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Santa Anita is not for sale, TSG executive says amid speculation

A horse takes a morning exercise run at Santa Anita Park
The Stronach Group has no plans to sell Santa Anita or any of its horse racing tracks, an executive told The Times on Wednesday.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

A long-held rumor in Southern California horse racing circles is that Santa Anita will be sold off and turned into a much more lucrative real estate project. So, it was understandable that tensions rose dramatically after a Bloomberg news report on Tuesday said that the Stronach Group plans to sell some of its assets.

Aidan Butler, chef operating officer for TSG’s racing division, unequivocally answered the question about Santa Anita’s immediate future.

“The tracks are not for sale,” Butler told The Times on Wednesday.

“It’s super frustrating that this narrative of selling keeps coming up. It’s nothing but pure speculation.”

Butler was not just referring to the company’s two California tracks, Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields, but all the TSG tracks.

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Pushing Sixty was injured in the first race Sunday at Santa Anita and was later euthanized, becoming the 11th horse fatality at the track since December.

“We’re putting $10 million-plus into Gulfstream (in south Florida) to add a Tapeta [synthetic] course, add night racing and a new tote board and new barn area because of [the closure of] Calder,” Butler said.

“We’re got a huge project at Laurel [in Maryland]. We’re piling a lot of cash into making the racing surface as safe as it can be. And there is also the $400-million Maryland redevelopment project.”

Pimlico Race Course, home of the Preakness Stakes, will partially be torn down and rebuilt.

“Race tracks are a never-ending saga of improvement,” Butler said.

If a race track were to be sold, it’s highly unlikely it would be kept as a racing facility so any improvements would be wasted money. The value isn’t in the business but the land it sits on.

Given Gulfstream’s now nearly year-around schedule it made sense to install lights to add night racing especially during Florida’s oppressively hot summer. So, is adding lights so that Santa Anita may one day race at night in its future?

This is the final week of the horse racing newsletter

“Night racing has a place for certain days, especially during the weekday when people are working,” Butler said. “It’s a very nice event. But there are problems if you run it on the West Coast because it would be too late for everybody on the East Coast [to bet]. You would have to get everybody back there all caffeinated up to keep from snoozing.

“But Gulfstream [on the East Coast] is the perfect location, and it can line up with Santa Anita’s schedule.”

Butler would not elaborate on what, if anything, might be in negotiations but said: “It’s such a big company there is always some kind of deal being discussed be it a small parcel of land or something else. But it’s not the tracks.”

So, the Santa Anita sale rumor is put to bed yet again. Until the next time.


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