CHRB meeting highlights

Two of the larger issues discussed at Tuesday’s regular monthly California Horse Racing Board meeting dealt with Hollywood Park racing and when the track will shut down and the Chapter 11 bankruptcy concerning Santa Anita parent company Magna Entertainment Corp.

The following are exceprts from the CHRB press release:

Hollywood Park’s president informed the Board that the Inglewood racetrack would conduct its scheduled meet this fall, but when asked by racing commissioners for a longer-term commitment, track President Jack Liebau said he was not in a position to commit to racing beyond this calendar year.

When the Board approved the 2009 racing calendar last November, Hollywood Park was awarded fall dates (November 11 through December 21). Even though the track had not committed to racing beyond its spring-summer meet, expectations had been that Hollywood Park would race in the fall. But when Hollywood Park’s owner recently unveiled plans to the City of Inglewood for a mixed-use development on the 238-acre property that would include a retail district, office space, and nearly 3,000 residential units, the Board placed the matter on the agenda for the meeting.

“Yes, Hollywood Park will be conducting its fall meet,” Liebau confirmed without elaboration. Chairman John Harris and Vice Chairman David Israel both asked Liebau whether he could give any assurances of racing beyond this fall. Liebau said he could not. Harris expressed his hope that Hollywood Park would continue its racing operation, and he encouraged others to voice their support for racing in Inglewood beyond 2009.

A representative of Magna Entertainment Corp. (MEC) provided an update on MEC’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, including motions concerning the sale of Santa Anita, Golden Gate Fields, and other MEC-owned properties, and the status of funds due to various industry programs considered vital to on-going racing operations. Gregg Scoggins, MEC’s national director for regulatory affairs, said the funding issues are being reviewed and he might have something to report within a week. Scoggins said the bankruptcy judge already approved $13.4 million in debtor-in-possession financing, and the judge will consider motions to approve another $49 million on March 27. Other issues scheduled to be heard either March 27 or at hearings in April include MEC motions for the setting of procedures for the auctioning of MEC assets. MEC proposes bidding and auctioning timetables that could lead to the sales of racetrack properties in early August. Additional information about the MEC bankruptcy process, including hearing dates, court documents and court orders, can be obtained at this Web site (

After the meeting, Harris stressed that several persons in the racing industry expressed concerns about delays in the distribution of funds that MEC held in trust for various programs and operations that are not believed to be general creditors, including the Stabling and Vanning Fund and satellite location fees. He noted their fear that these programs might be forced to close down – to the detriment of Santa Anita and Golden Gate’s continuing operations and the overall industry – if payments are not made soon. Harris said that although all pari-mutuel tickets have been and will be paid, the bankruptcy filing has delayed the distribution of millions of dollars from pari-mutuel wagering due to other beneficiaries, including $1.2 million in license fees due the State of California.

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