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Board Approves Del Mar's Cutback in Race Days

Summer season will be reduced by six programs with elimination of Monday racing.

The California Horse Racing Board gave its blessing to a Del Mar Thoroughbred Club request reducing the track's 2009 racing schedule by one day per week.

Del Mar is breaking from a long tradition of six-day weeks this season.

During the board's monthly meeting held at Hollywood Park April 24, Craig Fravel, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club's executive vice president, said that the track will eliminate Monday racing during the seven-week meet except for Labor Day, Sept. 7. The change will reduce the number of race days from 43 to 37.

Fravel said that Del Mar is "maximizing the quality of our racing product." He said the track was losing money by running on Mondays, with purses outpacing revenue by $55,000 to $60,000 per date.

Del Mar will add three races per week by expanding its Wednesday and Friday cards from eight races to nine and its Sunday programs from nine races to 10. The net result would be a loss of 28 races for the stand.

Fravel noted that Gulfstream Park successfully eliminated Mondays from its schedule at its winter meet and that Oaklawn Park had reduced its schedule to four days a week. Both maintained their high standards and popularity, he said.

Horse owner Jerry Jamgotchian complained that the board was allowing Del Mar to "reneg on an obligation" to race its full allocation of dates without suffering any penalty. He claimed that the real reason for the reduction was a lack of horse inventory and an unwillingness by horsemen to race on Del Mar's Polytrack.

Santa Anita saw a reduction in field sizes in the latter part of its just-concluded meet due to a horse shortage. The problem has continued at Hollywood Park, where stables are well short of capacity.

Board chairman John Harris said he was disappointed to see Del Mar end its six-day week, which it has reportedly had since 1946, but went along with the plan.

“I'm a traditionalist and I hate to see things change, but I hope it will result in better racing five days a week,” Harris said.

"Del Mar has been a crown jewel of California racing, and I certainly want to support your proposal," said commissioner Jesse Choper. The vote was unanimous.

Fravel said that Del Mar may keep its simulcast facility open on Mondays to accomodate fans who want to bet on races from Saratoga.

In other action, the board approved its first application under a new state law for a "mini-satellite" wagering facility. The request came from the Commerce Casino, a card club in Southern California, with the CHRB's approval conditioned on the completion of required documentation.

The license is good through March 2011 and includes a six-month exclusivity clause while the Commerce Club assesses the success of the venture. Rod Blonien, representing the card club, said there are six other card clubs within a 20-mile radius.

The mini-satellite is to include five convertible teller or self-serve betting terminals, 14 television sets and seating for 35.

Although the mini-satellite concept has been slow to develop since the law's passage, Harris said he liked the idea of taking racing to the public.

Southern California Off-Track Wagering Inc., the same organization that oversees simulcast wagering elsewhere in the region, will manage the mini-satellite.

Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Los Alamitos all gave their approval to the new facility, which was required under the legislation because the Commerce Club is within 20 miles of those locations.

Elsewhere, board members said they are open to waiving provisions of its 2006 synthetic track mandate when considering the construction of new tracks, converting artificial surfaces to dirt, or allowing the use dirt tracks for periods exceeding four consecutive weeks. There was no vote taken, but the item was intended to get "a sense of the board."