Concerned that the racing industry is no closer to resolving issues surrounding the closure of Betfair Hollywood Park next year, the California Horse Racing Board July 18 put off final approval of racing dates in 2014-15 for another month.
The board approved a tentative plan May 23 for Southern California racing over the next two years but placed several conditions on it. During a lengthy discussion at the Del Mar satellite wagering facility, it was clear the issue of off-site stabling arrangements once Hollywood closes remains thorny.
Board chairman David Israel announced he would moderate a private meeting of industry representatives July 22, presumably to include Santa Anita Park, Del Mar, the Thoroughbred Owners of California, and the California Thoroughbred Trainers, to attempt to resolve numerous issues.
"I'm sick of everyone digging in their heels in and telling us what their problems are," Israel said. "We have to have solutions. We aren't going to approve anything today."
Hollywood Park is to close for racing Dec. 22 to make way for commercial and retail development, and horses are expected to be off the grounds soon after that.
Under the dates allocation plan for the next two years, Santa Anita will extend its winter/spring meet from April through the July 4 weekend, while Del Mar will add a five-week fall meet through November and the first week of December. The rest of the schedule remains virtually the same, though there is a three-week gap in December when there is no racing. Los Alamitos Race Course, primarily a Quarter Horse track in Orange County, has expressed interest in filling that void.
Stabling in the Southern California region remains the biggest obstacle. When Hollywood closes, it will take 2,000 stalls with it. While representatives cobble together a plan to house the 3,000 or so Thoroughbreds that will require space during the next two years, the TOC is also pushing for an "industry fund" designed to create a permanent solution to the stabling dilemma.
Israel also wants a plan for the successful continuation of the stabling and vanning fund, which in recent years has dipped precariously due to the decline in satellite wagering from which it is derived. The board also conditioned the calendar on Santa Anita and Del Mar working out a shared television distribution plan for their races on TVG and HRTV.
The board did approve Santa Anita's application to conduct its 2013 fall meeting, which will run from Sept. 25 to Nov. 3, including the Breeders' Cup World Championships. The approval was made on the condition that the Los Angeles Turf Club and the CTT, the trainers' group, hammer out an operating agreement.
Alan Balch, the CTT's executive director, complained that he has been unable to get Santa Anita officials to meet with him over stabling issues. The CTT wants a guarantee that there will be 2,900 stalls available in Los Angeles County in the future to handle the influx of trainers from across town as Hollywood's closure nears, he said. It also wants modification of the current stall limit agreement.
"The CTT is basically trying to do an end run around what we have been doing for the past several months," responded Scott Daruty, representing Santa Anita. "We can't sign that because we don't have control of 2,900 stalls in Los Angeles County. We are willing to sit down at any time with the CTT…but we don't think our license should held hostage to this."
George Haines, general manager at Santa Anita, said the backstretch of the Arcadia track will hold 1,850 horses once a renovation project is completed. He said about 200 stalls will be reserved for Breeders' Cup horses.
Elsewhere, the board delayed action on Northern California race dates for 2014-15 at the request of representatives for Golden Gate Fields and the California Authority of Racing Fairs.
In other action, the CHRB approved a mini-satellite location license for five years for the Mermaid Tavern in Thousand Oaks, and renewed a license application for five years for the Original Roadhouse Grill restaurant in Santa Maria.
The board also approved Golden Gate Fields' request to install a hedge alongside the inner rail of the track's turf course near the three-sixteenths pole. Calvin Rainey, assistant general manager at Golden Gate, said the hedge was needed as a deterrent after several horses ducked in at that point of the course during the winter/spring meet.