SoCal Dates Set; Cal Expo Could Race Nights in '23

Benoit

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The California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) on Thursday approved a 2023 schedule for the Southern California circuit that largely mirrors this year's version.

A final vote on the Northern California schedule was put off until the CHRB's October meeting.

But one new idea floated for the NorCal circuit during the Sep. 15 meeting could involve the Cal Expo state fair meet running either twilight or night programs next year.

Concerns over dangerously high temperatures during July, when Cal Expo is expected to receive its three-week block of dates, were cited by CHRB vice chair Oscar Gonzales as a reason for moving away from afternoon first posts.

The Sacramento track is already equipped with lights for the harness meet that it conducts in other parts of the year.

“We are prepared to help the industry, as we have in the past,” said Rick Pickering, the chief executive officer and general manager for the California Exposition and State Fair, adding that Thursday was the first time any NorCal stakeholders or CHRB members have approached him about running under the lights.

“The top priority for us is the safety of the people, the jockeys, the racing individuals, and the safety of the horses. If that's what it takes to have the best possible safe meet, let's take a look at that and see what it takes to make it actually happen,” Pickering said.

Pickering said that there are no evening concerts that use the horse racing grandstand during the fair, and although fireworks shows are sometimes scheduled, they begin at 10 p.m., presumably after racing would be finished for the night.

“Heat is something we're paying attention to. And if that's what we need to do to keep the animals and the people safe, your state fair wants to be cutting edge. We don't want to be, 'We thought about it after the fact.'”

The CHRB annually awards its race dates weekly blocks that determine simulcasting privileges. An issue that arose Thursday was which SoCal track would get those privileges during the non-racing cushion week between the county fair meet at Los Alamitos and Del Mar.

Recently, Del Mar has been awarded the simulcasting designation for that time slot, and it will again retain that week in '23.

But the board did include language in its approved motion that could shift one week of simulcasting privileges to Los Alamitos in 2024. It wouldn't necessarily have to be a July week and could come elsewhere in the calendar year, the CHRB discussed.

Gonzales altered his motion to approve '23 SoCal race dates so it stated, “with an amendment that in 2024 the intent of the board will be to award a dark week with that revenue stream to Los Alamitos.”

The vote on the SoCal dates was 6-1, with commissioner Wendy Mitchell opposing.

Prior to the vote, Mitchell had expressed concerns about making guarantees to license applicants about what the board might vote on for 2024.

“I would like us to look at the two-year calendar versus kind of just doing this ad hoc when [track applicants] pitch a hissy fit,” Mitchell said.

So the '23 SoCal schedule will be as follows (again, with dates allocations in blocks, and actual race dates to be approved by the CHRB just prior to each meet):

Santa Anita-Dec. 21, 2022 to June 20, 2023

Los Alamitos (LA County Fair)-June 21 to July 11

Del Mar-July 12 to Sept. 12

Los Alamitos-Sept. 13 to 26

Santa Anita-Sept. 27 to Nov. 7

Del Mar-Nov. 8 to Dec. 5

Los Alamitos-Dec. 6 to 19

 

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