California Race Calendar OK'd With Few Changes

The California Horse Racing Board approved a 2003 racing calendar Thursday that is largely unchanged from 2002, including a 17-day fair meet at Fairplex Park in Pomona.

The 2003 calendar calls for 271 days of Thoroughbred and fair racing in Southern California and 298 days in Northern California, which is two days fewer than 2002. The northern calendar has more racing programs than the southern calendar due to 30 days of simultaneous, overlapped meets in the north.

The schedule also includes 208 nights of quarter-horse racing at Los Alamitos and 190 nights of harness racing at Cal Expo.

The Southern California thoroughbred and fair schedule begins Dec. 26 (2002) at Santa Anita Park with an 85-day meet that runs through Apr. 20.

The circuit shifts to Hollywood Park on Apr. 23 for a 65-day meet through July 20, followed by meets at Del Mar (43 days from July 23 through Sept. 10), Fairplex (Sept. 12-28), Oak Tree at Santa Anita (31 days from Oct. 1 through Nov. 9), and Hollywood Park (30 days from Nov. 12 through Dec. 21).

The Northern California Thoroughbred schedule begins with a 70-day meet at Golden Gate Fields from Dec. 26 (2002) through Mar. 30, then shifts to Bay Meadows for a 55-day meet from Apr. 2 through June 15, followed by fair meets. Toward the end of the fair season, Thoroughbred racing resumes at Bay Meadows with a 50-day meet from Aug. 29 through Nov. 2, then concludes
at Golden Gate with a 35-day meet from Nov. 5 through Dec. 21.

The northern fair circuit begins June 11 in Stockton with a 10-day meet that runs through June 22, followed by meets in Pleasanton (11 days, June 25-July 6), Vallejo (10 days, July 9-20), Santa Rosa (12 days, July 23-Aug. 4), San Mateo (12 days, Aug. 6-18), Ferndale (10 days, Aug. 7-17), Sacramento (12 days, Aug. 20-Sept. 1), and Fresno (11 days, Oct.1-13).

In developing the 2003 racing calendar, Commissioner John Harris, who is chairman of the CHRB Dates Committee, noted that he and CHRB Vice-Chairman Roger Licht conducted numerous meetings and received information from all segments of the horse-racing industry, though they did not receive as much input as they would have liked from racing fans.

Harris listed several issues that were heavily discussed, such as the Fairplex dates, in view of an effort earlier this year by management of the Los Angeles County Fair (LACF) to move the 2002 race meet from Fairplex to Santa Anita. The proposal was rejected by the CHRB.

"The dates allocated for Fairplex (in 2003) are designated to be run at their Pomona facility, and any change to that would have to be approved by the full Board and the whole issue revisited," said Harris. "The 17 days allotted would also need to be reconsidered if the venue were to change. Fairplex, in the dates hearings, seemed to indicate that they planned to utilize their Pomona facility."

LACF President James Henwood told that commissioners Thursday that handle from all sources at the recently concluded Fairplex meet was down 5 percent from the previous year.

"A drop of 5 percent, that is not the right direction. We cannot sustain that," said Henwood.

Elsewhere, CHRB staff reported that handle from Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) totaled $121.4 million from January 25 through September 29. This represents 6.8 percent of the $1.78 billion combined California on-track, off-track, and ADW handle during that period.

Licht, who chairs the CHRB Pari-Mutuel Operations (PMO) Committee, reported that these figures and other aspects of ADW were thoroughly discussed at a committee meeting Wednesday.

He said it is important for the Board to scrutinize ADW to make certain that account wagering is "increasing revenue and not cannibalizing existing handle." He also stressed the need for ADW
providers to hire California labor for their operations.

CHRB Chairman Alan Landsburg, a member of the PMO Committee, indicated his desire to expand ADW to more than the current three providers (XpressBet, TVG, and YouBet).