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.