MI Developments, the new parent company of Santa Anita, will announce Tuesday that president Ron Charles is leaving as track president, according to a source.
Charles has been president of Santa Anita since 2004 and oversaw the track’s installation of two different synthetic surfaces during his tenure, including the initial Cushion Track in time for the 2007 Oak Tree meet.
One of the main reasons Charles is leaving is because of MI Developments’ decision to terminate its agreement with the Oak Tree Racing Association last week, according to the source who requested anonymity because he’s not authorized to talk about the subject.
It’s not known if Charles, thought by some to be a leading proponent of synthetic surfaces, is leaving on his own or is being forced out. Santa Anita is currently in the process of deciding whether to return to a dirt track or stick with a synthetic.
MI Developments is still under the umbrella of Frank Stronach, who is a known anti-synthetic man but says he went along with the California Horse Racing Board’s mandate for artificial surfaces for the good of the sport in California.
Charles’ departure comes at a time when horse racing is struggling big time, particularly in California where some horsemen are fleeing the scene because of shrinking purse sizes and a shortage of horses.
There was no immediate word on who will succeed Charles, who took on added responsibilities with former owner Magna Entertainment Corp., which filed for Chapter 11 in March 2009, in 2008.