Edited press release
Given the possibility any of the three owners of the five privately owned racetracks in California could choose at any time to develop their properties and shut down racing operations, the California Horse Racing Board intends to hold several strategic planning meetings to develop long-range plans for horse racing in the state, and one of the options would be to allocate multi-year racing dates that would obligate the owners to operate for the term of the contracts.
In an April 24 release, the CHRB said it is in the best interests of the public, horse owners, all racetrack workers, and the racing associations themselves to discuss alternatives that would ensure the continued prosperity of the racing industry in California.
The CHRB now has a committee to study racing dates and strategic planning.
"This committee plans to meet both earlier in the calendar year and more often than in past years to review what is in the best interests of the industry and the public," CHRB chairman Richard Shapiro said. "I already have discussed this subject with all track owners in the state and nearly all of the (industry) organizations. We tried to discuss their views, concerns, and philosophies of how California should move forward. I have not suggested or concluded what a final outcome would be to anyone. I have stated that I want to see racing promoted, and the best program presented within the state."
Board member Marie Moretti has long advocated multi-year calendars. "Our objective is to have a thoughtful, creative dialogue, the ultimate goal of which is the betterment of the entire industry in this great state," she said. "We have to face reality. While we have the greatest weather for racing and good purses, we also have short fields and an uncertain future caused by market forces and the decline of the industry itself."
Commissioner John Harris said he agrees with the concept of multi-year calendars and looks forward to the prospect of fully discussing all of the issues relating to date allocations that face the board and the industry.
"If California racing were to see one or more major tracks in the south or north close down over the next few years, the racing industry would need a plan in place to make an orderly, well-thought-out transition," Harris said. "Obviously, no start-up track could adequately plan to conduct racing unless there were some assurance of dates being available."
Shapiro said the board currently doesn't know if it has the authority to issue multi-year dates that would obligate the racetracks to operate for the term of their contracts. "In a sense, the state of California is leasing race dates or meets to the track operators, and we need to hold them responsible in order to protect and secure the racing industry in California."