreement.”

Harper said a November meeting at Del Mar would be run on a four-day-a-week basis and would be operated “at cost.” He said some revenue generated from that meeting “will have to go toward industry expenses for a year-round training center.”

Starting with 2015, Del Mar could expand its summer meeting by starting earlier than its typical opening date of the third Wednesday in July. Harper said that the track is restricted to some extent because the property is used for the San Diego County Fair through July 4 each year.

Time is needed for a transition from the end of the fair to the start of the race meeting. If racing does begin earlier at Del Mar, the meet could begin on a weekend rather than a Wednesday, Harper said.

“It depends on how the calendar plays out,” he said. “You have to work around the fair.”

He said an expansion into early September would be limited because of the Los Angeles County Fair dates.

A six-month meeting at Santa Anita from late December to early July would lead to significant changes at that meeting, including a restructuring of the calendar for turf racing. Track officials are considering an interruption in turf racing at Santa Anita next spring to shift turf racing to Golden Gate Fields in Northern California for a few weeks as a way to promote racing on that circuit.

“It could give the turf course at Santa Anita a break and give people an opportunity to race in Northern California,” said Keith Brackpool, the chairman of California operations for The Stronach Group, which owns Golden Gate Fields and Santa Anita.

Joe Morris, the current general manager of Golden Gate Fields who becomes president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California next month, said Thursday that “the north should pick up some turf races.”

“We need to get creative and find another way to do a turf festival,” he said. “As an industry, we have to move forward. Where there is change, there is opportunity.”

The issue of offtrack stabling is a big concern for owners and trainers on the circuit.

There are approximately 3,000 Thoroughbreds based at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park. Santa Anita has stabling capacity for approximately 1,900 horses, while Fairplex Park has capacity for 1,200. Officials at Fairplex have stated a desire to host year-round stabling.

The San Luis Rey Downs training center in northern San Diego County is expected to take a more prominent role.

Owned by The Stronach Group, San Luis Rey Downs, which has capacity for 500 horses, is scheduled to undergo a four-month renovation of its barn area and main track beginning in June to make the facility more suitable for offtrack stabling. Brackpool said that could include the construction of a turf training track and turf gallops.

Details of offtrack stabling arrangements for 2014, including finding sources of financing, have been the subject of meetings in recent months between racetrack executives and officials with horsemen’s groups. Funding also is needed for vanning horses to and from offtrack stabling locations.

“It’s all part of a complex puzzle,” Brackpool said.

Harper said that a Fairplex Park-San Luis Rey Downs arrangement “is the least expensive way to go.”

“Hopefully, it will work,” he said.

He envisions that the racing season in Southern California could be changed in future years, depending on how 2014 goes.

“I think 2014 will be a good test to see what works and what doesn’t work,” he said. “I think everyone is concerned about how it will work out. I’m optimistic about it.”

