Rebating, Graded-Stakes Mandate Complicate Licensing

Despite concerns the association's signal would be sent to wagering outlets that offer rebates, and the fact there is no contract yet with horsemen, the California Horse Racing Board Oct. 23 approved an application by the Los Angeles Turf Club for its Santa Anita Park meet that begins Dec. 26.

Jack Leibau, who oversees California racing for Magna Entertainment Corp., owner of Santa Anita, said the company "has a strategy in place to deal with rebates in a manner that is more efficient and advantageous to Magna tracks and horsemen." In addition, the Thoroughbred Owners of California, which represents horsemen at Santa Anita, is working on a plan.

"We think it's in the best interest to deal with these (wagering) sites," TOC president John Van de Kamp said. "It's about 11% of our handle. It's a problem we're trying to deal with."

At a CHRB Pari-Mutuel Committee meeting Oct. 22, Drew Couto, a consultant for the TOC, said the organization is focusing on signal-pricing issues. He said more information would be released when the TOC completes its study.

The CHRB has a rule against the practice of rebating. Racetrack contracts with wagering outlets conform to the rule, but there are indications rebating actually occurs. The Pari-Mutuel Committee will further address the matter at an upcoming meeting.

As for the contract between the Los Angeles Turf Club and the TOC, the only issue is how the two parties will deal with a mandate from the American Graded Stakes Committee that purses for grade I stakes be no less than $250,000. Six grade I stakes at the meet have $200,000 purses. Liebau indicated a hike in each purse would force cuts in other stakes and overnights, something the track and TOC don't want to see occur.

"We requested the Graded Stakes Committee review the ruling, and I have to say the response was less than negative -- we were pretty much ignored," Liebau said. "The TOC and Santa Anita are going to try to get a waiver as far as graded stakes are concerned."

Tracks and horsemen in California are concerned any cuts in overnight purses would further make it difficult to fill fields. At the two most recently completed Thoroughbred meets -- Del Mar and Fairplex Park -- average field size actually increased.

In another matter, a 3-3 vote by the CHRB killed Hollywood Park's request to implement a 10-day veterinarian's list -- up from five days at the spring/summer meet -- for any horse scratched after scratch time except for horses scratched at the date. Track president Rick Baedeker said the experiment this spring had the desired results: there were 136 vet scratches this year compared with 239 the year before. He did say field size still declined slightly, but he cited other reasons.

The California Thoroughbred Trainers opposed the Hollywood Park plan and suggested other ideas be floated to alleviate the problem of scratches off the program. Officials at the CHRB meeting said there have been reports of trainers scratching horses because they didn't like the post-position draw. In addition, commissioner William Bianco said records don't support claims that only a handful of trainers are responsible for a majority of the scratches.

The CHRB also approved a license for the Los Alamitos Quarter Horse Racing Association for its meet that begins Dec. 26 contingent on having a signed contract with horsemen and a plan in place to continue simulcasting Standardbred races from Cal Expo in Northern California. State law requires all wagering sites in the state to take in-state products, but Los Alamitos wants Capitol Racing, which runs the harness operation at Cal Expo, to pay a fee to have its races offered at the Southern California track.

Alan Horowtiz, general manager of Capitol Racing, said meetings have been held, and the two parties are working toward an agreement.