Mark Hoard

Hollywood Officials Undecided on Next Move

Lack of entries caused cancellation of card.

Whether Hollywood Park’s cancellation of its April 30 card due to insufficient entries will require a move to a four-day week is something track officials aren’t ready to discuss. The cancellation resulted when attempts on both April 26 and April 28 to fill the Thursday card failed to yield enough entries to conduct racing.

“There are different schools of thought whether this is systemic or if it’s just a little bump in the road,” said Hollywood Park general manager Eual G. Wyatt Jr. “I do know that we’re going to take a hard look at it, and we may decide to make some changes and we may not.”

Southern California’s horse inventory has declined from a year ago. Wyatt acknowledged that Hollywood’s backstretch isn’t full and that Santa Anita’s stable area across town is also down from what it was last year.

Owners, whose other businesses have been adversely affected by the current economic downturn, aren’t replacing horses at the same rate as in the past. In addition, some trainers, such as Todd Pletcher, that have maintained Southern California divisions during the winter have moved them elsewhere. Recently, locally based trainer Paolo Lobo switched his stable permanently to New York.

The April 30 cancellation came amid back-to-back big weekends at Hollywood. On Gold Rush Day, April 25, the entire card was devoted to California-bred races, and 91 horses filled the 10 races. For Kentucky Derby day, May 2, which traditionally draws a big handle at Hollywood, 12 races were scheduled. Wyatt explained that a program of 12 races that day was part of the track’s license application. Thus, track management could not pull races from that day to help fill the April 30 card.

“We had, I’m guessing, about 30 horses on Sunday (for Thursday),” Wyatt said. “And then we did lose a few horses when we carried the draw over to Tuesday.”

Ultimately, had Hollywood proceeded with the April 30 card, it would have only consisted of five or six races, each with five or six horses. The condition book had called for eight races that day.

Del Mar has already decided to reduce its racing week for the upcoming summer meeting from six to five days in anticipation of a horse shortage. Wyatt declined to speculate whether Hollywood would consider a four-day week for the rest of the meeting.

“Backing off to four days a week doesn’t automatically make horses appear in categories that you can’t fill,” Wyatt said. “To react and affect our patrons, our employees, our simulcast facilities in state and outside of the state, to do something radical unless we’re absolutely positive that that’s the only solution would not be prudent.”

The cancellation means that some employees such as ushers and mutuel clerks without sufficient seniority will lose a day of work. Many who work the Southern California circuit do so as seasonal employees. A four-day week throughout the remaining 11 weeks of the Hollywood meeting could affect some people in that their health insurance is dependent upon them working enough days to qualify.

Thursdays at Hollywood Park this season have been earmarked for free admission and $1 hot dogs, sodas and beer.