1/ST Racing Says It May Sell Or Close Santa Anita

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1/ST Racing, the owners of Santa Anita, have threatened to close or sell the “Great Race Place,” making the threats on the eve of a critical meeting of the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) in which the future of racing in the northern half of the state will be decided. Santa Anita has been calling for racing to shut down in the North, which, it believes, will help strengthen racing at Santa Anita and the other Southern California tracks.

The story was first reported by John Cherwa in the Los Angeles Times.

With 1/ST set to close Golden Gate Fields on June 9, the future of Northern California racing is very much up in the air. Hoping to save racing in that part of the state, Pleasanton, a fair track, will ask the CHRB to approve a 10-week meeting that would run from Oct. 19 to Dec. 15.

If those dates are approved, it may complicate Santa Anita's efforts to reallocate revenue from simulcasting that is currently split between the northern and southern tracks. 1/ST is backing legislation that would reallocate simulcast money from Northern California to Southern California in the event that racing ceases to exist in the northern portion of the state. Santa Anita believes it needs the extra simulcast money to make racing viable in its part of the state.

Additionally, Santa Anita is hoping that with Golden Gate shutting down, many horsemen from that area will relocate to Santa Anita. If that happens, Santa Anita management believes it can add a fourth day to its weekly racing schedule and will be able to card races with bigger fields.

On Tuesday, Craig Fravel, the executive vice-chairman of 1/ST Racing and Gaming, sent a three-page letter to the CHRB, urging the Board not allocate the extra dates being sought by tracks that are members of the California Authority of Racing Fairs (CARF).

Fravel contended that if racing is approved at the CARF tracks “an analysis of alternatives for Santa Anita and San Luis Rey (training center) will be undertaken in short order. As noted, the current financial model and required capital expense make no sense and the consolidation of operations as discussed last year and at the January Board meeting is the only alternative that has been presented.”

Fravel also wrote that over the last five years Santa Anita has incurred operating losses in excess of $31 million while investing over $32 million in capital projects.

“The current model is simply unsustainable,” Fravel wrote.

Fravel also contended that the proposals being floated by the CARF tracks “is lacking in so much detail that it is difficult to understand what has been done over the last eight months and even more difficult to understand how the Board can be asked to put the entire thoroughbred industry in the state at risk by allocating dates on the basis of speculation.”

Fravel also said that allocating dates to the CARF tracks will lead to immediate purse cuts at Santa Anita and planned capital projects will be re-evaluated.

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