07/18/2014 3:55PM

Two extra days possible for Santa Anita's fall meet


DEL MAR, Calif. - Santa Anita may add two days of racing to its autumn meeting, and Los Alamitos may move the date of the richest race of its county fair meeting in September, after discussions at Friday’s California Horse Racing Board meeting.

The racing board approved licenses for three meetings – at Los Alamitos from Sept. 5-21, the San Joaquin County Fair at Stockton form Sept. 19-28, and at Santa Anita from Sept. 26 to Nov. 2.

Commissioner Madeline Auerbach asked Santa Anita officials to consider adding Thursday, Sept. 25 and Wednesday, Oct. 29.

Auerbach argued that turf racing on Sept. 25 would be beneficial for a circuit that will race only on dirt during the Los Angeles County fair meeting at Los Alamitos from Sept. 5-21 following the closure of Del Mar on Sept. 3. Auerbach said that by racing on Oct. 29 Santa Anita could take advantage of additional interest from fans and horsemen on a week when the track hosts the Breeders’ Cup on Oct. 31-Nov. 1.

Santa Anita president Tom Ludt said the additional days would be taken into consideration. He cited concern about the absence of 200 stalls in the Santa Anita stables that must be dedicated to quarantine space for foreign horses for the Breeders’ Cup. The horses from those stable must be accommodated in other barns, or at other venues in the area during the autumn meeting.

Ludt said the space dedicated for quarantined horses could be reduced to 100 stalls this year, pending conversations with the United States Department of Agriculture.

Los Alamitos, which concluded a two-week Thoroughbred meeting on July 13, is taking over the Los Angeles County fair dates previously run at Fairplex Park. County fair officials have sought to end live racing there. The Los Alamitos September meeting will include the $200,000 Los Alamitos Mile, which is scheduled for Sept. 20. The date could be moved to Sept. 13 to move the race farther from the $250,000 Awesome Again Stakes, a Grade 1 over 1 1/8 miles at Santa Anita on Sept. 27.

California Chrome, the winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, could make his first start since a fourth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes on June 7 in the Los Alamitos Mile or the Awesome Again Stakes. California Chrome returned to training at Art Sherman’s stable at Los Alamitos on Thursday following a summer break.

At Friday’s meeting, Auerbach and Ludt expressed concern that the two races could compromise each other, leading to short fields.

Brad McKinzie, who directs the Los Alamitos Thoroughbred operation, said the September stakes schedule is subject to discussion with the Thoroughbred Owners of California.

Handle rises nearly 6 percent in June

Wagering in California in June increased 5.7 percent throughout the state, according to a statement from racing board executive director Rick Baedeker. He said the daytime Thoroughbred tracks showed a gain of 7.8 percent in June, and that the entire sport, including the nighttime Quarter Horse and lower-level Thoroughbreds from Los Alamitos and Standardbreds from Cal-Expo, were up 3.3 percent.

Takeout for daily doubles set at 20 percent

The Los Alamitos and Santa Anita meetings in coming months will have rolling daily doubles with a 20 percent takeout.

The takeout on rolling doubles was lowered to 18 percent last winter, a figure that Ludt said led to higher handle but lower purses. A year ago, the takeout rate for the daily double was 22.68 percent. Del Mar began offering a 20 percent takeout on the daily double at the start of its meeting on Thursday.

“It was an experiment at 18 percent,” Ludt said. “We saw some increases [in handle], but not an increase that helped purses. It hurt purses.

“We feel at 20 percent we’re consistent and will be competitive. We feel 20 percent is the right play. I know there are a lot of people that want it lower.”

Ludt said that Santa Anita plans a promotion in the fall for a minimum late daily double pool of $100,000.

“It’s a stretch for us,” he said. “We’re counting on the handle to get there or we’ll be writing checks to get there.”

The raise in takeout from 18 to 20 percent has resulted in correspondence and phone calls to the racing board from bettors, according to chairman Chuck Winner.

“Everyone won’t be happy about that,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll hear about that.”

Barretts considering changes for sales

The absence of live racing at Fairplex Park will lead to changes for the Barretts Sales company, located on county fair property.

Training for Thoroughbreds is scheduled to end at Fairplex Park in early November, but county fair president Jim Henwood said the racing surface will be used next February and March in advance of the Barretts March sale of 2-year-olds in-training on the fairgrounds.

Henwood did not state whether the racetrack would be available for the 2015 May sale of 2-year-olds in-training. He stated that Barretts would move future sales to other venues, but was not specific about locations.

“We have every intent of continuing our Barretts business in California,” he said. “We are bringing our sale business to the market.”