For the second consecutive year, the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) imposed a slightly different next-year calendar of race dates on the Northern California circuit because the involved stakeholders couldn’t agree on presenting a unified schedule that satisfied all tracks and fairs-racing licensees.
Although the 2018 NorCal schedule that the CHRB voted in by a 4-0 unanimous vote at the Oct. 26 meeting is not radically different from the 2017 version, it does slice a week of racing off the allotment that the California Exposition & State Fair at Sacramento got in 2017.
In addition, the Pleasanton meet at the Alameda County Fairgrounds will get a four-week block of concurrent summer dates (instead of five weeks divided among two separate summer and autumn meets), and Golden Gate Fields (GGF) will gain dates by moving into Pleasanton’s former autumn-meet slot.
Also, the Humboldt County Fair at Ferndale gets a break by not having to race head-to-head with GGF for the first week in its season, another deviance from the ’17 schedule.
“There’s no question that when you’re dealing with a situation where the stakeholders themselves can’t agree, that no matter what the regulators do, there’s going to be some folks who are happy and some folks who aren’t happy and maybe everybody won’t be happy,” said CHRB chairman Chuck Winner. “We did what we thought was in the best interest of racing, for any number of reasons; a whole variety of reasons.”
The framework that was voted on by the full CHRB board at Thursday’s meeting had been adopted unanimously one day ahead of time by the race dates committee, and the compounded months–actually, now years–of frustration were evident among CHRB members.
“You’re like an unruly family. You’re like having 18 kids, and none of you wants to give in to your brother or your sister,” said Commissioner Madeline Auerbach. “Chairman Winner is right: If everybody’s a little unhappy, we probably did a good job. But I don’t think we went to the point of making any really major changes…. We did our best. If you’re not happy we’re sorry. It’s not personal. It’s trying to do what’s best for racing.”
The 2018 NorCal schedule (in blocks of dates, not actual race days) will be as follows:
Golden Gate Fields: Dec. 26-June 12 (24 weeks; no significant change from 2017).
Pleasanton: June 13-July 10 (four weeks concurrent with the actual summer fair, but no additional autumn dates like in ’17 that resulted in five total weeks for Pleasanton).
Sacramento (Cal Expo): July 11-24 (two weeks instead of the three-week allotment in ’17).
Santa Rosa: July 25- Aug. 14 (three weeks as in ’17, but the meet will start one week earlier on the calendar).
Ferndale: Aug. 15-28 (two weeks as in ’17, but the meet starts one week earlier on the calendar, meaning only a single week of head-to-head conflict with GGF instead of two like in ’17).
Golden Gate Fields: Aug. 22-Oct. 2 (six consecutive weeks).
Fresno: Oct. 3-16 (same two-week slot as ’17).
Golden Gate Fields: Oct. 17-Dec. 18 (same nine-week block as ’17).
The most intense last-minute lobbying prior to the vote came from Rick Pickering, the chief executive officer of the California Exposition & State Fair.
“The third week of your California State Fair that you’re suggesting taking a week of racing away from is one of the largest-attended weeks of fair in Northern California,” Pickering said.
Pickering testified that the (eventually cut) late July week of attendance at Sacramento schedule “is bigger than the three weeks of the Santa Rosa fair.” He also said the CHRB would be forfeiting $10 million in handle because the plan doesn’t “add an additional week of racing at Santa Rosa, [it] just [slides] them one week earlier in the calendar.”
In other business, the CHRB unanimously advanced two veterinary-related rules changes to a 45-day public comment period.
Presented in tandem, the two proposed changes stipulate that any horse that receives an intra-articular injection (glucocorticosteroid/cortisone) will be ineligible to race for five days after that treatment. In addition, veterinarians administering this type of treatment must provide a record of it to the trainer, and trainers will be required to maintain those records for one year for the purpose of making them available to CHRB veterinarians who administer pre-race soundness inspections.
One other item that had been in the news this week did not come up for debate at all: Santa Anita Park’s request to have the option to run seven-race weekday programs during the track’s upcoming Dec. 26-June 24 meet will instead be part of the Santa Anita license application that comes up for a vote at the November CHRB meeting.