Chris Moses More than 1 year ago
Less racing in CA would be a good thing for the gamblers...maybe we'd see larger fields.
David Myzal More than 1 year ago
All opinions are solid but the bottom line is hollyweed is going away and California has been dealing with keeping their race structure solid for many years now - this is nothing new Florida did with the closing of Hialeah - Similar situations . It's up to the Faction that runs or ruins your states racing future stand up sew on some balls and make it happen
Celal Diri More than 1 year ago
I surely hope that the Breeders Cup is not run in California tracks. The turf course is a semi hard pavement. The Turf course is not deep enough. My vote is AP , CD , or better BEL. That will be a realistic and fair competition. CHEERS.
MGropenSDREADER More than 1 year ago
Racing in Me-hee-Ko is a non-starter if there ever was one. Too dangerous down there and too hard to cross the border.
Cover2 More than 1 year ago
Fall racing at Del Mar that is, the vacations are over and everyone heads back ect ect
MGropenSDREADER More than 1 year ago
Cover2 More than 1 year ago
Fall racing, a week after Labor Day has been a disaster in the past, will be no different in 2014 +......Not one mention all week, if they will have IT Wagering at Hollypark casino ? ...........This might be an opportunity for Caliente race track to start up again ! And how will the residents of Arcadia contend with nine months of racing ?
James Hardi More than 1 year ago
Rey More than 1 year ago
Waffles Charly: The reason we have so many border issues is precisely because people don't understand Mexican politics nor the economics of dealing with a Spanish speaking foreign country that you can access by just walking across the border. I know little bit more about Mexican politics and economics than you probably think. I learned a great deal about it in law school and thereafter as a lawyer working with people who not only do business in both countries but peole in law enforcement whose job it is to secure the border and allow commerce between the two countries to take place. But that's all right, I told some friends that I wanted to post the comment just to see the response it would get from people who criticize ideas before they take time to study them but yet never offer any innovative solutions. My first comment to them was look to see what happens when they see the name Jorge Hank Rohn. Comments such as yours were the first I predicted would be posted. As for the Breeders Cup, separating horsemen on these racing days sounds like a pretty weak excuse for not looking at an idea that might be very economically sound otherwise. But I'll just leave it at that for now and sit on the sidelines while I read the comments and watch California racing go down the tubes.
WafflesCharly More than 1 year ago
Oh down the tubes CA racing will go, without a doubt. Now, as a fellow lawyer (Universidad La Salle 1998, USD LLM, 2000) I see your point, but Hank (who's son runs the Xolos Club, is a personal friend), is not the issue, nor I believe I ever insinuated that he was. You, an educated individual in cross boarder issues, fail to understand that the sanitation codes, along with the quarantine standards on both sides of the border for live stock, make it virtually impossible to logistically run two sister meets in the US and Mexico. If you want to add to the equation the fact, (that I am sure you knew) that the SECETARIA DE GOBERNACION (equivalent to Secretary of State) as the government body that regulates gaming in Mexico, will not extend a license to run a meet in any other venue other than the existing one (Hipodromo de Las Americas in DF) due to the contract specifications that the company runing that track negotiated with the Mexican Government...etc...I could go on, but you obviously know this, so.... And, as a life long race horse owner, nephew to a Hallof Fame Trainer, and , involved in racing in all aspects, I can tell you that what seems a Weak argument to you about the BC, just shows that your racing expertise is limited to the betting windows. I'm sure it would be economically sound to run the BC in two different places, but the cost for the HORSEMEN involved would grow, along with the risks to their staff and horses, and soon enough you would end up leaving the better horses at their base track runing any other million dollar race that is now offered in all major tracks, making the BC just a notch above Claiming Crown. (Sigh.....) .....you want this in Spanish too?...let me know....
WafflesCharly More than 1 year ago
WOW. Everyone is an expert. "Bring in Hank in Tijuana".....obviously you don't understand the situation in Mexican politics, and the economics....I could write a thesis on that, but...no..... "Divide the BC days into two different tracks"......sure.....this would NOT complicate things from a logistical stand point....I'm sure economically sounds great, but there are animals and people with those animals that can't be separated in to two places in a 24 hr span. "Consolidate the North with the South".....good idea....then the only barns financially able to transport and run outfits in such settings (that is if they don't bail in CA if that idea ever flyes) would make for .....I don't know.......2 horse fields..... "Stronach is bad news for CA racing....stand up to him".......news flash, this just in....good or bad, HE IS CA racing.....why? Cuz he is the only one that has the money to keep it from turning into a 5th tier fair circuit.....you don't need balls to "stand up to him" .....you need a solid biz plan, and LOTS OF MONEY. Many have tried, but when crunching numbers, guess what.....only Stronach can support it.....again.....good or bad....it's the only choice
Rey More than 1 year ago
California racing officials have no vision and are stuck in the past. Joe Harper has been "working" on expanding the turf course at Del Mar for years. We have one of the best racing venues in the United States and have yet to host the event. The Breeder's Cup is now a two-day event. Why don't we run a combined future event with all the turf races at Santa Anita on Friday and the dirt races at Del Mar on Saturday. The tracks are less than two hours apart, all the facilities are in place and so are the hotel and convention center accommodations. The track and television executives and can figure out the financial details but I'm certain there will be plenty of money to be made so that everyone is satisfied. As for racing dates how about an international solution to the racing to the problem. Approach Jorge Hank Rhon at Caliente Race Track about bringing back horse racing in Tijuana. Give them the Hollywood racing dates. Caliente has expanded and not only has the casino but a recently expanded stadium for the professional soccer club. The financial deal would of course include a financial share for interests on both sides of the border. The politicians and lawyers would have to get involved but there is plenty of money to be made. This is called Bi-National Economic Development in case racing officials have never heard of it. I will be glad to point them in the right direction if they need guidance. I can't wait to see another Caliente Handicap. Remember when Round Table won it? Too bad John Alessio isn't with us anymore. He would have gotten this done. He was a man who had vision.
Quite A Dude More than 1 year ago
Very creative ideas Rey. I would think holding the BC at two venues would be considered a dilution of everything-horses, track employees, television production, fans etc. The Caliente idea sounds interesting but why would California give their racing dates to Mexico? From a regulation standpoint I don't think it is feasible.. But if Caliente wants to re open based upon what you say is a very positive gaming platform, by all means do it..
Ruben Hernandez More than 1 year ago
Horse racing officials and innovation! Yeah you can find that at the Smithsonian Institution next to saber tooth tiger exhibit. Along with The 5 furlong turf sprint ,called the Super Bowl Sprint Stakes run, you guessed it, during half time of the super bowl. The NTRA buys 1 minute of advertising time .What a commercial! How about an Imax theater built into a grandstand. What a view from jockey cam! Now for the single biggest move horse racing could make. Split the Kentucky Derby into 2 divisions. Limit the field to 14 horses. Keep both gates so the number 1 horse comes out of gate 3 and doesn't get buried on the rail. A total of 28 horses can be entered and yet to get a much truer run race. The two derby champions meet in Baltimore thereby increasing the significance of the Preakness. Maybe we have the opportunity for a few more Belmonts with the crown on the line & a little more excitement & buzz about horse racing. What good is the Triple Crown trophy if generations of American sports fans have no clue of it's existence? This does not water down the triple crown. A horse still has to win the same races at the same distance over the same period of time. Why would CA give it's racing dates to Mexico? Well what's the alternative? The people running horse racing could never even come up with the an idea like breakfast or donuts at Del Mar on their own. You have to suggest it to them 30 years ago, then they implement it about 10 years later! Patience the folks at Del Mar are studying the feasibility of expanding the turf course. At this point in CA Horse racing, it would be better off returning to Caliente.
Randy Atkins More than 1 year ago
DMR has got to be insane....running Breeders Cup races on the poly...no way