Most tracks are having trouble filling races, are drawing later and later and keeping entries open longer. The horse shortage is affecting racetracks across the country and the big meets are not immune.
Del Mar may be forced to run fewer races per day during the upcoming summer meeting that runs from from July 17 to Sept. 2. Officials are concerned about the number of race-ready horses based in Southern California.
Talking at a recent California Horse Racing Board meeting at Santa Anita, Tom Robbins, the track’s director of racing, stressed that despite the horse shortage, Del Mar plans to run five days a week during the 36-day summer meeting. Robbins said:
“We realize times are different, we know it’s been tough in Southern California. We have a contingency plan, knowing our horse population is fluid. We want to get back to our regular program of five days a week.”
Robbins also said:
“There is a possibility that some Wednesday and Thursday programs could have seven races instead of eight from past summer seasons and some Saturday cards could have nine races instead of 10.”
“A decision on the number of races carded will be made as the season unfolds. We’ll play it by ear. The important thing is that we maintain five days.”
The Del Mar summer meeting, in addition to the meetings at Los Alamitos, the Alameda County Fair, and Cal-Expo, will be run under tighter medication guidelines, similar to those enacted at Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields in late March. Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields are owned by the same parent company, The Stronach Group.
The beginning of the meeting featured a heated and somewhat confrontational public comment section in which a group of anti-racing advocates spoke against the continuation of horse racing and expressed outrage at the fatalities that have occurred this year at Santa Anita.
A small group of racing supporters also spoke during public comment section. In multiple instances, racing board chairman Chuck Winner reprimanded speakers for the tone of their conversations, for speaking out of turn, and for spontaneous applause from audience members.
Present at the meeting were at least five television crews from local stations. Winner said in the future the public comment section would be held at the end and not the beginning of the meetings.
Belinda Stronach also spoke at the meeting spoke about the reforms and changes The Stronach Group and Santa Anita have made in concert with Thoroughbred Owners of California and California Thoroughbred Trainers. She said,
“I believe California racing is now the safest in North America, the gold standard for safety.”
Bob Baffert spoke about how California is the most regulated state he competes in. Mike Smith referred to the new crops as nerf ball like and stated they were a safety necessity for riders. He used Maximum Security bearing out and being corrected in the Kentucky Derby as an example.
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