California Racing Board Still Without a Quorum

By Debbie Arrington
No appointees sprung out of the woodwork at the California Horse Racing Board's meeting Wednesday in Sacramento. That left Golden Gate Fields on hold.

Commission chairman Bob Tourtelot looked out over the dozens of faces in the Hilton Arden West meeting room and decided he had to ask. "If anyone here is from the governor's office, please raise your hand," Tourtelot said. But no surprise appointee popped up in the audience, leaving the board that governs state racing with only three members and no quorum.

As a result, the board had to cancel its meeting and put off most of its business until Dec. 1, its next regularly scheduled date, at Los Alamitos Race Course in Cypress.

However, two issues can't wait that long: the license for Golden Gate Fields' new season, scheduled to open next Wednesday, Nov. 15; and track owner Magna Entertainment's request to rearrange the 2001 racing calendar for its two Northern California venues, Golden Gate and Bay Meadows. Magna would like to lengthen Golden Gate's Nov. 15-Jan. 15 meet into early April, incorporating Bay Meadows' late winter and early spring dates. Then, Bay Meadows would take Golden Gate's April through June dates.

Those topics will be heard at a special meeting by teleconference next Tuesday at the CHRB's Sacramento headquarters. That is, if Gov. Gray Davis appoints someone to the seven-member panel. The governor's office sent word to CHRB officials that Davis is working on the problem.

"I had some hope someone would walk in that door and say they're an appointee," said Tourtelot. "But it didn't happen...We're in a place we've never been in before."

The board was also left quorumless last September, but no licenses needed immediate attention. California state law allows boards to call special meetings for emergency business, but a quorum would still be needed.

Golden Gate's Peter Tunney jokingly volunteered to play appointee if it would speed up his track's approval process. Tunney came prepared with a voluminous report detailing Golden Gate's $5-million backstretch makeover. That investment was a condition placed on Magna when it bought the Albany track last December.

Most of that work was not begun until August due to delays in plans and permits. "We've been doing a yeoman job in making these improvements in the stable area and to the turf course," said Tunney. "The backstretch looks brand new."

Commissioners Sheryl Granzella and Marie Moretti had both recently visited Golden Gate's barn area and came away impressed.

"If you've ever been to Golden Gate, you wouldn't recognize the place," said Granzella. "They've done an incredible job." Added Moretti, "I've been to Golden Gate many, many times on the back side and it was in bad shape. I was very pleased that this was not just a cosmetic job. They've done a fabulous job in a short time."