With Bay Meadows Assurance, Board OKs '08 Dates

The California Horse Racing Board approved a 2008 dates plan during its meeting Sept.27 in Arcadia.

Given reasonable assurance that Bay Meadows would remain open throughout 2008 for training and stabling, the California Horse Racing Board approved a statewide dates plan for the coming year during its Sept. 27 meeting in Arcadia.

The commission unanimously approved without changes the recommendations from its strategic planning committee approved a week earlier.

The CHRB granted a 70-day block of racing dates next year for Bay Meadows, beginning Feb. 6 and concluding May 11. The San Mateo track, slated for redevelopment in the future, would conclude racing Aug. 18 after a two-week run for the San Mateo County Fair.

Bay Meadows is operating in 2008 on a one-year waiver granted by the CHRB to the board's mandate that all major Thoroughbred facilities on the circuit convert to a synthetic racing surface by Jan. 1.

Concerns were raised over the continued use of the Bay Meadows facility for training and boarding after the likely close of racing there. 

Jack Liebau, president of racing for Bay Meadows, told the board that the Bay Meadows Land Company could assure horsemen that the track would stay open through the end of September 2008. Safety issues related to the track’s demolition could alter things after that, he said. However, he noted that the track wants to keep its simulcast facility, the busiest in Northern California, going for as long as possible.

“We want to work with you as much as possible,” Liebau told the board. “We don’t think there’s going to be a problem. We’ll do the best that we can.”

Ed Halpern, executive director of the California Thoroughbred Trainers, said horsemen are satisfied with the assurances given by Terry Fancher, head of the Bay Meadows Land Company, in e-mail correspondences this week.

The CHRB increased Golden Gate Fields’ date allotment from 97 days in 2007 to 127. Golden Gate will run from Dec. 26, 2007 to Feb. 3, 2008. Following the Bay Meadows stand, Golden Gate would return May 14 and run through June 22 before the 88-day summer fair schedule would begin. Golden Gate is to return Sept. 17 and extend through the end of the year.

The fairs line up this way: Pleasanton, June 25-July 6; Vallejo, July 9-20; Santa Rosa, July 23-Aug.4; San Mateo, Aug. 6-18; Ferndale, Aug. 7-17; Sacramento, Aug. 20-Sept. 1; Stockton Sept.3-15; and Fresno, Oct. 1-13.

Fresno will run overlapped with Golden Gate except for Oct.1-2 and 8-9. The CHRB pledged to eliminate any overlapping with the Fresno fair in 2009-10.

The strategic planning committee expects to meet again in mid-October to discuss dates for 2009-10.

Sacramento's Cal Expo will return to the fair racing after an absence of three years. Cal Expo is the year-round home to harness racing in the state.

In Southern California, the schedule remains much as it has in recent years. The Santa Anita winter/spring meet will run 85 days from Dec. 26, 2007 through April 20, 2008. Hollywood Park will run 60 days during its spring/summer meet (April 23-July 13) and 40 more in the fall/winter season (Oct. 29-Dec. 21). Del Mar's allocation remains at 43 days (July 16-Sept. 3), while the Oak Tree fall meet at Santa Anita gets 26 (Sept. 24-Oct. 26). The Los Angeles County Fair at Fairplex runs 16 days from Sept. 5-22.