ARCADIA, Calif. (June 15, 2016) -- The 2017 racing calendar in Southern California may have fewer racing days at Los Alamitos compared to recent years, or could look similar to the 2014 and 2015 seasons, according to discussions at a California Horse Racing Board dates committee meeting at Santa Anita on Wednesday.
The meeting, which lasted more than two hours, was the first public discussion on racing dates at venues throughout the state for 2017. Executives with racetracks and horsemen’s organizations spoke before the three-person committee consisting of chairman Chuck Winner and commissioners Steve Beneto and George Krikorian.
No final plans were determined for 2017 dates in Southern and Northern California, with conversations expected to continue in coming weeks. A summary of Wednesday’s meeting will be discussed at Thursday’s meeting of the racing board. Final decisions on racing dates for 2017 is likely by the end of summer, or September.
Wednesday, the focus of discussions on Southern California dates was whether Los Alamitos will host a two-week meeting in the first six months of the year. Del Mar and Santa Anita presented a joint calendar that did not include a Los Alamitos meeting during that time span and left a week without racing in early July between the close of a proposed six-month marathon meeting at Santa Anita from Dec. 26, 2016 to July 4, 2017, and the start of the Del Mar summer meeting on July 14, 2017.
Santa Anita had a similar schedule during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons, ending the marathon meeting in late June in time for a two-week Los Alamitos summer meeting before Del Mar’s summer meeting.
Santa Anita officials said they did not want a calendar similar to the one used this year in which Los Alamitos conducted a three-week meeting in April, which broke the marathon Santa Anita meeting into two sections. Track officials said the break resulted in a decline in business when the spring-summer meeting resumed in early May. Officials cited the loss of momentum in business from the end of the winter-spring meeting in early April.
Los Alamitos officials requested eight weeks of racing for the year – two consecutive weeks in the first half of the year, three weeks for the Los Angeles County Fair meeting from Sept. 7-24 and an autumn meeting from Nov. 30 to Dec. 17. The dates for the latter two meetings are not in dispute.
Santa Anita officials protested the idea of Los Alamitos holding two weeks of racing during the summer, saying they did not want to give up a week of racing in early July. Krikorian explored the idea of giving Los Alamitos two weeks in the summer, asking Santa Anita officials what week they would give up if they had to accommodate a two-week meeting for Los Alamitos. Santa Anita officials bristled when pressed on giving up a week during the summer, saying the track was already losing a week of racing in the autumn.
Under the proposed calendar, Del Mar will have two meetings – from July 14 to Sept. 4 and Nov. 1-26. The November meeting will include the Breeders’ Cup races on Nov. 3-4. Santa Anita’s autumn meeting would run from Sept. 28 to Oct. 29.
A lengthy discussion on Northern California dates focused on several proposed calendars for the fair circuit and the start date of a Golden Gate summer-autumn meeting in late August. No agreement was reached for race dates of the Cal-Expo Fair in Sacramento in July, Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa in July or August, or racing dates allotted to the San Joaquin County Fair which are proposed to be run at Pleasanton and not Stockton in San Joaquin county.
Another issue unresolved was whether the Humboldt County Fair in Ferndale would run without opposition for one week and overlap with the start of the Golden Gate Fields summer-autumn meeting for its second and final week in late August, a subject that has been discussed annually in recent years.