The Stronach Group – owners of Golden Gate Fields race track – and the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) are digging in their heels with differing opinions that may result in Golden Gate closing their doors as soon as this summer.
The Stronach Group is due to apply for originally scheduled racing dates starting Aug. 22 through Oct. 2 at this Thursday’s CHRB meeting, but the application will not include support of the Northern California Off-Track Wagering Inc. (NOTWINC) brick and mortar simulcast facilities, resulting in no Golden Gate signal being sent to that network of off-track betting facilities.
The CHRB believes Golden Gate has the legal right to withdraw from supporting the simulcast organization as long as it negotiates an agreement unilaterally with those 10 brick and mortar facilities.
There are no plans for such an agreement from the Stronach Group, and the result may be the CRHB declining to approve Golden Gate’s license application for their summer meet.
According to a release from the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC), those 10 satellite facilities handled a total of $108.4 million in 2017, accounting for 41% of total wagering in Northern California. Purse revenues generated from the satellites totaled $6.6 million, which represented 46% of the total purse revenue generated.
If the handle could be moved in its entirety to Advance Deposit Wagering companies like TVG, Xpress Bet, and Twin Spires, then the reduced expenses of maintaining those facilities makes sense.
However, it is also very possible the handle increase through the ADW companies would not compensate for the lost revenue through NOTWINC, leaving Golden Gate vulnerable to going into the negative.
Coming off a winter/spring Golden Gate meet where total handle was more than $45 million above 2017 levels, to be in such a precarious position is concerning.
We will find out in Thursday’s meeting if both sides remain firm with their stances and if in fact the application for summer racing dates at Golden Gate is declined by the CHRB.
In any case, the best scenario would be to get this standoff resolved now and not put off this decision to a later meeting. The horsemen need time to relocate if there is no racing at Golden Gate in August. If they leave, it will not be easy to bring those horsemen back given the housing and labor costs in Northern California.
SA wind up
After six months, the Santa Anita meet finally comes to an end this week. Here are some of the highs and lows for a meet that started the day after Christmas.
The development of Justify. Going from a never-started Maiden in February to an undefeated Triple Crown winner shattered all kinds of records. What trainer Bob Baffert and his staff did getting Justify prepared at Santa Anita for his unprecedented spring campaign was truly remarkable.
No cancellations due to a lack of entries. The Santa Anita turf course was able to withstand much more use than in years past and that enabled the racing office to produce cards that included added races on Saturdays.
Jockey Giovanni Franco. He has established himself as a solid member of the Southern California riding colony. Franco showed he can ride the turf and dirt equally well.
Improved handle. Increases in handle led to increased purses the final three weeks of the meet. Santa Anita overcame a purse overpayment (deficit) situation to start the meet and did well enough to actually boost purses for horsemen.
There were some lowlights too.
The Stewards. There were far too many controversial and questionable calls and non-calls made by the stewards at the meet. So much so the stewards became a major topic at a recent California Horse Racing Board meeting. Let’s hope the attention leads to better performance or changes as to which stewards will be assigned to Los Alamitos and Del Mar this summer. Like good umpires, the less you know they are there the better the job they are doing.
Changing post times. Santa Anita had full momentum right through Justify’s Santa Anita Derby win in early April when the decision was made to experiment and move first post time to an earlier 12 p.m. The immediate result was a drop in early Pick Five and on-track handle. Santa Anita recovered and in fact saw some increase in handle back east, but each wagering dollar on track is worth much more.
Horseplayers are creatures of habit. The change seemed ill-timed and did hurt momentum before the experiment was discontinued six weeks later.
Santa Anita’s satellite wagering signal. As someone who works from my home office, I rely on the satellite wagering signal many days while wagering on Santa Anita. Satellite signal hostesses Megan Devine and Michelle Yu have plenty of good information to share with those watching, but I find those messages tend to get lost in the never-ending chatter. I find myself tuning out and hitting the mute button and in fact have missed playing some races at Santa Anita during the meet simply because I did not know the races were running. I am sure this is not the goal of Santa Anita. A word of advice – sometimes less is more.
Play of the Week
Santa Anita, Thursday, Race 1 – Mongolian Window (post 3). Trainer John Sadler drops this filly in price and she is reunited with jockey Tyler Baze, who was aboard for the win over the same downhill course April 15. If she loses, Sadler gets her eligible for the starter Allowance races at Del Mar, so this looks like a win-win situation for the stable.