How Frank Stronach handles his appearance before the California Horse Racing Board today to talk about his vision for the future of racing in California could go a long way in determining his legacy in the sport.
If Stronach sold Santa Anita and got out of the game today, his legacy would be that of a failed race track operator. He talks about the sport being broken, but he is a major reason why the game is broken. Decisions like the one to terminate his lease with the Oak Tree Racing Association, which potentially cost Santa Anita a slew of upcoming Breeders’ Cups, are more the rule rather than the exception.
Stronach has gone on record as saying he feels tracks should be able to open and race any time they like without the interference of the CHRB doling out racing dates each year. I have a feeling if Stronach had his way, he’d operate Santa Anita much like Los Alamitos and run year-round. Of course, with shrinking purses and smaller field sizes, the question is how many horsemen and fans would attend?
If Stronach is smart, he won’t show up at Hollywood Park making demands and saying it’s his way or the highway. This is the time when he needs to sound a conciliatory tone and try to work with other racing officials. He should raise his concerns and give his ideas about how to fix things but avoid issuing ultimatums.
Which Stronach will appear at Hollywood Park? It’s anybody’s guess. We’re not even sure if he’ll reveal today what type of racing surface will be installed at Santa Anita in time for the 2010-11 meet. Oak Tree is still salvagable, but don’t count on that happening. Hollywood Park is likely to host the Oak Tree meet this fall.
Today’s meeting, with Stronach listed as No. 15 on a 17-item agenda, promises to be an interesting one. If you have an interest in the sport, you’ll want to tune in to the CHRB’s webcast, which begins at 9:30 a.m. You can find the link at www.chrb.ca.gov.
Have a seat and get comfortable. This meeting, originally scheduled for Thursday, was moved forward a few weeks ago to a non-racing day. Sound thinking there. Otherwise, the horses might be loading into the gate for the first race about the same time the meeting is really getting lively.