(Edited press release)
Citing a sluggish local and national economy as primary factors, the Oak Tree Racing Association announced Oct. 21 that overnight purses will be cut 10%, effective Oct. 24.
The current Oak Tree meeting at Santa Anita Park, which began Sept. 30, will run through Nov. 8 and will include the two-day Breeders’ Cup World Championships Nov. 6-7.
“We tried to maintain the purse levels that we started the meet with, but due primarily to the sluggish economy, business has been soft and we had to make this adjustment,” said Michael Harlow, Oak Tree director of racing.
“This is simply a business decision. Oak Tree is a short meet and we need to be responsible when it comes to the purse account. The horsemen have been supportive thus far and I’m hopeful they will continue to be, even though we are dealing with a severe horse shortage here in California,” he added.
Through 16 days of racing Oct. 18, Oak Tree’s overall pari-mutuel handle was down 12% compared to last year.
“We were cautiously optimistic coming into this meet, but we are dealing with a very tough economy both locally and around the country,” said Oak Tree director and executive vice president Sherwood Chillingworth. “Unemployment here in Los Angeles County is near 13% and across the country it’s nearing 10%.
“As a result, our handle is off across the board. On top of that, for a variety of reasons, our horse inventory is down significantly from last year. We remain optimistic that we can finish up strongly with the Breeders’ Cup, but we really have no other choice at this time other than to make this cut.
“It’s certainly something that we hate to do, but the reality of the situation has left us no choice,” Chillingworth said. “The horsemen have been very supportive and we want to thank all of them and we hope they understand the position we are in. Again, we’re hoping to finish up strong and we are certainly looking forward to a great Breeders’ Cup Nov. 6 and 7.”