Hollywood Park to Race Through 2009
by Jack Shinar
Date Posted: 3/19/2009 10:37:19 PM
Last Updated: 3/21/2009 1:59:17 PM

Photo: Benoit

Thoroughbred racing in California has been on the receiving end of some harsh blows in recent months, but the state's horse racing board got a bit of good news March 19 when the president of Hollywood Park assured commissioners that it would run its 2009 fall/winter meet as planned.

"Yes, Hollywood Park will conduct its fall meet," track president Jack Liebau told the California Horse Racing Board to the applause of about 60 people who attended the meeting at Golden Gate Fields in Albany.

The 238-acre site is in the midst of pursuing land use entitlements from the city of Inglewood that will enable the track's owners, Bay Meadows Land Co., to redevelop the property at a reported cost of $2 billion. Previously, the track would not commit to race beyond the 65-day spring/summer meet, which is to begin  April 22. With Liebau's assurance, Hollywood will also run from Nov. 11 to Dec. 21, dates the board approved late last year without guarantee they would be honored.

Chairman John Harris said that the racing industry needs to turn out in force to lobby the Inglewood City Council and other elected officials against the development plan, which the city has said it expects to come up for approval by the end of the year. 

"I don't know if racing has been as vocal as it could be on that," Harris said. "As tough as the economy is today, the track will generate a lot more revenue than would an empty lot, which is what Bay Meadows apparently is."

Bay Meadows, demolished late last year after getting approval for a redevelopment project on 83 acres from the City of San Mateo, is now a huge pile of rubble. The mixed use development project has been postponed indefinitely because of the tight economic conditions. That property is also owned by the Bay Meadows Land Co.

Pressed on whether he could commit to racing beyond the end-of-year meet, Liebau said he "was not in a position" to do so.

But he added, "I understand there have been discussions between one board member and Terry Fancher (executive manager of Bay Meadows Land's parent company, Stockbridge Capital Partners, LLC) and I think those discussions will continue."

The "Hollywood Park Tomorrow" project includes a giant retail zone, including a major movie theater complex, residences and a remodeled card club, among other amenities. And while Inglewood officials are enthusiastic about moving ahead on the necessary zoning changes and approving a final environmental impact report, tight credit will make locating funding sources for construction difficult. A meeting is set March 25 at Inglewood City Hall.

The board also received an update from Gregg Scoggins, Magna Entertainment Corp.'s national director for regulatory affairs, on that company's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing on March 5.

Scoggins said the federal court in Delaware, where the bankruptcy was filed, has approved $13.4 million in debtor-in-possession financing from a subsidiary of MI Developments and that the company hopes to secure a permanent DIP financing order for the remainder of the $62.5 million in motions set to be heard March 27 or April 13. The money will be used to fund operations during the six-month Chapter 11 proceedings.

He said that MEC is also seeking an order setting procedures for auctioning off assets covered in the original MID "stalking horse bid" of $195 million, a package that includes Golden Gate Fields, Gulfstream Park, Lone Star Park, Palm Meadows training center, XpressBet, AmTote International and AmTote Canada.

Scoggins said MEC is proposing a series of deadlines for prospective bidders on all or part of the package of assets beginning April 24 with statements of interest and ending Aug. 4 wth a sale order hearing for the winning bid or bids.

Company assets that are not part of the stalking horse bid -- including Santa Anita Park, Laurel/Pimlico, Thistledown, Remington Park, Portland Meadows, HRTV and TrackNet Media -- would have a similar schedule, with Aug. 7 the proposed date for hearing for the sale order on winning bids, Scoggins said.

He said that MID, which is the primary creditor for MEC, "will have the opportunity to match" any bid on an asset it wishes to maintain.

Christopher Korby, executive director of the California Authority of Racing Fairs, said he was "extremely unhappy and disappointed" that MEC had stopped paying out "location fees" for wagers made from the state's satellite wagering facilities. He said the 20 facilities are in "extreme distress" as a result and that many are close to closing their doors.

"Essentially, we have not been paid for the entire month of February," Korby complained. Location fees are commissions paid to the satellite facilities by the host tracks.  Korby and others contend that the Magna tracks don't have a claim to satellite funds and are only holding them as part of a "third-party distribution."

Scoggins replied, "We hope to have a resolution for those fees in the very near future." But he said the funds may be forced into the bankruptcy proceedings as pre-petition unsecured creditor claims. If so, he said, "They will be paid but there may be some delay."

Elsewhere, the CHRB approved for a 45-day public comment period for a couple of rule changes affecting the popular trifecta and superfecta wagers. In trifecta races, the minimum number of wagering interests would be reduced from six to four; in superfecta races, the number of betting entries would be dropped from eight to six.

Racetracks would retain the right to cancel the trifectas and superfectas in a race with the minimum number of wagering interests if a minus pool would likely result. 

The board also heard a presentation from representatives of Betfair US, the new owners of TVG.



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