CHRB Approves Race Dates for 2012

Minor changes from 2011 calendar noted; Oak Tree Racing Association not included.

A 2012 race dates calendar was approved by the California Horse Racing Board Oct. 6, with only minor changes from its 2011 version.

"We tried to do some things differently this year," said Keith Brackpool, CHRB chairman, during the meeting at Santa Anita. "We've asked the participants to work among themselves to figure out the dates they want rather than to be dictatorial about it."

The board approved the calendar by time blocs and will allocate the specific number of dates per meet at the time racing associations make their license applications.

In Southern California, the Thoroughbred year begins with the Los Angeles Turf Club-operated meet at Santa Anita, which was approved from Dec. 26, 2011 to April 24, 2012. The Hollywood Park spring/summer meet is April 25-July 17. Del Mar Thoroughbred Club was approved for July 18-Sept. 5, followed by the Los Angeles County Fair at Fairplex Sept. 6-23. The Santa Anita Anita fall meet is set Sept. 26-Nov. 4, followed by Hollywood Park, which is to run from Nov. 7-Dec. 16.

The Oak Tree Racing Association, which, after 42 years lost its fall dates in 2011 to the Pacific Racing Association at Santa Anita, did not apply for 2012. John Barr, representing Oak Tree, said the not-for-profit organization supported the proposed calendar.

The board indicated it would grant the Hollywood Park Racing Association an extra week in the fall of 2013 to make up for the track giving up a week next year. That will allow Santa Anita to host the 2012 Breeders' Cup World Championships.

The biggest change in the Northern California calendar was the decision to move the San Joaquin County Fair at Stockton from its June position to Sept. 19-30.

That created a gap in June that both Golden Gate Fields and the Alameda County Fair at Pleasanton, in association with the California Authority of Racing Fairs, applied to fill. The board, noting that Golden Gate was relinquishing dates in September to Stockton, voted in favor of the Pacific Racing Association, which operates Golden Gate. The Golden Gate proposal was supported by the Thoroughbred Owners of California and the California Thoroughbred Trainers.

A second northern dispute, arising from the number of days the Humboldt County Fair at Ferndale will be allowed to run without overlap from Golden Gate, will be resolved at the board's Nov. 17 meeting at Hollywood Park.

The Northern California schedule looks like this: Golden Gate Fields winter/spring meet Dec. 26-June 17; Alameda County Fair June 20-July 8; Cal Expo at Sacramento July 11-22; Sonoma County Fair at Santa Rosa July 25-Aug. 12; Humboldt County Fair Aug. 15-26; Golden Gate Fields, operated by the Los Angeles Turf Club Aug. 29-Sept. 16; San Joaquin County Sept. 19-30; Fresno County Fair at Fresno Oct. 3-14; and Golden Gate Fields fall/winter meet Oct. 17-Dec. 16.

The board also approved the Quarter Horse meet at Los Alamitos for an estimated 154 days from Dec. 30, 2011 to Dec. 23, 2012. Cal Expo Harness Racing Association requested and received a six-month bloc from Dec. 26, 2011 to June 16, approximately 74 live race dates.

In other action, the board approved Hollywood Park's license application for the 2011 fall/winter meet, which is to run Nov. 9 through Dec. 18, contingent on the track finalizing an agreement with the CTT. The 2011 meet is for 26 days, three less than Hollywood ran in 2010. The track plans to run four-day weeks for most of the meet, with five-day weeks scheduled for the final two weeks.

The snag in the agreement with the CTT is over Hollywood's policy of closing the track during morning workouts in the event of an injury that requires the ambulance to leave the premises in order to deliver an injured person to a nearby hospital. The CTT contends that it is dangerous to have horses milling about in the barn area waiting for the track to reopen. The board is also requiring the track to retain a licensed paramedic as part of its ambulance team.

"We understand what the trainers are saying and we are trying to come up with some sort of solution," said Jack Liebau, Hollywood Park president.

Following a spring/summer meet in which overall handle showed signs of rebounding, Liebau said he is optimistic about the upcoming stand. He said Hollywood was being "conservative" by not scheduling five-day weeks the entire meet.

"First and foremost, the horse population has definitely increased," he said. "As of yesterday we have 1,075 on the grounds as the off-site track (while Santa Anita is in operation)."

He cited an improved purse structure, brought about by legislation that increased purses through additional takeout on exotic wagers, and the success of a new 50-cent "Players Pick 5" wager instituted in the spring.

"I don't hear as much as far as people claiming horses to take them to Charles Town as I once did," Liebau said.

The board also approved a $10 increase in the fee jockeys on losing mounts are paid. The increase apparently must await a 45-day public comment and a final vote before it is instituted.

In another matter, Robert Miller, CHRB counsel, said the results of a petition drive aimed at decertifying the TOC as the official legal representative of horse owners in the state will be announced at the board's November meeting. The sponsors of the petition drive, the California Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, must have turned in approved signatures from 10% of the TOC membership to force an election.

Miller told the board the petition has been reviewed and 300 TOC members from the list were contacted at random to determine the validity of their signatures.

"We are now receiving responses," he said. "Some of those we have contacted said they did not sign the petition or did not recall signing the petition. We will compare those signatures to those on their licenses to determine if they are valid."