11/18/2011 1:37PM

Santa Anita plans five-day race weeks


INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Santa Anita is scheduled to run five-day racing weeks in March and April next year, an expansion of the schedule from the corresponding meeting conducted earlier this year.

The track received approval for a 79-day winter-spring meeting from Dec. 26 through April 22 at Thursday’s meeting of the California Horse Racing Board. Racing will be conducted four days a week in January and February, and expand to five days a week in March and April. There will three days of racing on Mondays on holidays in January and February: Jan. 2 and 16 and Feb. 20.

Santa Anita requested a similar schedule for the 2010-2011 meeting, but ran only one Wednesday in March and April, on March 23. The remaining Wednesday programs during that span were canceled because of concern over the lack of available horses.

After Thursday’s meeting, the track’s president, George Haines, said officials are more optimistic about fulfilling five-day weeks for the forthcoming meeting because the horse population has expanded from approximately 2,400 earlier this year to 2,800. At the Santa Anita autumn meeting, which ended Nov. 6, field sizes averaged 8.77 starters per race, compared with 7.63 starters at the winter-spring meeting earlier this year.

“We are going to keep a close eye on it,” Haines said of the horse population.

The racing board also approved Golden Gate Fields’ license to race 101 days from Dec. 26 through June 17. The Northern California track will race on a Thursday through Sunday basis, with four holiday programs on Mondays.

The racing board did not take action on license renewals for three account wagering companies – Twinspires.com, TVG, and Xpressbet – after officials with the Jockeys’ Guild expressed frustration that Churchill Downs, Inc., the parent company of Twinspires.com, eliminated funding for a jockey’s insurance fund earlier this year.

Racing board officials postponed the license renewals until its Dec. 15 meeting with the hope that a resolution in the matter could be reached in the interim.