(from CHRB release)
Fairplex Park will remain open without interruption as a racing and training center at least through October and possibly year-around under a funding agreement announced Thursday at the monthly meeting of the California Horse Racing Board at Golden Gate Fields. Fairplex attorney Robert Forgnone said the committee that controls the state‚s stabling and vanning fund has agreed to allocate nearly $1.9 million to the Pomona facility to cover operations from this April into next year. That's an increase of $400,000 from the amount allocated to Fairplex last year for the current 2002-2003 period. Fairplex officials had previously considered an April 1 shutdown of training operations."We're still $600,000 short of the total amount we require," reported Forgnone, "but we‚re hopeful that we can be more creative in the job we're doing, possibly spend less, and remain open for the entire year or at least reduce the period that we may need to close." Fairplex historically has operated as a training center for the 10 months preceding and following its late-summer race meet. However, after the stabling and vanning committee reduced funding to Fairplex last year in order to allocate equal funding to the San Luis Rey Downs Training Center, Fairplex officials said they would be forced to shut down for part of the year. The agreement to restore at least part of the reduced funding means that Fairplex horsemen will continue to train horses for races at the major Thoroughbred racetracks without interruption at least through October. Under strong urging from the CHRB, the parties negotiated an agreement that allocates an additional $192,000 for the current funding period and $1.7 million for the upcoming 2003-2004 period. The original figure for 2002-2003 was $1.5 million. In a related matter, the Board approved a request by Southern California Off-Track Wagering Inc. to increase the percentage of funds from the takeout for the purpose of stabling and vanning from .94 percent to 1.06 percent. The takeout amount withheld from bettors is unchanged. Elsewhere, medical experts from the University of California at Davis provided an update on the spread of the West Nile Virus and its threat to California. Dr. Ron Jensen, the CHRB equine medical director, said the viral disease is likely to reach here sometime this year, most likely in August or September. The disease, which is sometimes fatal to humans, horses, and other animals, is present in bird populations and transmitted by mosquitoes. Dr. Gregory Ferraro of the Center for Equine Health at Davis said the principal methods of preventing the spread of the disease are mosquito abatement and vaccination. He urged vaccinating all horses in California now followed by booster shots every four to six months. Peter Tunney, representing Magna Entertainment Corp., the owner of Golden Gate Fields, reported that it could be another 90 days before the new equine medical clinic under construction in the stable area will be completed. Several racing commissioners and representatives of the Thoroughbred Owners of California criticized the delay, noting the project has been promised since April of 2000. Commissioner Alan Landsburg cautioned Magna that if substantial progress is not made in the next 30 days, the Board will consider assessing a substantial fine against the company. Dave Payton, an executive with Autotote, reported there has been little if any progress in the effort to overcome security constraints that prevent tracks from offering bettors the opportunity to designate alternate selections in multiple-race wagers, such as the Pick 6. California was the first state to offer alternate selections in the mid-1990s, but new security software that was introduced last fall to ensure the integrity of the pari-mutuel wagering system forced the elimination of alternate selections. Payton said all of the totalizator companies will be represented at the upcoming annual convention of the Racing Commissioners International, and this subject will be addressed at that gathering. Payton will provide an update to the CHRB after the RCI convention. The CHRB staff reported that Advance Deposit Wagering handle totaled $216 million from January 25, 2002, through February 28, 2003, representing 7.8 percent of the $2.76 billion combined California on-track, off-track, and ADW handle for that same period.