The Santa Anita autumn meet can proceed as expected after the California Horse Racing Board dropped its objection to track owner The Stronach Group's distribution plan for its television network.
Agency executive director Kirk Breed confirmed Sept. 22 that Santa Anita is in compliance with conditions of a waiver put in place by the CHRB after former track owner Magna Entertainment Corp. went bankrupt. The waiver required in part that Santa Anita improve the distribution system of its television race network, HRTV.
Meeting the waiver condition was made a requirement for approving Santa Anita's license application to host the upcoming 24-day meet, which begins Sept. 30 and runs through Nov. 6.
Scott Daruty, representative for The Stronach Group, said the requirement was met by enhancing HRTV's ability to stream its programming over the network's website and by allowing full access to the public free of charge. Daruty, who was informed via email by the CHRB that the waiver condition was met Sept. 21, said there are no plans in place at this time to increase HRTV's presence over traditional satellite, cable, or over-the-air television carriers.
During the CHRB's meeting Aug. 25, commissioners suggested that Santa Anita undertake negotiations with racing network TVG, a rival to both HRTV and The Stronach Group's advance deposit wagering company, XpressBet. TVG boasts a much larger cable and satellite distribution system than HRTV and had previously broadcast the Oak Tree Racing Association's traditional autumn meet, which Santa Anita is supplanting for the first time this year.
Commissioners were particularly unhappy about limited access to HRTV's signal in the Los Angeles market except over satellite carrier DISH-TV. But after reviewing the proposal, Breed said that he and CHRB chairman Keith Brackpool were convinced that Santa Anita had met the waiver requirements without contracting TVG.
The new distribution plan differs markedly from the one presented to the Board at the Aug. 25 meeting, which was limited to PC computers and excluded Apple products and all mobile devices.
"They (HRTV) will be available on iPads, iPhones, pretty much every such technological device you can name, except they will not be on TVG," Breed said. "Pretty much anyone that wants to view HRTV can do so. If you have access to the Internet you should be able to receive HRTV's programming."
Breed said the board will monitor the distribution plan to see how well it is working and could require additional improvements for Santa Anita's winter/spring meet that begins Dec. 26.
Daruty said that the current arrangement is "a temporary bridge" while the company continues to work on more upgrades to its streaming capabilities. He said he expects the project to be fully completed sometime in October.
Access to the programming stream will be made available through the network website, www.hrtv.com. An additional link to HRTV programming will be placed on Santa Anita's website, Daruty said.
Santa Anita is to run four days per week during the fall, Thursdays through Sundays, with an added program Monday, Oct. 11. There are six grade I stakes events on the schedule, races previously conducted by Oak Tree, and all are Breeders' Cup Challenge races. Four of them are on Oct. 1 -- the Norfolk, Goodwood, Yellow Ribbon, and Lady's Secret. The Oak Leaf is Oct. 2 and the Ancient Title is Oct. 8.