Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Plan Endorsed by CHRB

The Oak Tree Racing Association at Santa Anita will get an additional day of racing Sept. 28, allowing it to run four Breeders' Cup prep races under a plan endorsed Friday by the California Horse Racing Board.

The action will require the approval of the California Legislature since the additional day would put the total number of racing dates statewide over the approved limit. But the association worked out a deal with the Los Angeles County Fair to allow Oak Tree to overlap with the final day of the Fairplex meeting, said the association's vice president, Sherwood Chillingworth. Now that the plan has the CHRB's support, he anticipated no snafus with the legislature.

"We agreed to make them whole, including commissions, purses and ancillary income," Chillingworth said afterward. "That means that if they are down by 10 percent based on the first 16 days of their meet (compared to 2002), then that's the amount we pay to compensate them" for the final day of the Fairplex meet.

"We think we will lose some money," Chillingworth added, but he couldn't estimate how much.

Chillingworth said it will be worth it. "We've got a commitment for five hours of national television coverage (on ESPN)," he noted.

Santa Anita hosts the Breeders' Cup on Oct. 25. Oak Tree will have a one-hour Breeders' Cup special on ESPN on Sept. 28 that will feature live broadcast of the Yellow Ribbon (gr. I) for older fillies and mares on the turf and the Clement Hirsch Memorial (gr. I) for older horses on the turf. Additionally, Oak Tree will run the Oak Leaf (gr. II) for 2-year-old fillies and the Lady's Secret (gr. II) for older fillies and mares that same day. On the following Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 4 and 5, Oak Tree will have a prime role in ESPN's two-hour "Racing to the Breeders' Cup" telecasts, Chillingworth said.

He said it was vital to get the CHRB's backing by the end of February in order to gain ESPN's commitment.

To make it work, Oak Tree and Fairplex will stagger their races 15 minutes apart during that shared Sunday.

James Henwood, chief executive officer for the LACF, noted that the Breeders' Cup and National Thoroughbred Racing Association will spotlight the fair racing meet in feature spots.

"We are very unique to California racing," he said. "The NTRA will be focusing on that."