California Track Shuffles Schedule Due to Energy Shortage

California Horse Racing Board chairman Robert Tourtelot on Thursday authorized the Los Alamitos Quarter Horse Racing Association to conduct its Friday racing program in the afternoon, beginning with a 12:35 p.m. post. The change, along with permitting the association to race Saturday and Sunday afternoons if necessary, is in the interest of conserving electrical energy during the current shortage, according to a statement from the CHRB.

According to the CHRB, the situation will be reviewed next week to determine any long-term solution that might be required, according to CHRB executive director Roy Wood. The Los Angeles Turf Club, which conducts daytime thoroughbred racing at Santa Anita Park, supported the decision to temporarily run the nightly Quarter Horse programs at Los Alamitos during the afternoons.

For California racetracks, the state's electricity crisis has been a day-to-day affair. The utility companies haven't disclosed their plans for rolling blackouts. All businesses can do, like Santa Anita, is wait for that call and then go into action.

"Although we've lived with this threat for many months, we are confident things would run smoothly in the event of a rolling blackout," said Alex Furer, plant superintendent at Santa Anita Park. "But this is something we can't control."

The track does receive a reduced rate from Edison on the condition Santa Anita officials will lower the amount of energy used or shut down power altogether. If Santa Anita doesn't abide by Edison rules, the track will be hit with a stiff fine.

If a rolling blackout should occur, that 10-minute warning given by Edison only gives the track a small window of time.

Track officials said racing wouldn't stop, although the tote boards would be shut down. The wagering information, which is controlled by computers, wouldn't be lost. Furer said there are about 22 tote machines that could be up and running during a blackout.

Escalators and elevators would be immediately turned off before the blackout to ensure no one gets hurt or trapped. The track is equipped with an emergency generator that would provide lighting.

After the entire Santa Anita staff is informed about the blackout, a general announcement would be made to the public. Although fans are aware of the energy crisis, some say they don't trust the track's betting system.