Thoroughbred Owners of California

Stronach Group Warns About Buzzer Use in Training and Racing

September was a busy month for buzzers. On Sept. 15, the Monmouth Park board of stewards suspended jockey Tomas Mejia for 10 years and fined him $5,000 for possessing an electrical device--commonly referred to as a "buzzer"--during a race run there Sept. 3. That same day at Indiana Grand, leading Quarter Horse jockey, Sammy Mendez, was "summarily suspended for actions not in the best interest of racing," and is awaiting a full hearing before the track's board of stewards. According to the Paulick Report, the suspension is connected to use...

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Ten Percent Purse Hike at Upcoming Santa Anita Meeting

Santa Anita's 2021 Autumn Meeting, which opens Friday, Oct. 1, will now offer a 10% increase in all overnight races as Santa Anita and the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) have reached an agreement that will enable Santa Anita to provide a comprehensive purse increase for the third consecutive race meeting, dating back to the 2020 Autumn Meet. "This is a very significant development and we want to thank everyone at TOC for helping to make this happen," said Chris Merz, Santa Anita Director of Racing and Racing Secretary. "To...

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TOC Elects Two New Board Members, Reelects Three More

Members of the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) have elected Southern California-based trainer Ryan Hanson and Northern California-based owner/breeder Lindsay LaRoche of Highland Yard to its Board of Directors. Incumbents Ed Moger, Stephanie Hronis and Rick Gold were also reelected. All five will serve three-year terms, effective July 1. A total of 6,003 ballots were mailed to eligible voters, and 1,579 qualifying ballots were received. The complete vote tally is available for viewing on TOC's website at The newly elected directors join Nick Alexander, Joe Ciaglia, Gary Fenton, Mike...

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Butler to Receive TOC's Ed Friendly Award

Aidan Butler, Chief Operating Officer, 1/ST RACING and President, 1/ST CONTENT, has been selected by the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) as recipient of the 2020 Ed Friendly Industry Service Award. The award is presented annually to recognize outstanding contributions and service in the Thoroughbred racing industry. Originally known as the TOC Chairman's Award, it was renamed for the legendary television producer, Thoroughbred owner and TOC founding member following his death in 2007. Former recipients include Mace Siegel, John Harris, Bob and Beverly Lewis, Jerry and Ann Moss, and Clement...

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Political Climate in California

At the start of last month, a small cadre of animal rights protestors snuck onto the Golden Gate Fields racetrack, lay down with arms interlocked in pipes, and halted live racing--as well as a vaccination drive on facility grounds--until police intervention saw their removal. While the incident had a flash-in-the-pan quality, it had the corollary effect of reminding those within the sport here in the Golden State of the somewhat precarious position in which it still finds itself--an important part of the economic puzzle, employing tens of thousands, but one...

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New COVID Protocols Outlined at Santa Anita, Golden Gate

Based on increasing vaccine availability and declining COVID-19 numbers, The Stronach Group and TOC outlined new protocols at Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields to allow licensed owners more access to the grounds. SANTA ANITA PARK Mandatory Santa Anita protocols, including social distancing (a minimum of six feet), face cloths covering your nose and mouth, health screening, temperature check and wrist banding will continue to be enforced for everyone entering Santa Anita, including the Stable Area. Winner's Circle After each race, the winning horse will be brought into the...

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Churchill vs. TOC Lawsuit Withdrawn; Neither Side Wants to Say Why

After alleging last month that a disagreement over advance-deposit wagering (ADW) hub rate fees was so egregious that it amounted to a "shakedown" that needed to be fought in federal court, a subsidiary of the gaming corporation Churchill Downs, Inc., dropped its lawsuit against Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) Mar. 8. According to a "notice of voluntary dismissal" filed Monday in United States District Court (Central District, California, Western Division) by Churchill Downs Technology Initiatives Company (CDTIC), an agreement between the parties was reached Mar. 5 that apparently settles the...

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2020 California Handle, Purses in Numbers

After a pandemic-stricken year in which ADW revenues hammered California industry coffers, the first month of 2021 brought with it a flurry of budgetary and purse account developments in response. First came the announcement from the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) that they had reached an agreement with TVG, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, The Stronach Group's 1/ST Racing, and NYRA to inject some $15 million into the purse fund over the course of two years. In response, a subsidiary of the gaming corporation Churchill Downs, Inc. (CDI) filed a...

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Alleging 'Shakedown' over ADW Fees, Churchill Takes TOC to Federal Court

In a spat over advance-deposit wagering (ADW) hub rate fees and which entity should benefit from the pandemic-related boom in at-home betting, a subsidiary of the gaming corporation Churchill Downs, Inc., filed a federal lawsuit against Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) Feb. 2 asking a judge to rule that TOC can't use a state law to force CDI into either accepting lower rates, abandoning its just-signed agreement with Santa Anita Park, or entering into arbitration to settle the dispute. In a chain of events that plaintiff Churchill Downs Technology Initiatives...

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Greg Avioli Q&A: “I'm Very Optimistic Right Now”

Last week, the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) announced a roughly $15-million, two-year "purse enhancement" program as part of an agreement with TVG, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and The Stronach Group's 1/ST Racing. The reason for the new program is simple: an unprecedented betting shift toward ADW platforms over the past 11 months has hit the California purse account hard. Not just the purse account. This shift has similarly clobbered several key industry programs that rely heavily on wagering made at brick and mortar venues. The Southern California Stabling...

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Stabling in California Stabilized in “Stopgap” Funding Measures

Facing a reported $2-million budget deficit, the Southern California Stabling & Vanning Racing Committee has performed a fiscal juggling act to maintain the stabling status-quo in the southern portion of the state during 2021, with year-round auxiliary stabling assured for the year at Los Alamitos and San Luis Rey Downs, while off-site training will continue at Santa Anita during the Los Alamitos Thoroughbred and Del Mar Fall meets. Last year, the program--funded in equal parts by the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) purse account and the Southern California racetracks--cost approximately...

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Fetlock Arthrodesis Advances Provide Options for Injured Horses

If pressed to pinpoint a single Achilles heel in the racehorse, it's probably a fair bet to assume many would zero in on the fetlock--the intricate joint mechanism that in a racehorse travelling at top speed proves especially vulnerable to system failure. Indeed, 19 of the 22 horses that suffered catastrophic musculoskeletal injuries at Santa Anita during its benighted winter-spring meet nearly two years ago had sesamoid fractures. In most cases, the prognosis for horses who suffer severe fetlock breakdowns is grim, but a procedure pioneered at the end of...

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