CHRB Shortens Horsemen's 2004 Christmas Break

It was only a single day on the proposed 271-day Thoroughbred racing circuit in Southern California in 2004. But for representatives of state's owners and trainers appearing Thursday before the California Horse Racing Board, it was meaningful.

At the request of Hollywood Park, the CHRB approved the additional day, pushing the Inglewood track's closing day of the fall/winter meeting back to Dec. 20, a Monday, from its traditional Sunday get-away day. But the unanimous decision, which came as part of the board1s allocation of dates for 2004, was met by strong opposition from John Van de Kamp, president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, and Ed Halpern, executive director of the California Thoroughbred Trainers.

Van de Kamp argued for a longer Christmas recess, keeping the Sunday closing preceeding the traditional opening of the Santa Anita meeting Dec. 26.

"Every year we come in here asking for a good Christmas break," said Van de Kamp. "It refreshes the horses and gives the horsemen a needed break. A couple of years ago, we had a good long break after Hollywood and we had a good experience. We have a natural day to close, which is Sunday.

"Frankly, we object," he added. "There's talk doing a big promotion on that Monday. You hear a lot about the lack of promotion. Why not do the big promotion for a Sunday closing, which is a better day, instead?"

Halpern, too, wanted the extra day of rest, but was also concerned about the addition of more racing to the schedule.

"We certainly support a reduction of racing dates," he said of the trainers. "It has been our position since I've been with the CTT and probably long before that. I can only tell you that when we don't have enough horses, it hurts us in the long run.

"It's only one day, but it makes a significant difference (to trainers and horses)," he said. "It is a good break. They want to cut it to five days, but I would like seven."

CHRB chairman Roger Licht and commissioner John Harris noted that there is potential for signficant revenue by racing the additional day and said there wasn't much difference between a five-day break and a gap of six days. They agreed with the position of Hollywood Park president Rick Baedecker, who said the Monday closing would be a success.

"We will promote this day in every way we know how," Baedecker said.

Jack Liebau, who is president of Magna Entertainment-owned Santa Anita, the meet that follows Hollywood, and Bay Meadows, which will also run on Dec. 20, urged the CHRB to grant the additional day.

"We're not concerned about field size being harmed," he said.

The remainder of the 2004 schedule was approved with little discussion. The Alameda County Fair at Pleasanton was allocated an additional day July 7 although there won't be corresponding racing in Southern California that day.

On the harness racing scene, the CHRB put over for a month a request from Capitol Racing to add a 26-day meet Aug. 6 to Oct. 2 in Stockton, which would make its operation year-round in Northern California. The proposal is opposed by the state's Quarter Horsemen1s racing association. Following is the schedule approved for 2004:

Southern California: Santa Anita, Dec. 26, 2003-April 18, 2004 (84 days); Hollywood Park spring/summer, April 21-July 18 (65 days); Los Angeles County Fair at Pomona, Sept. 10-26 (17 days); Oak Tree at Santa Anita, Sept. 29-Oct. 31 (26 days), Hollywood fall/winter, Nov. 3-Dec. 20 (36 days).

Northern California: Golden Gate winter/spring, Dec. 26, 2003-April 4, 2004 (74 days); Bay Meadows spring, April 7-June 20 (55 days); Stockton, June 16-27 (10 days); Pleasanton, June 30-July 11 (11 days); Vallejo, July 14-25 (10 days); Santa Rosa, July 28-Aug. 9 (12 days); San Mateo, Aug. 11-23 (12 days); Ferndale, Aug. 12-22 (10 days); Sacramento, Aug. 25-Sept. 6 (12 days); Fresno, Oct. 6-Oct. 17 (11 days).

Quarter Horse: Los Alamitos, Dec. 26, 2003-Dec. 19, 2004 (203 days).

Harness: Cal Expo at Sacramento, Dec. 26, 2003-July 31, 2004 (133 days); Cal Expo at Sacramento, Oct. 7-Dec. 24 (45 days).

In other action, commissioners Alan Landsburg and Harris suggested several improvements they would like to see become part of racing association requirements to operate meetings.

Among the suggestions, which will be brought back for possible action at a later meeting, were: to require associations to accept wagers from all approved account wagering providers; to expand backstretch surveillance camera operations; to require filming of races so that there are no blind spots and require head-on shots of all tracks and turf courses; and provide instantaneous transmission of wagering data.

The board unanimously passed a resolution making California part of the "National Licensing Compact." California will join 22 other racing jurisdictions as part of the national licensing movement.