Oak Tree will return to Santa Anita for 2010

Who would have ever thought that thoroughbred owner Mace Siegel, who operates Jay Em Ess Racing Stable with his daughter Samantha, would help broker a deal to keep the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita in 2010?

That’s actually what happened Tuesday after Santa Anita owner Frank Stronach spent the better part of two hours telling California Horse Racing Board members during their June meeting at Hollywood Park that his company, Magna International Developments, had decided to wash its hands clean of the Oak Tree Racing Association.

“We don’t want a tenant in our house,” was Stronach’s stance. He explained that continuing to host the Oak Tree meet was not economically viable for his company.

Siegel eventually got up and proposed that Santa Anita host the Oak Tree meet for one more year, that he felt there was a miscommunication between Stronach and the Oak Tree Racing Association.

So, after Stronach agreed that he would take on Oak Tree as a tenant for 2010 under the conditions of the lease that was terminated in May, five members of the Oak Tree board huddled and agreed to the arrangement.

Stronach made it clear however that he does not want Santa Anita to host Oak Tree beyond this year, though CHRB chairman Keith Brackpool urged both parties to keep an open mind about the future.

During the meeting, CHRB commissioner Bo Derek blamed Stronach for blowing the opportunity for California to host the Breeders’ Cup for perhaps five years running beginning in 2011. The Breeders’ Cup announced earlier this month that Churchill Downs will host the event next year as well as this year’s running, partly as a result of the unresolved Oak Tree issue.

Stronach tried to turn it around on the CHRB, telling the commissioners it was their decision that led to Arcadia losing the Breeders’ Cup. How he arrived at that conclusion is anyone’s guess. He’s the one who terminated Oak Tree’s lease and led uneasy Breeders’ Cup officials to take the safe route and choose Churchill Downs.

It was typical Stronach on Tuesday, running the gamut during questioning by the board, moving from one topic to another without really addressing the questions. He said he’ll be in Southern California for the next few days and is scheduled to meet with horsemen sometime Wednesday.

That should be entertaining.

Stronach still has this crazy notion that he should be able to race whenever he wants, regardless if Hollywood Park or Del Mar are in season. It doesn’t make any sense. The fields are too short to begin with. Imagine if Hollywood Park and Santa Anita were both running today. What we’d have are a ton of match races in $8,000 claiming races and two- or three-horse fields in maiden claimers.

Quick. Where do I sign up for that?

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