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Dates for horse racing next year draw criticism

Horses break from the gate for the third race on opening day at Del Mar.
Horses break from the gate for the third race on opening day at Del Mar on July 17.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The desire to cut the amount of horse racing in California was put on hold by the California Horse Racing Board on Thursday, when it decided to postpone the decision on dark weeks and Los Alamitos. Instead, the CHRB awarded dates to just Santa Anita and Del Mar.

The action came during an angst-filled meeting at a hotel near Del Mar that started outside with anti-horse racing protesters outnumbered by counter protesters and ended many hours later with a public comment period during which horse racing came under attack.

The 20-item agenda stalled when it reached No. 18, a discussion of the 2020 racing dates. For about an hour the discussion revolved around who was involved in the decision. The California Thoroughbred Trainers and Los Alamitos expressed dismay that they were not party to any private discussions on next year’s racing dates.

Jack Libeau, a vice-president at Los Alamitos, and Alan Balch, executive director of the CTT, believed the process was not inclusive. Their animosity was not directed at the CHRB as much as the Thoroughbred Owners of California, Santa Anita and Del Mar, whose private discussions led to next year’s racing schedule.

Horse racing newsletter. Jockey Kent Desormeaux was fined $200 for using the riding crop more than three times.
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Under the now-approved partial schedule, Santa Anita has race dates from Dec. 18 to June 23. However, the pre-Christmas dates are for simulcast revenue only and the track won’t open until its usual Dec. 26. In addition, the track was awarded 12 flex or rain dates when they can cancel racing. The expectation is these dates would occur when the weather was bad or the track had difficulty filling cards with horses.

The second meeting will be Sept. 9 to Oct. 27. The track will race three days a week in September and four in October.

Del Mar was awarded dates from July 8 to Sept. 8, with the first two weeks being simulcast only. The fall meeting would be from Oct. 28 until Dec. 1. The summer meeting would be five days a week with the fall meeting only three days, except Thanksgiving week.

Under the current plan, Los Alamitos would be cut to four weeks. Two would be from June 24 until July 7, in which the first week belongs to the track and the second week will belong to the L.A. County Fair. The second fair meeting will be from Dec. 2-15.

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Ed Allred, chairman and owner of Los Alamitos, said that with fewer daytime thoroughbred dates, his track couldn’t survive with just nighttime racing during those weeks. He said the track needs a thoroughbred lead-in so that his nighttime quarter-horse racing can survive.

Both Los Alamitos dates and Northern California dates will be discussed next month.


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