Harris’ dissenting vote on Hollypark a curious move

I find it interesting that CHRB Chairman John Harris would cast a dissenting vote on a measure allowing Hollywood Park to operate four-day race weeks for the remainder of its spring-summer meeting. If there are not enough horses to fill races, what is Hollywood Park supposed to do? I for one don’t like going to the track and seeing a mess of six- and seven-horse fields. Perhaps if Northern California, with reportedly half the horse population, is making a go of it as Harris alludes, then the officials up there should be called down and asked to give a report on how they’re doing it. If the answer is running with a mess of five- and six-horse fields, like Golden Gate Fields did in six of its eight races on May 21, well, I don’t really want to hear it. Golden Gates’ largest field size on May 21? Eight horses, folks. Wow, there is a whole lot of betting value there, huh?

Here’s an excerpt from a press release sent by the CHRB regarding its meeting this past Friday:

Chairman Harris, who cast the dissenting vote, pointed to the damage done to Northern California racing and lost jobs throughout the state as sound reasons for voting against the proposal. He later elaborated that he also was very disappointed to see Hollywood Park not committed to abiding by its licensing agreement that the Board had approved just a few months earlier, feeling that such agreements should mean something and reflect what the parties to the license thought was a realistic plan. He said he could not believe that with all the thoroughbreds stabled in Southern California, Hollywood Park could not conduct a viable five-day weekly program. He commended Northern California for their good-faith efforts to race five days a week with only about half the horse population of the south. He felt that the damage done and precedents set by going to a four-day week were of grave concern, and the Board needs to show more empathy for third-party impacts. He also elaborated that while the CHRB had requested more detailed economic assessments of the changes proposed, he felt that no detailed economic impact reports were made available.

I would agree with Harris that the real people being hurt here are the third-party people — the vendors, the folks who sell the programs and work the parking lot, the pari-mutuel clerks, et al — but for a long time now there has been too much racing in Southern California. It started, really, with the beginning of the Hollywood Park autumn meet in 1981. Whereas before there was no thoroughbred racing in Southern California from the end of Oak Tree until the beginning of the regular Santa Anita meet on Dec. 26, now we have racing virtually year-round and it’s quite frankly become pretty stale. There used to be a real buzz in the industry and amongst fans around the time Santa Anita was preparing to open because there had been no racing for more than a month, but now it seems the opening of Santa Anita is a ho-hum experience. Hollywood Park concludes its autumn meet, there is no racing for four or five days and then Santa Anita opens. Nothing special about that.

I also find it interesting that Harris brings up the fact that “no detailed economic impact reports were made available” regarding the cutback to four-day race weeks. Strange, but I seem to remember there were no detailed statistical reports made available to the CHRB before former head Richard Shapiro mandated the installation of synthetic tracks a while back. And you know what? We’re still waiting for an “independent” study to let us know how the artificial surfaces have cut down on the number of injuries — both in the mornings and during the afternoon racing. I mean, I know there has been a significant dip in injuries because that was one of the promises made before the synthetics were installed. Just like it was promised they were maintenance free. Right? Yeah, and I have some AIG stock I’m selling really cheap for anyone interested.

10 thoughts on “Harris’ dissenting vote on Hollypark a curious move

  1. John Harris and the rest of the CHRB heads over the years (Licht, Fermin and the vandalist himself) along with Drew Couto (of the TOC) have been so out-of-touch with reality.

    The CHRB (mostly the vandalist) have cultivated an elitist attitude and the erosion of racing in California can squarely be put on their shoulders.

    Many owners I know (including me) have been sending their stock out of state in the past year because of the idiotic synthetic mandate and better purses back for claiming horses. For intsance:

    * $5,000 claiming races at Penn National and Philly Park has a purse of $19,000 (Golden Gate $5,000 claimers run for a small $9,000 purse). Heck, a $16,000 claiming event at Hollywood doesn’t have a $19,000 purse!!!

    * $20,000 maiden claimers at Philly run for a $24,000 purse – whereas $25,000 maiden claimers at Hollywood run for just $14,000

    Simple economics.

    When Hollywood Park closes (I dread the day that happens – my first winner as a owner came there, it’s my home track and my formulative handicapping years took place in Inglewood), racing in California will come one step closer to extinction. The CHRB has done nothing to position California racing for the future and obviously, they cannot reverse the mess they’ve created in the first place.

  2. Patrick, I can certanly understand your frustration. If I was an owner, I’d be frustrated too … heck, I’m just a horse-racing writer with no economic stake in the sport at present, and I’m frustrated too. The lack of leadership is amazing.

  3. The CHRB is once again under poor leadership and John Harris is now the ringmaster for this group of clowns. Pretty grim outlook for racing in California when a group like the CHRB is calling the shots.

  4. I just can’t believe things like this are allowed to go on. Can’t believe what they’re doing to our sport.

  5. The California Secretary of State’s office reports that Harris “donated” tens of thousands of dollars to both Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger when Davis unsuccessfully fought off the recall effort several years ago. Harris was subsequently appointed to the CHRB. Harris has since “donated” tens of thousands of dollars to Schwarzenegger’s re-election campaigns; again, he was re-appointed after his spending spree.

    The ‘mother’s milk of politics’ has always reigned in Sacramento, no matter which party is at the helm. It’s only when the weak-willed trust fund babies are denied access to these powerful offices that sound, entrepreneurial leadership can reinvent our sport to make it attractive to fans, owners and investors again.

  6. Well after reading the CTBA Board Watch post it all makes sense now. I couldn’t agree more! Now, it makes sense as to how and why John Harris came about. I’m going to start saving my money now so I too can purchase a position on the CHRB board.

  7. In California, the Indian Casinos are in the pockets of the politicans. The Indian Casinos have also help wreck the economy in Calif. and Nevada. Horse racing doesn’t stand a chance if they allow this slide to continue in the golden state. The Purse comparison above hit the nail on the head.

  8. Don’t pay any attention to anything “CTBA Boardwatch” says. This misogynist abandoned his family, his morality, his lack of fair play to become a sociopathic loner who continually surfs the internet looking for people to blame for his own failures.

    His name is Michael Scott Power and he is a loser. Trust me, I know from long term personal experience.

  9. Leslie Shepardson’s letter is a forgery. Leslie is my ex-wife, lives in northern California, does not agree with anything in the letter, and has NO interest in the horse industry.

    The author is most likely COOKIE HACKWORTH, sales manager for the CTBA and long-time girlfriend of CTBA/CHRB director JOHN HARRIS. We outed HACKWORTH several years ago for her failing job performance (remember the CTBA’s Del Mar Sale??) and she has been hellbent for revenge ever since.

    Clearly the CTBA has much wreckage to answer for, and by diverting attention to lies such as HACKWORTH’s letter only reinforces our will to continue our work in making positive changes for the Thoroughbred industry.

    Michael Power

    co-founder
    CTBAboardwatch

  10. Michael your post doesn’t surprise me in the least. I can’t believe the CTBA is still around! The one claim to fame with the CTBA is the magazine that they publish on a monthly basis, full of one and two month old news when it hits the newstands! I use to visit the library they have before the Santa Anita races and it’s quite nice with information for the handicapper. However I had to quit going when I kept hearing all the gossip up and down the hallways from the people that work there about other people in the industry. Quite sad, really. With the failing California Breeding industry it’s just a matter of time before someone builds a new bar/restaurant on the property.

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