By Steve Andersen
The California Horse Racing Board voted on Thursday to allow the San Joaquin County Fair in Stockton to shift its two-week autumn race meeting to the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton for one year. The vote followed a contentious 90-minute discussion which included opposition from horsemen’s groups and Golden Gate Fields.
San Joaquin County officials told racing board commissioners that their 2015 fair last September was unprofitable and that they sought a shift for 2016 to a different venue for financial reasons. Racing at the 2015 San Joaquin fair did not coincide with the rest of county fair activities, held on the property in June.
Officials with Golden Gate Fields, the Thoroughbred Owners of California, and the California Thoroughbred Trainers asked the racing board to postpone a vote on the matter until the racing board’s May meeting to allow for more discussion.
There were discussions Thursday about shifting the two weeks of racing in question – from Sept. 21 to Oct. 4 – to Golden Gate Fields, but the idea failed to gain traction with the entire board.
Alameda County Fair officials asked the racing board for a vote on Thursday for the purposes of planning the meeting and said a postponement would jeopardize the project. Alameda officials said a delay would be costly, specifically mentioning escalating costs for television advertising in an election year as the autumn approaches.
The racing board voted 3-2 to postpone the measure for a month, but since two of the seven commissioners were absent the motion did not receive the necessary four votes to become official. A vote to approve the transfer of dates passed with a vote of 4-1. Chairman Chuck Winner, vice-chairman Richard Rosenberg, and commissioners Steve Beneto and Jesse Choper voted in favor, while Madeline Auerbach voted to oppose the move.
The Alameda County Fair is already scheduled to host the Oak Tree at Pleasanton meeting from June 15 to July 5. The racing board did not take action on approval of that meeting on Thursday because the county fair has yet to complete signed agreements with horsemen, according to Winner.