Hollywood Park Gains Six Days in 2007 Compromise

Hollywood Park picked up an additional six days in the 2007 racing calendar approved by the California Horse Racing Board Oct. 26 at Arcadia City Hall.

The board came under intense pressure this month from within the industry after its strategic planning committee had recommended that Hollywood Park lose six days from its date allotment from 2006. The added days – May 23, July 2 and 16 and Dec. 17-19 - gave the Inglewood track 63 days for its spring/summer meeting and 33 for its autumn stand next year.

The decision came as a compromise after Hollywood and Santa Anita Park got into a tug-of-war over a "squeeze week" in 2007. The board stood by the committee's decision to award the days to Santa Anita while satisfying the concerns of Hollywood Park, which contended it was being shortchanged after installing a $9 million synthetic track on its 1 1/8-mile former dirt oval this off-season.

"I think they felt they had to do something," said Jack Liebau, president of Hollywood Park, after the meeting.

The dates issue took up more than two hours of another marathon CHRB meeting lasting seven hours. The board spent much of the day listening to presentations from the three account wagering companies doing business in the state – TVG, Youbet and XpressBet - seeking license renewals for 2007. Because certain documents required to be completed were not finished, the applications were put over until the board's November meeting.

Chairman Richard Shapiro assured representatives of the account wagering firms that the board did not have plans to withhold any of their licenses in spite of an ongoing controversy with TVG, which has thus far refused to settle a dispute with Thoroughbred Owners of California. The two sides do not have an operating agreement. That issue remained unresolved after much discussion during the meeting.

Under the dates approved by the board, Santa Anita received its traditional allotment of 17 weekends. It opens Dec. 26, 2006 and runs through April 22, 2007 for a total of 85 days after the board added an additional program Dec. 28, 2006. Hollywood Park opens for spring/summer April 25 and concludes July 16, leaving the Southern California racing scene just one day to shift to Del Mar, which begins its 43-day summer run on July 18 and concludes Sept. 5. The Los Angeles County Fair follows for 16 days (Sept. 7-24), with Oak Tree running for 30 days after that (Sept. 26 to Nov. 4). Hollywood Park resumes Nov. 7 and operates until Dec. 19.

Commissioner Marie Moretti, a member of the strategic planning committee, said the industry's desire to have a Christmas break plus Del Mar's insistence on ending its meet on the Wednesday after Labor Day put the squeeze on the calendar next year.

She said she was subjected to "veiled threats" in letters and other correspondence from lobbyists and others demanding that Hollywood Park get the disputed days, April 15 to 22, from Santa Anita.

"It got me thinking what would happen if everyone put that much effort into positive movement," she said. "I've never seen an industry that's so contentious and hateful to each other. Quit being predators. Be competitors. That's what makes other sports so great."

In the northern half of the state, Golden Gate Fields was awarded 97 days for 2007 over three stands – Dec. 26 to Feb. 11; April 25 to June 10; and Nov. 7 to Dec. 17. Bay Meadows gained 102 days with meets Feb. 14 to April 22; Aug. 22 to Nov. 4, except for Oct. 3-4 and Oct. 10-11 when Fresno County Fair is the lone northern track in operation.

The fair schedule includes Stockton (nine days June 14-24), Pleasanton (11 days June 27-July 8), Vallejo (10 days July 11-22), Santa Rosa (12 days July 25-Aug. 6), San Mateo (11 days Aug. 8-19), Ferndale (10 days Aug. 9-19) and Fresno (11 days Oct. 4-14).

The board also approved a 2006 Quarter Horse season at Los Alamitos but tabled until next month action on a proposed 202 days of Standardbred racing at Cal Expo in Sacramento.