Letter to the Editor: The Future of the North

Golden Gate | Vassar Photography

Behind the scenes there is a battle taking place for the future of racing in Northern California.

Approximately 30 million dollars is at the center of the battle, the projected net revenue from wagering derived in the north. The projection is derived from past revenues generated annually through Thoroughbred simulcast, ADW and live racing wagering in the north.

Under current law, these funds must remain in the north, for the benefit of the north–both for horsemen and any race meet that continues to offer Thoroughbred racing in the future. The powers that be in the south, 1/ST Racing and The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club are pushing to change the law so they can use those monies “to boost” racing in the south.

At the end of the day, these changes are political–the law must be changed. Experience tells me political contributions will certainly flow, if not are flowing already, to influence legislative changes that will undercut the investment and livelihoods of hundreds of horsemen in the north.

Curiously, and disappointingly, the leadership of both the CTBA and the TOC were supportive of the change even before their members learned of it. Each personally offered statements of support to 1/ST Racing that were included in the release announcing the closure of Golden Gate. Even now I find that troubling because, to my knowledge, neither has made any effort to convene their affected members in the north to ascertain first-hand our feelings, ideas, or concerns. No efforts whatsoever.

Without use of the revenues generated in the North, the Thoroughbred industry in the north will disappear. The significant investments made by many of us will be lost without any apparent regard by leadership elected by and for the purpose of representing our interests too.

I'm told neither board has even taken a vote on these issues, yet their chairs and paid executives open and privately advocate for the plans laid out by 1/ST Racing.

Having previously spent time myself on both these boards, I cannot recall a single instance prior leadership ever committed those organizations to such important positions without first having convened membership, held meaningful discussion and debate, then taken action/a vote of the board then made public to their members.

When did the genuine concerns and interests of TOC and CTBA members cease to matter to the leadership of those organizations?

When members' interests are no longer valued by the chair, the chair really should ask themselves, am I still the right person for this job?

Should this become the end of racing in the north, California Thoroughbred owners will have less than half the opportunities to run their horses and breeders will have lost venues that previously hosted races filled by nearly 70% Cal-breds.

All of us should be asking TOC and CTBA leadership why these issues have not come to the forefront in direct discussion and engagement with affected members.

Northern California horsemen and women have a right to know what the lobbyists for these organizations are saying and doing about these legislative changes. We should know how each board member voted on these issues and the minutes of each organization should explain to members why each organization has determined–for the benefit of all its members–to act as they are.

Members of each organization should openly question and challenge those boards and hold them accountable just as we do other elected representatives. They voluntarily chose to represent our collective interests. They have a duty and obligation to explain why they are proceeding in the manner they seem to be, while what seems like a majority of us believe otherwise.

As one owner to another, one breeder to another, I ask you to think about these issues and then join me in asking some serious questions of the TOC and CTBA boards.

–Tom Bachman, Owner and Breeder

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