CHRB Approves Santa Anita Arabian Race
Photo: Reed Palmer/Churchill Downs
Arabian horse racing

The California Horse Racing Board Feb. 25 approved a proposal from Santa Anita Park to offer gambling on an Arabian race in April, with pending legislation on the topic expected to pass soon in Sacramento.

Santa Anita representative Scott Daruty said a group from Abu Dhabi is willing to contribute $175,000 to a potential April 2 race, with $100,000 going to the purse and $75,000 going to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys' Fund. The pending legislation, AB 558, would allow Santa Anita to conduct six Arabian races a year with wagering, as long as it doesn't conflict with the Northern California fair circuit, which also puts on races for the breed, and gets approval from the CHRB and the Thoroughbred owners of California.

But there were still concerns expressed on the board and by industry stakeholders about how Santa Anita should go about carding the Arabian race during its Thoroughbred meeting.

"I don't have a problem with this, per se. What I would have a problem with is this reducing any of the opportunities for the Thoroughbred horsemen," CHRB member Madeline Auerbach said. "We have a tendency here to cut back days, cut back races, and I don't want to see this Arabian race used and be told we have to run less Thoroughbreds ... If Santa Anita can do this in a fashion and guarantee we don't lose any opportunities for our horsemen, then I would have no problem with it."

Daruty would not commit to any structuring of the day's races more than a month in advance, but TOC president Nick Coukos also stressed the importance of adding the Arabian race without subtracting a Thoroughbred race on the Saturday card.

"It's very clear from the TOC perspective that this race is not going to replace a Thoroughbred race," Coukos said. "In fact we have a contractual agreement with Santa Anita that will not allow them to replace a Thoroughbred race, so if a race is going to be run April 2, we expect nine Thoroughbred races that day. If this is not a 10th race, we would have an objection to it."

Coukos said the TOC's preference would be that the Arabian race should run as the first or last race on a 10-race slate.

Also during the meeting, the CHRB amended a proposal that would alter the state's riding rules. The riding rules change has been in the works since March of 2014 and the CHRB sent it out for public comment again. The change to the proposal cut down a "multiple infraction window" for jockeyswhich would increase penalties for multiple offenses during that timefrom 90 to 60 days and also eliminated language that disqualifications could only occur if the infraction caused a horse to lose a placing "according to the distribution of the purse or the order of finish in a trial heat."

The proposal, as currently composed, clarifies the definition of "interference" as "bumping, impeding, forcing or floating in or out, or otherwise causing any other horse to lose stride, ground, momentum or position."

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