Reducing Races, Not Days, Goal of CHRB Committee

Reducing the number of racing events without the loss of a significant number of actual racing days in the North was the goal of the California Horse Racing Board's Strategic Alliance Planning Committee, which met for the final time Oct. 12 before making a final 2007 dates recommendation to the full board.

Under the proposed schedule, Golden Gate Fields will not run on Wednesdays during the month of January, as well as on Feb. 8. Overall, the track will lose a total of eight live-racing days and the equivalent of approximately 18 racing days on the calendar via the reduction of the number of races on several live days.

The proposal, which has been largely agreed upon by all racing jurisdictions in the North pending further analysis of how many days and races the Northern California fairs operate, calls for Golden Gate Fields to run a total of 97 days over their three split seasons, while Bay Meadows will operate for a total of 102 days in the spring and fall. The fairs - in Stockton, Ferndale, Pleasanton, Vallejo, Santa Rosa, San Mateo, and Fresno - will operate either 73 or 77 days depending on discussions set to take place between representatives of the California Authority of Racing Fairs and the Thoroughbred Owners of California.

Ferndale and San Mateo will operate overlapping meetings in August, while Fresno and Bay Meadows will overlap in October.

CARF and TOC discussions will center on the reduction of between 32 and 45 races the fairs conducted in 2006.

"It's better to eliminate races rather than race days," TOC president Drew Couto said.

In the South, the calendar remained largely unchanged, which caused some concern for representatives of Hollywood Park, who argued that the track deserves special consideration due to the installation of the $8 million Cushion track surface, a new chute on the turf course, and significant improvements to the facility's backstretch area. The 2007 calendar proposal calls for the Inglewood track to run the fewest number of days in its history - 90 programs - split between its spring/summer and fall meets, leaving the extra week that regularly alternates between Hollywood Park and Santa Anita to the Arcadia track.

"It's obvious we're seeking what is known as the swing week for a variety of reasons," Hollywood Park president Jack Liebau said, referring to the track's renovations. "The CHRB needs to reward us for deeds rather than un-kept promises; there are a lot of things in the equation (to consider.)"

CHRB chairman Richard Shapiro countered, referencing the limited number of years that Hollywood Park will operate, "While we respect (Hollywood Park's) investment, we have to look at the deeds that have been done; look at the marketing and advertising over the years and a long-term commitment we can count upon. That week isn't historically grounded in any association, and we're better off putting that week in a better place for the industry."

Del Mar will run 43 days in the summer, Oak Tree will operate its traditional fall meet for 30 days, Santa Anita will race a total of 84 days, and Fairplex Park will be open for 16 racing days.

Just before the vote to recommend the proposed Southern California schedule, Liebau left the panel with a chilly comment.

"Decisions like this will just cause the the earlier demise of Hollywood Park," he said.

The full CHRB board is set to adopt a final 2007 dates schedule at its regular meeting on Oct. 26.