TOC Not Pursuing Merger With Trainers' Group

Chairman Arnold Zetcher also discusses takeout hike and dirt track at Santa Anita.

The Thoroughbred Owners of California is not pursuing a merger with the California Thoroughbred Trainers, the chairman of the official owners' organization said following its annual meeting Aug. 21 at Del Mar.

The TOC and CTT have been discussing such a move for the past few months.

“The last week or so has shown that the two groups can work together very well,” TOC chairman Arnold Zetcher said. “We have a very good relationship with the CTT.”

He said the TOC and CTT have been working together in voicing their concerns over the safety of the Santa Anita Park Pro-Ride surface.

MI Developments chairman Frank Stronach announced Aug. 17 Santa Anita will convert to a dirt surface in time for its 2010-11 winter meet. The Oak Tree Racing Association is apparently going to move its fall meet to Hollywood Park as a result of horsemen's objections to the condition of the Santa Anita track. 

Zetcher, elected chairman in July, also discussed California's purse structure and track surfaces.

During a lengthy question-and-answer session at the annual meeting, TOC members asked about California’s purse structure. The TOC supports pending state legislation that would raise the takeout on exotic wagers by 2%-3% in an effort to increase purses.

“One of the focuses of the meeting was the ongoing concern of the purse structure and the need to make it more competitive with the rest of the country,” Zetcher said. “The TOC is trying to address that.”

Zetcher said installation of dirt at Santa Anita would be “a huge step” in the direction of ending the uncertainty about California racing. He suggested it should encourage more owners and trainers from out-of-state to send horses to California.

“One of our goals is to increase the horse population in California,” he said.

Zetcher told members the current TOC board has a new direction. “The way the board is now operating is that we are focusing on strategic and innovative issues,” he said. “We are trying to convert a lot of talk (in the past) to action.”