Week In Review: Northern California Racing Begins Its Uphill Battle For Survival

You have to root for the people who strive so hard to make a go of racing in Northern California after Golden Gate Fields shut its doors for good June 9. Racing has a rich history in Northern California and there are hundreds of people, from hotwalkers to grooms to trainers to breeders, and everybody in between, who depend on the sport to put food on the table. They deserve better than the uncertainty that has left most everyone worrying about their futures after The Stronach Group announced it was...

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Upbeat Outlook For Pleasanton As NorCal Hub Shifts Away From Closing Golden Gate

As California begins transitioning the hub of the state's Northern circuit from the permanently closing Golden Gate Fields (June 9) to Pleasanton (June 12-July 9 and Oct. 16-Dec. 25, with other county fair meets running in between), the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) on Thursday greenlit the first meet in the expanded NorCal schedule after hearing an optimistic update from Larry Swartzlander, the executive director for the California Authority of Racing Fairs (CARF). "What I'm really enthused about is the fact that we have 1,150 stall applications, which is 200...

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Northern CA Advisory Committee Formally Recognized By CARF

The California Authority of Racing Fairs has formally recognized a group of owners, breeders and trainers in Northern California to serve as an advisory committee for the upcoming Pleasanton race meet. According to a press release, the committee has been informally in place since the announcement of the closure of Golden Gate Fields. The group will work with representatives in the industry to "address challenges and opportunities in real time and ensure that future CARF decisions have the collective support of the industry stakeholders." "Our Advisory Committee has the experience...

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CHRB Unanimously Approves Plan to Make Pleasanton New Center of NorCal Circuit

The California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) voted 6-0 on Thursday to approve a dates package for the back half of 2024 that will establish the current fairs-meet-only track at Pleasanton as the new crux of a Northern California circuit. The entire state has been trying to come to grips with the looming June 9 closure of Golden Gate Fields, the lone commercial track in the region, and the Mar. 21 vote by the CHRB was viewed as a NorCal racing lifeline by the estimated 250 supporters in attendance. Those very...

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CARF Issues Statement After 1/ST Ultimatum on NorCal Racing Dates

Ahead of a critical California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) meeting Thursday to decide essentially whether or not to give Northern California stakeholders a fighting chance to build a circuit in the void left by the imminent closure of Golden Gate Fields, 1/ST Racing and Gaming set out their stall Tuesday in a letter to the regulator urging them to decline race dates to the North. In a proposal to the state regulator, the California Association of Racing Fairs (CARF) outlined a 10-week meeting this year that would run from Oct....

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Politically Powerful Law Firm Hired To Issue NorCal PRA Requests

At a make-or-break time for Northern California racing interests as they attempt to build a racing circuit in the void left by Golden Gate Fields's imminent closure, two key players in those efforts have been on the receiving end of public records requests from Benbrook Law Group, a law firm well-known for their involvement in high-profile political campaigns, including the failed effort to recall Governor Gavin Newsom. Some Northern California stakeholders said they suspected political intimidation was the motive for the request when the balance of the industry's economic power...

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Vocal Two-Circuit Supporters in Cali Come Out Firing in First of Many Expected North/South Skirmishes

The precarious, up-in-the-air future of California racing and whether or not the state can continue to support two geographic year-round circuits was made no clearer after Thursday's California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) meeting. The 3 1/2-hour session was dominated by discussion of competing North-versus-South plans that both tried to carve a sustainable path forward while underscoring the dire circumstances that face the industry with the June 9 closure of Golden Gate Fields looming like an unavoidable asteroid. Although the CHRB concluded the meeting--which featured testimony that was at times emotional,...

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Berkeley City Council Ordinance Could Close Golden Gate Early

Berkeley City Council could vote on an ordinance that, if passed, would essentially lead to the premature closure of Golden Gate Fields and throw into question the near-term future of the Northern California horse colony, workforce and training colony, the latter already buffeted by 25% cuts to the track's purses. The Bay Area racetrack is scheduled to race from Dec. 26 through June 9, 2024, after which the facility is set to close permanently. The proposed ordinance--which makes the claim that confining a horse to its stall for the majority...

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Northern California Trainers React to Golden Gate Closure, Plot Their Next Moves

Whether someone had the biggest stable in Northern California or a two-horse operation, the news released Sunday that Golden Gate Fields, which opened in 1941, will shut down at the end of the meet in December was a punch to the gut and led to a great deal of uncertainty. Horsemen have just five months to figure out what they will do next. The possibilities are many. They could shift their operations to Santa Anita. They could stay put and hope that the California Authority of Racing Fairs (CARF) circuit...

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Ferndale Grandstand Deemed Unsafe For August Meet

The operators of the Humboldt County Fair in Ferndale, California, are scrambling for a solution after just finding out this week that an earthquake from six months ago so badly damaged the grandstand at the half-mile racetrack that county officials now won't permit the structure to be occupied for the six-day race meet Aug. 18-20 and 25-27. Larry Swartzlander, who serves as both the executive director California Authority of Racing Fairs (CARF) and the director of racing for Ferndale, told the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) during Thursday's meeting that...

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CHRB Meeting Highlights NorCal Race Dates

The June California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) meeting put to bed a problem that has been brewing for a few months in the North of California. Due to the fallout from COVID-19, and the ongoing issues surrounding stabling and staff accommodation in the north of California, commissioners voted to switch the three-week State Fair--scheduled to run July 14 to Aug. 3 at Cal Expo--to Pleasanton to be run over a shortened window: July 14 through July 20. Golden Gate Fields has also been allocated an additional two weeks of racing,...

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