ARCADIA, Calif. (Oct. 27, 2017) — The California Horse Racing Board approved 2018 race dates for the Northern California circuit Oct. 26 that were recommended by its own Race Dates Committee a day prior, but right before the discussion ended on the topic at Santa Anita Park, Thoroughbred Owners of California president and chief executive officer Greg Avioli brought up a still pressing issue in the region.
“I want the record to note that we’ve left a pretty big hole for 2018 (in) regards to stabling,” Avioli said. “And it’s not something that’s far off.”
Although the dates for the 2018 racing season are set for Northern California, Avioli said The Stronach Group’s Golden Gate Fields and the California Authority of Racing Fairs “are nowhere close to a deal right now for off-site stabling for the fairs.”
After the CHRB’s monthly meeting Thursday, The Stronach Group’s Scott Daruty said CARF has not asked Golden Gate to serve as an auxiliary stable during the fair meets in 2018. CARF interim executive director Larry Swartzlander said the current plan is to have the fairs handle their own stabling, with summer-long training facilities at Pleasanton and Sacramento, and Santa Rosa as another possible stabling site.
“It’s not official yet. We have a meeting tomorrow, but we have adequate stables,” Swartzlander said. “Right now Golden Gate wants $16,900 a day for (auxiliary) stabling. We pay our fairs $7,800 a day. That’s a big difference. … It’s very doable. We have the stalls.”
The fairs do have the stalls to house the horse population in Northern California, but the region would be in a precarious position if, because Golden Gate won’t be paid as an auxiliary stable, The Stronach Group decides to shut the facility down during the fair race dates. The result of Golden Gate’s closure for much of the summer, by the estimation of industry stakeholders in the region, would be a substantial loss to the horse population, which in theory would move elsewhere and not to the fairs.
“We have real concerns given the number of horses in the north right now, what the impact would be if they close Golden Gate for an extended period of time during the summer.” Avioli said. “There will be a fair number of trainers who will leave and will not return.
“That would be detrimental to the fairs as well as to Golden Gate. We’re the mediators in this, and we keep going back and forth to try to get them to negotiate in good faith. But the way stabling and vanning works, it’s the track that is running that requests (auxiliary) stabling. CARF has to request it and if they don’t, then TOC can’t help.”
“Nobody knows (how many horses Northern California might lose), because (Golden Gate) hasn’t been closed for so long, but naturally we’re very concerned with all the points Mr. Avioli made, because they are points we have made in the past,” said California Thoroughbred Trainers executive director Alan Balch.
Swartzlander scoffed at the prospect of Golden Gate closing down as a training facility during that time, with the risk of losing the horses on the grounds.
“You think Golden Gate is going to close for stabling? When they’re done June 12 and they have to reopen in August for six weeks … how would they close?” Swartzlander said. “They would hurt themselves more than us. The people that run on the fairs, we know who they are. They will come and run.”
What the issue boils down to is a standoff of who will flinch first, if at all. Will the fairs give in to Golden Gate and pay a day rate for auxiliary stabling? Will Golden Gate shut down as a training facility during the summer if the fairs don’t pay up?
The Stronach Group’s chief operating officer Tim Ritvo did not go so far as to indicate a shut down of Golden Gate over the summer was probable, but did say the organization is evaluating the possibility.
“CARF or Golden Gate can’t race without an agreement with TOC or CTT, so we hope those points can serve as a motivator for them to work together toward their mutual interests,” Balch said.