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Breeders' Cup but not Golden Gate closure changes CHRB 2024 date allocation

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

The Aug. 17 California Horse Racing Board meeting at the Del Mar Hilton included the allocation of racing dates for 2024. The planned closure of Golden Gate Fields didn’t change the date allocation for the Southern California tracks, although the Breeders’ Cup, held the first week of November, caused that week’s dates to be transferred from Santa Anita Park to the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club for 2024.

“Pleased to receive them,” said Del Mar Thoroughbred Club president and chief operating officer Josh Rubenstein.

The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is a non-profit corporation. The Stronach Group owns Golden Gate Fields, Santa Anita Park and the San Luis Rey Training Center. In July, The Stronach Group announced that Golden Gate Fields would be closing at the end of the track’s 2023 fall meet with the intent that the Northern California horses would be transferred to Southern California. Southern California’s racing also includes Los Alamitos Race Course.

CHRB members Dennis Alfieri, Damascus Castellanos, Gregory Ferraro, Oscar Gonzales and Wendy Mitchell voted in favor of the race date allocations. Thomas Hudnut was the opposition in the 5-1 vote. Brenda Davis was not at the Aug. 17 meeting.

No dates of Northern California tracks were approved Aug. 17. “We can always revisit it,” said CHRB executive director Scott Chaney.

The impact on San Luis Rey is not currently known. “There’s quite a lot of dialogue going on,” said Oscar de la Torre, who is a worker advocate for backstretch workers.

Del Mar has approximately 3,700 backstretch workers during its meets. The jobs created by a meet also include those in restaurants, hotels and other facilities other than the track itself. “The board is trying to allocate these race dates in a way that is most reasonable and most beneficial to the workers throughout the industry,” de la Torre said.

The allocation of race dates is by week, and a track can choose how many days during that week racing can be held. The Southern California tracks thus have discretion whether or not to add specific dates to accommodate horses from Northern California.

“We can’t force anybody to do anything they don’t want to do. All we can do is regulate,” Castellanos said.

“The whole thing is about what is the best thing for the industry,” Castellanos said. “We are all about the safety of horses, all about the safety of jockeys, all about the safety of everyone in this industry.”

Gonzales chairs the CHRB’s Race Dates Committee, which met Aug. 16. Castellanos and Mitchell are also on that committee.

“Everybody wants to work together, but nothing came to us yesterday as far as a plan,” Castellanos said. “Something really needs to happen.”

The 2023 Breeders’ Cup will be held Nov. 3-4 at Santa Anita. The 2007 Breeders’ Cup was at Monmouth Park in New Jersey, and every Breeders’ Cup since then has been held either in California or in Kentucky. Keeneland, which is in the Kentucky town of Lexington, hosted the 2022 Breeders’ Cup. The 2024 Breeders’ Cup will be held Nov. 1-2 at Del Mar, which previously hosted the Breeders’ Cup in 2017 and 2021.

The 2024 Del Mar summer meet dates begin July 10 and conclude Sept. 10, although dates are assigned on a Wednesday to Tuesday basis and Closing Day will likely be Sept. 8. The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club plans a simulcast-only week for the first week with attendance in person beginning the following week.

“We for our summer meet are looking for exactly what the board has allocated to us for the past four years,” Rubenstein said.

This year’s Del Mar fall meet will begin Nov. 10 and end Dec. 3. The CHRB assigned Del Mar dates from Oct. 30 to Dec. 3 for 2024, although the meet will likely conclude Dec. 1.


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