A recent item in the Los Angeles Times caught our attention, not so much because of the news value (a report that the L.A. County Fair will lease Hollywood Park to run its Fairplex Park dates), but because of the following comment made by Sherwood Chillingworth, executive vice president of the Oak Tree Racing Association. Oak Tree leases Santa Anita for its annual fall meeting that comes on the heels of 18 consecutive days of racing at Fairplex Park.
"Fairplex going to Hollywood would not be beneficial to Oak Tree," said Chillingworth. "A strong meet just in front of ours is bound to impact Oak Tree in a number of ways. But such a switch would be in the best interests of the industry, and that's always what Oak Tree has been about. So on those grounds I don't see how Oak Tree would want to oppose the move."
A cynic might ask, "What's the catch?"
Maybe, just maybe, there isn't one. As Chillingworth said, Oak Tree's raison d'etre is doing what's good for the Thoroughbred industry. That has been its mantra since 1969, when the not-for-profit organization operated its first race meeting.
Perhaps Chillingworth's remarks will set a new tone for a spirit of cooperation within our industry. Imagine if we were to read the following make-believe headlines and comments sometime in the near future:
'Florida Tracks in Harmony'--"I have always considered John Brunetti to be looking out for the best interests of racing," said Gulfstream Park's Doug Donn, "and I am delighted that he and Hialeah Park are onboard with us at Magna and with the management of Churchill Downs Inc. to resolve, once and for all, questions about racing dates and stabling in South Florida. All of us can accomplish more by working together than by fighting with each other."
'Drug Accord on Horizon'--"Some of these folks concerned with the medication rules we have here in Kentucky have a very good point," said Dr. Alex Harthill, president of the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. "I'm sure we can reach an agreement that will lead to model rules that every racing commission can accept, even if it means we have to make some changes in our own state."
'Magna Leans Toward TVG'--"To give account wagering in California the best chance to succeed, we're going to do everything possible to reach an agreement with TVG," said Jack Liebau, director of California racing for Magna Entertainment, which owns Santa Anita Park, Bay Meadows, and Golden Gate Fields. "If our races aren't on television, we've lost our best chance to increase the sport's popularity."
'Racing Regulators to Merge'--"Both sides recognize the absurdity of having two trade organizations representing racing commissions," said Sherry Strebel, president of the North American Pari-Mutuel Regulators Association, which split off from the Association of Racing Commissioners International in 1997. "We're not going to worry about what caused this situation, but we are going to make sure there is just one organization representing pari-mutuel regulators."
'The New, New York City OTB'--"In addition to working more closely than ever with the New York Racing Association, we've conducted an exhaustive survey of our patrons," said NYC OTB president Maury Satin. "We plan to respond to their needs and do our part to support live racing in this state in any way we can."
'NTRA Plans New Ad Campaign'--"In the spirit of consensus, we've decided to establish a new approval process for our next television advertising campaign," said Tim Smith, commissioner of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. "Anyone who pays dues to the NTRA, or has considered paying dues to us, will have an opportunity to give a 'thumbs up' or 'thumbs down' to any new campaign we prepare. We hope to find something that will make everyone happy by 2025."