08/26/2011 3:03PM

Santa Anita told to increase TV presence


DEL MAR, Calif. – The California Horse Racing Board approved an operating license for the Santa Anita autumn meeting from Sept. 30 through Nov. 6 on the condition that the track expand distribution of television pictures through cable, satellite, or electronic sources before the scheduled start of the meeting.

The board’s chairman, Keith Brackpool, scolded Santa Anita officials for failing to find additional methods for presenting the company-owned HRTV racing network through avenues such as Time-Warner Cable in Los Angeles or the Direct-TV satellite system. In addition, he was visibly aggravated when told that the HRTV network would not be available through applications on iPads or iPhones.

Santa Anita officials were ordered by Brackpool and other racing board commissioners to begin discussions with the rival network TVG in an effort to expand distribution through television this fall. TVG has a greater reach through cable and satellites sources than HRTV.

Brackpool repeatedly said that Santa Anita’s failure to expand distribution would be a violation of a multifaceted waiver that the track’s former parent company, MI Developments, received last year to operate two tracks in the state – Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields – following the company’s emergence from bankruptcy.

The waiver included such terms as the filing of audited financial statements, keeping Santa Anita open for training on a year-round basis, and anta Anita installing a new surface, which the track did last fall.

The racing and gambling holdings of MI Developments were taken over by Frank Stronach earlier this year, and the company was renamed Stronach Group.

This is the first year that Santa Anita management will host an autumn meeting. The Oak Tree Racing Association conducted an autumn meeting at Santa Anita from 1969 through 2009 and at Hollywood Park in 2010. TVG had exclusive rights to televise those races in most seasons in recent years, although both TVG and HRTV showed Oak Tree’s races in 2009.

Santa Anita executive Scott Daruty told the board that discussions would be held with TVG. In addition, he said that a software company was developing ways to present HRTV’s service through iPads and iPhones, but that such technology may not be available until mid- October.

“They made it clear what they want us to do,” he said of the racing board after the meeting.

Daruty told the racing board that HRTV had hoped to be part of a tier of sports networks on a revamped Direct-TV this fall, but that the proposed realignment fell through earlier this summer.

According to a motion passed at Thursday’s meeting, the license will be granted when Santa Anita offers an expanded distribution program to racing board executive director Kirk Breed and Brackpool.

TVG and HRTV have drawn criticism from the racing board in the past for having exclusive agreements with racetracks that prevented the other network from showing all Southern California races.

On an unrelated matter, Daruty, representing the Monarch Content Management simulcast company, told the racing board the expansion into the Latin America simulcast market has increased in recent years, and is expected to contribute $20 million in handle to California tracks this year. He said that full participation of Latin American countries, primarily Brazil, which has a booming economy, could increase that figure to $100 million annually in coming years.

Monarch Content is owned by the Stronach Group.

The racing board approved a two-year license for the Original Roadhouse Grill in Santa Maria, Calif., to operate as a mini-satellite. The restaurant is expected to open its mini-satellite in late September, and will replace the local county fairground simulcast location, which is no longer open.

Rick Baedeker, the former president of Hollywood Park and currently the manager of mini-satellilte development for the Southern California networks of off-track wagering locations, told the racing board that mini-satellites in the Southern California cities Corona, Lake Forest, and Temecula are in the process of finalizing applications to the board.

Currently, there are two mini-satellites open in Southern California – the Commerce Casino in Commerce and the OC Tavern Sports Bar in San Clemente.