A mini-break in the Santa Anita Park 2014 dates once Betfair Hollywood Park closes, an agreement to allow HRTV and TVG to broadcast all major California racetracks, and reduced takeout on Santa Anita's Daily Double wagering were major announcements at the Nov. 21 California Horse Racing Board meeting.
The CHRB approved Santa Anita's 2013-14 license through April 20. The board decided to require a second license for the later spring-summer dates that Santa Anita is picking up from Hollywood. Decisions as to which of Hollywood's graded stakes will go to which racetrack are still underway, and Santa Anita has chosen to view the later dates as more of a separate meeting.
Initially, Santa Anita planned to open as it traditionally does Dec. 26 and run through late June. Track management then proposed a one-week break in April, which the Thoroughbred Owners of California opposed. They worked out a compromise that will call for a mini-break in mid-April.
With some holiday exceptions, Santa Anita will run four days a week, Thursdays through Sundays, through April 13. It will close for live racing April 14-18 and race the weekend of April 19-20.
Tom Ludt, senior vice president of racing and gaming for Santa Anita, explained that the break will allow them to freshen the racing surfaces and restart such statistics as leading owner, trainer, and jockey.
Scott Daruty, vice president of the Los Angeles Turf Club, announced an agreement between all parties that will allow HRTV and TVG to broadcast Santa Anita, Del Mar, and Golden Gate Fields during 2014. Previously, only TVG broadcasted Del Mar. The two networks already can broadcast the fair meetings and Barretts (formerly Fairplex Park). Thus, both have access to all Thoroughbred race meetings in the state.
Ludt also announced Santa Anita's plans, in conjunction with the TOC, to conduct three Daily Doubles each day with an 18% takeout, down from 22.68%.
"It will make us the lowest takeout on the Daily Double in the country," Ludt said. "It's going to be heavily marketed. We think this is a way to drive eyeballs to Santa Anita's meet."
The Santa Anita stakes schedule is still being finalized because of increases mandated for graded stakes and folding in Hollywood stakes. Ludt said that the purse for the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) will be raised to $1 million, while the Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) will have a purse of $400,000.
Several CHRB members requested information about renovations in the barn area. Commissioner George Krikorian, a major horse owner, was particularly critical about the age of the barns. He voiced concerns about what would happen if a fire swept through the barn area and recommended that Santa Anita replace the wooden barns with concrete barns such as those currently used at Hollywood Park.
Santa Anita officials explained constraints they are under to comply with regulators regarding wastewater disposal. The commissioners requested that Santa Anita report on the subject at the December meeting.
"We want a rough calendar on how you plan on proceeding," said CHRB chairman David Israel. "You're regulated from two different directions. Their concern is the impact of wastewater on the environment. It's a very valid concern. Our concern is the health, welfare, and safety of the backstretch workers, the horses, and the public."
In other action, the board approved one-year ADW licenses for TVG, Xpressbet, TwinSpires.com, Watch and Wager.com, and Lien Games Racing. Those licenses are contingent upon various agreements between the ADW operators and the racetracks and the TOC. The board also approved medication revisions to comply with standards developed by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium.
Two agenda items on the Northern California racing calendar were held over for consideration at the December meeting. That meeting, originally scheduled for Dec. 17, has been moved to Dec. 12.