05/28/2013 8:14PM

Little progress solving stabling issue in Southern California

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Executives with Southern California’s racetracks and horsemen’s groups were unable to reach a resolution for off-track stabling in 2014 at a two-hour meeting at Santa Anita on Tuesday.

With Betfair Hollywood Park scheduled to close in December, more than 1,200 horses will be displaced from that barn area, creating an urgent need for alternative stabling at other venues in the region.

While Tuesday’s meeting ended without significant progress, further discussions are scheduled for Thursday between officials with the Thoroughbred Owners of California and the California Thoroughbred Trainers association, according to CTT president Jim Cassidy.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Cassidy said that both the TOC and CTT reiterated positions regarding off-track stabling that were discussed extensively at the California Horse Racing Board meeting in Sacramento last Thursday.

TOC officials have recommended that 500 horses be located at Los Alamitos in Orange County and approximately 500 horses be based at San Luis Rey Downs training center in northern San Diego county.

San Luis Rey Downs is owned by The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita. The Stronach Group has committed to a refurbishment of the main track and stables at San Luis Rey Downs this year, and has said that the construction of a turf course is planned.

CTT officials prefer that a majority of horses stabled off-track be housed at Barretts Racing at Fairplex Park in Pomona, approximately 20 miles from Santa Anita.

Cassidy said that Thursday’s meeting will focus on presenting proposal that will make Fairplex Park a viable option. One possibility, he said, is charging stall rent, which is not a current practice at Southern California racetracks.

“We showed them the numbers and what it would take,” Cassidy said on Tuesday afternoon. “We have 48 hours to come up with a proposal. I don’t think we got very far.”

Cassidy said there are concerns among trainers about being forced to split stables between Santa Anita and other venues. He said that five trainers have told him that if they are forced to divide their stables that they would strongly consider quitting, or moving horses to another state.

“Our biggest concern is that in the next year it will be a disaster,” Cassidy said. “Open Fairplex for a year and see how it works. If it works, fine. If not, I don’t know what we’ll do.”

The overall cost of operating off-track stabling is a major concern for all parties.

Since the late 1980s, the cost of off-track stabling has been offset by a portion of mutuel handle from off-track betting locations, such as racetracks not operating live racing or simulcasting locations. With the migration of off-track betting to account wagering sources through the internet and telephone in the last decade, the amount of money from that fund has been severely depleted.

The finances will be a major discussion on Thursday, according to Joe Morris, the incoming president of the TOC.

“It still comes down to where do we come up with the money,” he said.