CHRB to Undertake Marketing Study

California Horse Racing Board commissioners Alan Landsburg and John Harris were appointed to form an ad hoc committee to examine efforts in the state to market horseracing.

CHRB chairman Roger Licht approved the idea at Landsburg's suggestion during the closing moments of the board's meeting June 26 in Pleasanton, Calif.

Landsburg, who said he would update the full board on the committee's progress at next month's CHRB meeting, said he has a "continuing concern about the way we market our sport."

The commissioner drew a laugh from those in attendance when he noted, "We never have a (CHRB) meeting when somebody doesn't mention that we have too much gray hair and not enough body-pierced people in our audience."

After the meeting, Landsburg said he'd like to form a committee consisting of people primarily from outside the racing industry to perform an objective analysis of current marketing efforts and make recommendations to the board for better methods.

"We're spending $8 million a year on marketing and I'm not sure it has any impact," he said.

The California Marketing Committee oversees the state's racing publicity program with money authorized by the state legislature from horsemen's purses and track commissions.

Elsewhere, the board, by a 3-3 vote, rejected a proposed new bet, called either "Beat the Favorite" or "Beat the Odds."

Racing author James Quinn, who sponsored the proposal, said the somewhat complicated $1 wager had the potential to produce $100,000 daily payoffs and predicted it could become a favorite of the betting public and a marketing tool.

The wager would require a bettor to pick at least three races on a full card in which the favorite would be defeated and would earn points equivalent to the $2 pari-mutuel payoff if the bettor had the number of the correct winner. A winning favorite in a selected race, however, makes the entire wager a loser. The idea was supported by the tracks.

However, Licht, Landsberg and commissioner John Sperry voted thumbs down. Commissioner William Bianco did not attend the meeting. Licht said there were too many exotic wagers on the books that take money out of wagering circulation.

"I think too many people leave the track broke today and that's one of our biggest problems," he said. "I don't think we need any more exotics."

In other action, Dave Payton, western sales manager for Autotote, told the board that the "alternate runner" option for Pick 6 wagers could be restored to California in time for the fall Oak Tree meeting, which is host to this year's World Thoroughbred Championships.

The alternate runner option, which allows bettors to substitute a horse in Pick 6 legs in the event of a scratch, was suspended after the Breeders' Cup Pick 6 scandal last year to accommodate changes in programming of tickets to prevent a repeat of what happened in 2002.

"It looks like we will be able to get everything in place on target for the Oak Tree opening," Payton said. That meeting begins Sept. 28.

Licht reported that the CHRB's "ongoing backstretch investigation" of suspicious form reversals is continuing and thanked the major racing associations and others who have helped the review "to make a level playing field out there."

The board authorized expenditures of $1,629,500 in fiscal year 2003-04 for stewards' services and $461,000 for official veterinarian services. For the next three years, it authorized nearly $3 million for service contracts, including $1,757,400 to the University of California at Davis for complementary drug testing and $114,000 to the school for postmortem services.