06/14/2010 11:00PM

Horse shortage forces Hollywood to cancel


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Hollywood Park officials canceled racing Thursday due to insufficient entries for its scheduled eight-race card. Live racing will resume Friday.

The cancellation is the second at the meeting due to insufficient entries. Racing was also scrapped Wednesday, May 24. Considering the shortage of horses, two cancellations is less severe than many expected for a meet scheduled for 60 days. One year ago, the track raced 55 days.

The local inventory is down considerably, from 3,800 horses one year ago to 2,800. But even the 2,800 total is deceiving, according to Hollywood racing secretary Martin Panza.

From that 2,800, "probably only 1,500 are actually active. The other 1,300 have no works." Panza said. "Trying to run five days a week, year-round, on 1,500 horses is not easy to do."

Around the country, racetracks have cut dates. Arlington, Churchill Downs, and Calder each run four days a week; Monmouth runs three. Panza noted that "California and New York are the only ones trying to run five days a week."

Along with a reduced horse inventory, Hollywood recently has been stretched thin by programs with 10 or more races. The track ran 10 races May 31, an 11-race card June 5, and 10-race cards this past weekend on June 12 and 13.

Wednesday's eight-race card was light, with 52 horses (6.5 average per race) scheduled to run. Through Sunday, the track averaged 7.86 per race compared with 7.95 during the same period last year. For the entire 2009 spring-summer meeting, which ran 55 days, the track averaged 7.94 runners per race.

Hollywood officials took steps before the meeting began on April 21 to deal with a shortage of race-ready horses. The track scheduled four-day weeks in late April and early May. The meet ends with four-day weeks in early July.

In 2009, Hollywood Park canceled one Thursday program in April due to insufficient entries, and later amended its weekly schedule by eliminating racing on the final nine Wednesdays of the meet.

"Hopefully this is the last cancellation," Panza said. "If we can get to July 1, hopefully we can cruise to the end." The meet ends July 18.

One division that has fallen noticeably short is the juvenile division. Neither Bob Baffert nor John Sadler has started a 2-year-old. When those big stables become active in the 2-year-old program, Panza expects pressure to alleviate.

"I don't think we're in completely dire straits," he said. "It goes in waves."

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen