02/15/2002 12:00AM



California board shares blame for crazy state

The Feb. 10 letters to the editor regarding Frank Stronach and Magna were most appropriate and amusing, particularly the one speculating that Frank Stronach as a child did not "work and play well with others," and another questioning the sanity of Magna actions. It seems to me that Magna continues to shoot itself in the foot - or is it aiming higher?

On the other hand, what has not been said is that part of the problems facing California racing could be laid at the feet of the California Horse Racing Board. After all, it is the state-run organization that is supposed to protect and advance the interests of racing.

It could also be said that board members were "out of their minds" in allowing Magna to own and operate three racetracks in California: Santa Anita, Golden Gate, and Bay Meadows, thereby granting them a semi-monopoly. California law states that no one entity can own more than one race track without a specific waiver from the CHRB. The CHRB should not have granted approval for multiple racetrack ownership. It might now be well advised to start looking for alternate operators to run the various meetings at these three tracks.

Also, in my view, the CHRB should not have granted Magna a license to carry telephone betting (aka advanced deposit wagering) without the specific condition that the Magna racetracks be televised on a nationally accepted network. It is, and has been, most detrimental to California racing that the television signals from any of Magna's three California tracks is transmitted in such a restricted fashion.

It is a statement of the obvious that television is the most effective media ever devised to promote products and the lack of television exposure is hurting California racing. Yet the CHRB permits Magna to deprive the U.S. of racing being televised from California for months at a time and then turns around and grants them lucrative, monopolistic and/or self-serving financial benefits, which may be most harmful to the rest of the racing community.

The past and present CHRB has permitted much of the ills of California racing to escalate by allowing Magna a continuing and ever-increasing stranglehold on what could be a great sport with a promising future.

Ed Friendly, Chairman Emeritus - Thoroughbred Owners of California

Center stage belongs to horses, not has-beens

Every weekend I sit in the Gulfstream Park grandstand and watch the concert crowd bet their free $2 bets, included in the admission price, and then leave even though the next race is a graded stakes. This leaves the "How To Pick a Winner" marketing staff instructing 20 people and usually giving away a $20 bet as the targeted audience is on I-95 heading home.

The need for Gulfstream to be an entertainment center has tarnished the reputation the track has earned over the years as the center of winter racing. Quality racing brings the racing fans who can be induced to be regulars. Concerts bring music lovers taking advantage of a good deal.

Gulfstream's owner, Magna Entertainment, needs to offer a quality product as the main attraction to be financially successful. Next year Air Supply may have to visit Florida on their own nickel. Larry Rudolph - Miami